Development of the Archive

 

the Christ College Archive Is a diverse and fascinating collection of items relating the school's history that will be of interest to all those who have connections with christ college. HOwever, it has only become a reality only within the last few years . . .

In previous decades the development of any sort of meaningful collection was entirely dependent on the interests of individuals. During the 1950s the “History of Christ College Society”, led by Mr D Inglis, was active and, as a result of the Society's efforts, items donated by Old Breconians early in the 20th century were recorded and stored in a cupboard in the Library. In subsequent decades the small collection was added to but, for much of the school's history, creating a sustainable school archive was perilously close to an impossible task.

That did not deter Mr J D Payne, former Head of Classics and Housemaster of Alway House. Following his return to Christ College during his retirement, he energetically created a momentum within the school that did much to set a path for future development of a school archive. In his role as Secretary of the Old Breconian Association, he was especially influential in securing the interest of Old Breconians, many of whom generously contributed items to what was still an embryonic collection. The sheer volume of items donated and John Payne’s determination to find an appropriate home for them were important factors in developing a sustainable archive that would be accessible to pupils, Old Breconians and researchers.

In 2007 a successful bid was made to the Heritage Lottery Fund with the aim of increasing accessibility for all those interested in the history of the school. Under the management of Anna Lang, the school librarian and archivist, the consequent grant of £48,000 was used to convert the mezzanine in the Kendrick Edwards Library into a centre of operations for managing the many items that were being collected and donated. A band of volunteers was trained and, under Anna’s enthusiastic supervision, inroads were quickly made into sorting and scanning archival material collected.

The significant grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund was an important turning point in the development of the archive but it was also a culmination of the efforts of many individuals whose continuing dedication and commitment helped to create an archive that could be enjoyed by future generations.

That a school archive exists at all is, in no small measure, due to the strenuous efforts of Old Breconians R J Boulton (School House, 1926-1930) and D T Smith (Hostel, 1950-1957). The decades of meticulous research undertaken by them is an inspiration. A real debt is owed to each of them, not least because they persevered in collecting published sources and creating detailed records during those periods when the recent past seemed to have little importance in a school that was focused on modernising itself.

Equally inspiring is the project undertaken in 2007 by Peter Watkins (School House, 1948-1952). The resultant collection of memories and photographs from Old Breconians who were at Christ College during the Headmastership of Canon A D James (1931-1956) offers unique insights into a specific era of the school's history. His unstinting labours have also given valuable direction to the way a school archive can evolve.

As a result of the dedication of these individuals, the sterling efforts of former Archivist, Anna Lang, and the willingness of the volunteers who worked on the project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Christ College Archive has became a reality in a way that could hardly have been imagined in previous decades. Named in honour of an Old Breconian whose remarkable work did so much to sustain the collection, the R J Boulton Archive Room was officially opened on Old Breconian Day in 2009 - a day that also marked the retirement of Mr J D Payne. The opening by Peter Watkins OB was a momentous step forward in ensuring a safe future for a fascinating collection of items relating to Christ College and its history.

By 2011 the early success of the Christ College Archive necessitated a move from the R J Boulton Archive Room, which was fast running out of storage space. The move to the new Collections Centre in the Academic Block was executed in the Michaelmas Term of 2011 under the supervision of Felicity Kilpatrick, who was appointed Archivist following Anna Lang's departure earlier in the summer.

The archive collection is now suitably accommodated in a dedicated suite of rooms where items are carefully managed and appropriately stored. The new Collections Centre has become the functional core of Christ College Archive but its heart remains in Big School where the R J Boulton Archive Room has evolved into an atmospheric backdrop for exhibitions and semi-permanent displays.

After decades of uncertainty, Christ College has a sustainable archive that is fully supported by the Senior Management Team, the School Governors and Old Breconians. It also has a promising future. Its diverse programme of Archive-related events aims to strengthen connections between generations of pupils and Old Breconians, and enable wider access to all those who have connections with the school.