From the Archives: ArchI’ve Explored: Open Day

POST BY RSomerset

Text reading: ARCH'IVE explored

On Wednesday 18 November the Jesuits in Britain Archives held an open day in aid of the Explore Your Archive (EYA) campaign – a joint campaign delivered by The National Archives and the Archives and Records Association across the UK and Ireland to showcase the unique potential of archives to excite people, bring communities together, and tell amazing stories. During the week long campaign, organisations across the UK and Ireland showcase their archival collections, whatever their size and scale, and wherever they are.

The aim of our open day was to introduce the wide range of documents, books, photographs and objects held in the Jesuits in Britain Archives to members of staff and the Jesuit community here at Mount Street, to surprise and perhaps to banish misconceptions about the records we look after, and pieces displayed were specifically chosen to demonstrate the breadth of our collections.

Among the treasures on display was a selection of volumes from the Blandyke papers, a letter written by Napoleon to the Bishop of Orleans, one of Fr Leslie Walker SJ’s sketchbooks and photographs taken by Fr Cuthbert Cary-Elwes in Guyana.

One of the most popular items, which caused some surprise in many of our visitors, was Fr Frederick Copleston SJ’s top hat – I wonder how many archives can claim to own one of those! It was presented to Fr Copletson by Uppsala University, Sweden, to mark his honorary doctorate in theology in June 1983. 10 years later, he would be presented with a CBE for his services to philosophy.

A black top hat on a white background

Some familiar faces were to be found amongst the ‘Life at Heythrop’ photograph album, a selection of photographs showing daily life and drama performances of the theologians at Heythrop College, Oxfordshire from the 1920s up to the 1970s.

Three black and white photographs showing groups of men riding a bike, performing a play and a large group photograph on front steps

The Jesuits in Britain Archives are also home to a large collection of relics, perhaps one of the most important being a piece of the rope used to tie St Edmund Campion SJ to the hurdle at his execution. Fr Robert Persons chose to wear this rope for the rest of his life as a reminder of St Edmund’s sacrifice. Stonyhurst College retains a large section of the rope, while this small piece has been donated to the Archive.

Small oval relic holder with red fabric containing a fragment of rope and a piece of paper inscription

The open day was a great success and many commented positively, often with surprise, on the array of treasures in our collections.

This month we considered two themes set out by the Explore Your Archive campaign: ArchI’ve Learnt and ArchI’ve Explored. This November, EYA week marks one year of blog posts from the Archives. Our first post announced our exhibition on Jesuit Army chaplains who served in WW1 to tie in with national and international commemorations using the theme ArchI’ve Remembered. We can’t wait to see how we can use our collections to Discover, Connect, Engage, Unlock and Celebrate in the year to come and in the 2016 campaign.

Mary Allen, Assistant Archivist