Churchill Archive Trust agrees deal to allow public to view more than 1m items, from school reports to speeches
By Mark Brown
THE GUARDIAN, Thursday 29 July 2010 – Winston Churchill’s vast archive – everything from school reports and wagers about his prodigious drinking to a personal copy of the “finest hour” speech – will be digitised and offered online, it will be announced today.
The Churchill Archive Trust has agreed a deal with publisher Bloomsbury to make available more than 1m items. These include about 2,500 archive boxes of letters, telegrams, documents and photographs that are stored in Cambridge and currently viewable only by appointment.
Churchill’s papers were, controversially at the time, bought for the nation from his heirs in 1995 using £12m of lottery money. They are currently stored at the Churchill Archives Centre (CAC). After years of cataloguing and transferring them to microfilm, the next logical step was making the archives available to everyone – although not for free, said CAC’s director Allen Packwood.
“It’s tremendously exciting for us, as it is fulfilling what the trust was established to do in the first place,” he said. “It will take the whole Churchill collection to a worldwide audience.”
Packwood said people would have the opportunity to see an enormous array of historical material without the layers of interpretation that had been added over the years. “It is an opportunity for people to make their own judgments,” he said. “You’ll be able to see what was on Churchill’s desk on a day-to-day basis and how he responded to it. You’ll be able to compare easily what he was saying in public at the same time as what he was saying privately.”
Image: Churchill Plants a tree at Churchill College, Cambridge 1959. ©Churchill Archives Centre