#Archive30: A Month in the Life of the Churchill Archives Centre

30th May 2018 in Archives Centre, Art & Exhibitions, Our Collections

We highlighted a few of our favourite things and delved into some of the Archive Centre’s more unusual collections for #Archive30.

Inspired by #Museum30, the Archives and Records Association of Scotland invited archivists from around the world to get involved in a 30-day Twitter challenge. We took part as a team, posting one image on a different theme every day during April 2018 to highlight some of the best bits of our different roles at the Archives Centre, as well as a few of the weird and wonderful things in our collections!

Churchill Archives Centre from the outside on a sunny day

Photograph of Churchill Archives Centre, by Barry Phipps (Curator of Works of Art at Churchill College).

We started off in early April with two warm and sunny images to reflect our mood, if not our journeys to work in blustery Cambridge or the temperature in the reading rooms. Clementine Churchill’s albums, many of which have now been digitised, are a great source of glamorous post-war summer holiday photographs. We particularly liked the strong accessory choices in this photo of the Churchills on the French Riviera, shortly after they had celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary.

Winston and Clementine Churchill during their stay at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo in 1960 (archive reference: CSCT 5/8/171)chill during their stay at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo in 1960 (archive reference: CSCT 5/8/171)

Winston and Clementine Churchill during their stay at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo in 1960 (archive reference: CSCT 5/8/171).

On the 4th we enlisted the help of Hannah, the College Archivist, to find a classic image of our ‘workspace’. She came up with this brilliant leaflet on the Archive Centre’s reader services from the 1970s. Check out the pneumatic mobile shelving, groovy stepladder, and vintage telephone! It still is “possible to issue documents to scholars on demand virtually without delay” today as we are still committed to producing document requests as and when they come in, although 2018’s Archives Assistants can only dream of looking this hip and serene when fetching files.

A trip behind the scenes at the Archives Centre in 1978 from the College Archives (archive reference: CCAR 907/5)

A trip behind the scenes at the Archives Centre in 1978 from the College Archives (archive reference: CCAR 907/5).

For the fifth theme, ‘Something Small’, we chose a minuscule pocket diary from Lise Meitner’s papers. Lise Meitner was a physicist whose collaborative work with Otto Hahn culminated in the identification and explanation of nuclear fission in 1939. Our collections contain many pocket diaries, but this is probably the smallest! We were thrilled when Annie, the Churchill Librarian, also got out some miniature books from the College’s Maisonneuve Collection.

Lise Meitner’s pocket diary for 1914 (archive reference: MTNR 2/3)

Lise Meitner’s pocket diary for 1914 (archive reference: MTNR 2/3).

There could only be one option for the ninth theme, ‘Animal’: this caption competition-worthy photograph of King George VI on his farm in Windsor from the papers of Sir Alan “Tommy” Lascelles, his Private Secretary.

Answers on a postcard, please! (archive reference: LASL 13/6)

Answers on a postcard, please! (archive reference: LASL 13/6).

On the 19th our Conservator had the tricky task of selecting a “favourite tool” from all those in the conservation studio. There are hundreds to choose from and in the end a selection of the most used small hand tools were chosen, featuring scalpels, a bone folder, tweezers, screw punch and porcupine quill.

Favourite Archive hand tools

Although we mostly collect archives from the era of the typewriter, fax machine, and personal computer, the theme ‘handwriting’ still gave us an embarrassment of riches to choose from. We went for the patrician pen of Quintin Hogg, Lord Hailsham. Some of his diaries were famously kept in a shorthand system called ‘Speedwriting’, which he modified as much for security as for saving time. (Hailsham kept the only surviving personal diary of Conservative Cabinet meetings during the 1970s). Back in 2008, the Archives Centre enlisted the help of GCHQ to translate the coded entries, transcripts of which can now be read on the Margaret Thatcher Foundation’s website.

Quintin Hogg, Lord Hailsham’s illustrious ‘Q’ signature (archive reference: HLSM 1/1/30 & 12/1)

Quintin Hogg, Lord Hailsham’s illustrious ‘Q’ signature (archive reference: HLSM 1/1/30 & 12/1).

April was a busy month for the Archives Centre, and the twitter feed also includes links to some new interviews for the British Diplomatic Oral History Programme; photographs from a TeachFirst workshop on ‘The Miners Strike and 1980s Britain’; and details of a talk we hosted on Barbara Hepworth's life in St Ives and the making of 'Four-Square Walk Through' (a sculpture at Churchill College).

So what were our most popular posts during the month? According to Twitter’s own analytics, our top tweet earning most “impressions” was the photograph for day 3 (Winston and Churchill Clementine on the French Riviera).

We also did a few calculations ourselves, giving each tweet 1 point for a like and 2 points for a retweet. These calculations put this fetching photograph of Churchill at Carthage following the Tehran Conference, wearing a red silk dressing gown with dragon embroidery and monogrammed slippers (during his recovery from pneumonia), in first place.

Churchill in Carthage, 25 December 1943 (archive reference: KNNA 1/004)

Churchill in Carthage, 25 December 1943 (archive reference: KNNA 1/004).

And what was our ‘Favourite Item’ in the archives, you ask?

Easter treats in the Churchill Archives Centre tea room

Easter treats in the Churchill Archives Centre tea room.

No contest!

— The Archives Centre Twitter Team (Madelin, Macaulay, Julia, and Heidi)


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