There are a great many things to do on arriving at Churchill as a fresher – it’s a head-spinning time. From getting your room key, navigating around College, meeting your neighbours, to getting to grips with new timetables, Cambridge-specific terminology and traditions like matriculation.

Matriculation, usually completed by signing a Matriculation Register (or sheet) and accompanied by posing for the year’s matriculation photograph, marks the moment you are formally admitted as a student to membership of the University. By signing the form, every student subscribes to the following declaration:

I promise to observe the Statutes and Ordinances of the University as far as they concern me, and to pay due respect and obedience to the Chancellor and other officers of the University.

Churchill, being a modern College, doesn’t have Matriculation Registers per se: instead freshers sign their names on sheets, printed onto archival paper, continuing a tradition that started here with the foundation of the College in 1960. Once all have signed, these sheets are collated and then transferred to the College Archive for preservation and use by future researchers.

The signature on the Matriculation Registers is, of course, only the first time that a new fresher appears in the College Archive. Over the course of a student’s time in College, a trail of records (paper and digital) is generated and taken into the archive – academically, student files, and socially with involvement in the JCR or MCR, College societies or sports teams.*

At older colleges, it is possible to trace the arrival and studies of many notable alumni. At Christ’s, this year freshers signed the Matriculation Register alongside older volumes containing the signatures of a young Charles Darwin and John Milton. At Churchill, new freshers’ signatures now sit alongside Nick Bryant (former BBC NY correspondent), Simon Blackwell (writer, The Thick of It, Veep) Rick Warden (actor, Happy Valley, Band of Brothers), Tim Supple (theatre director), Lord Justice Philip Sales (involved in famous Supreme Court prorogation case), Spencer Kelly (presenter on BBC Click), and Catherine Green (Oxford/AZ vaccine).

 – Hannah James, Records Manager & Archivist

* Rest assured, files containing personal data (such as student files) are automatically closed to researchers for 75 years under UK data protection legislation.