Recently we were very honoured to host a visit to Salisbury Cathedral archive and library from Jeff James, Chief Executive of The National Archive. We also welcomed Dr Tim Powell, South West Development Manager for The National Archives. As Chief Executive of The National Archives Jeff is also Commissioner of the Historic Manuscripts Commission (indeed we discovered during his visit that Jeff has several other job titles including: Keeper of Public Records, Queen’s Printer of Acts of Parliament and Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office!). The Historic Manuscripts Commission was set up in 1869 by royal warrant to document archives in private hands and in 2003 joined with The National Archives. The National Archives, located near Kew Gardens in South London, is the custodian for over 1000 years of documents from William Shakespeare’s will to tweets from Downing Street. Although at Salisbury Cathedral archives we can’t quite compete with the sheer volume and range of records that the National Archives hold, our library and archive collections also stretch back over 1000 years and contains thousands of documents and books from medieval parchment wills and early printed books to audio recordings and electronic records.
During 2019, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the HMC, Jeff has been visiting a handful of archives across the country and we feel very honoured that he chose to include Salisbury Cathedral in his programme. We showed Jeff both the good and bad of our current archive storage facilities, talked about our current Beyond the Library Door Project and our desire here to make both archive and library collections integral to the Cathedral’s work and mission. Jeff also met with Anne Dutton our Assistant Librarians and Pam Wall and Paul Fisher two regular volunteers assisting with the archive cataloguing.
The National Archives website has lots of information about the archives they hold, their facilities for visiting and researching as well as exhibitions and events. Please visit their website to find out more: https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/
At Salisbury Cathedral we are always very pleased to welcome fellow archivists and librarians to exchange ideas and working practices. This summer we also hosted and organised a three day conference for CALCA - the Cathedral Archives, Libraries and Collections Association. The 50 plus delegates enjoyed presentations on cataloguing standards, conservation surveys, book provenance, interpreting collections for visitors and many other subjects. It's really useful to talk with others who not only work in archives and historic libraries but who also work in the same type of organisation. Particularly people who understand what you're talking about when you mention 'Chapter', 'prebend', 'FAC' and many other 'jargony' terms probably unique to English cathedrals!
Emily Naish, Cathedral Archivist