The King's College Library has been in continuous existence since the foundation of the College in 1441. As well as preserving many rare book and manuscript treasures, the Library and Archive Centre together serve the needs of undergraduates, graduates and senior members of the College. Among our special collections are the archives of important literary figures of the twentieth century, including the papers of T.S. Eliot, E.M. Forster, and key members of the Bloomsbury group.
With administrative records dating back to the College's foundation in 1441, and records of estates granted by King Henry VI dating back to the 11th century, there are many conservation requirements for the College Archives. These documents are our College's memory and its future resource, but their physical condition is far from secure. Some volumes are steadily deteriorating, and some maps cannot be produced for researchers because they are too fragile to handle. A conservation programme for cleaning, repairing, re-housing, and re-binding is already in place, but we need support in continuing this vital work.
King's is a part of the Cambridge Colleges' Conservation Consortium, a collaborative body which undertakes conservation and preservation on behalf of fifteen Colleges. The work of the Consortium is vital in ensuring the continued accessibility of our rich collections, and includes the application of specialist treatments such as de-acidification, re-binding and Melinex encapsulation.
However, the consortium only has a handful of conservators split across all the colleges, and consequently does not fulfil all the conservation needs of King's. In order to allow us to undertake additional work, we are hoping to raise funds to protect and preserve these valuable records.
We hold several hours of film footage taken during the recording of a BBC Omnibus programme about the King’s College Choir, which resulted in a 1 hour television programme which aired in December 1992. The material that we have is the original, uncut footage on 16mm film stock, and requires digitisation to make it accessible for researchers and enthusiasts alike. The films themselves are not in imminent danger of decay, but in the long-term will require specialist storage.
Before putting these films into storage, we would like to digitise the footage and make this important historical record of the Choir 25 years ago accessible. The cost of digitising the entirety of the footage is £80,000, which would take many years to complete within the constraints of the current budget.
From literary figures such as Jane Austen and MR James to the cats around College and its history of brewing, there is a rich and diverse array of topics which have been the subject of archival exhibitions at King's.
However, because of the lack of physical space, archival exhibitions at King's tend to be limited to the few cases in the library itself, or to temporary exhibitions on display for alumni reunions and events. Having a permanent exhibition space would be of enormous benefit in showcasing the archival treasures we have.
The position of Fellow Librarian has existed since 1947. Whereas at other Colleges the Fellow Librarian tends to be an honorific position with little day-to-day responsibility, at King’s the Fellow Librarian is much more than a mere figurehead, with the library an essential part of scholarship for students, Fellows and visiting researchers.
£2 million will enable us to create a new endowment for the position of Fellow Librarian - a vital role in the care and preservation of King’s exceptional library and archives.
The annual budget for the Library and Archives currently leaves little room for extra-ordinary conservation and digitisation work which would help protect and provide access to the wealth of books, documents and audio-visual materials that form a fascinating record of the College dating back over the centuries. Our hope, through philanthropic giving, is to safeguard the Library's future whilst allowing us to take proactive steps in ensuring we have the means to store and preserve this material and make these treasures accessible to a wider audience.