Elgar Archive Update
- 8th June 2018
You may have heard in the media the news that the Elgar Archive, currently at the Elgar Birthplace Museum, is to move to the British Library in London. We wanted to let you know what is happening and our role in this.
Over the past two years the Elgar Foundation has been considering a new permanent home for the Elgar archives, which are currently stored and made available for research at the Elgar Birthplace Museum in Broadheath, Worcestershire (now run by the National Trust).
Our Service manages the county archive, and with Elgar so closely associated with Worcestershire, we put forward the case to the Elgar Foundation that the archive should move to The Hive in Worcester.
The Birthplace Management Committee, like all of us, are trying to ensure that the archive is protected and promoted. After much careful consideration, they decided that the best place for the Elgar Archive would be the British Library. This was because their Foundation’s Memorandum of Association requires them to promote Elgar in every part of the world, not just in Worcestershire, and they felt the British Library offered infinitely more potential than The Hive.
We understand and respect this point of view, but feel that moving an archive to London does not necessarily mean it will be more accessible to scholars or the public, or that it will be properly promoted. We believe that The Hive is best placed to promote Elgar in every part of the world for the following reasons:
- The Hive already hosts international scholars who study our collections but, unlike the British Library, it is also easily accessible to the all the people of Worcestershire whatever their interest or income.
- The professional bodies associated with archives now recognise that important collections should not be moved to London if local facilities are suitable. Indeed, there are a number of internationally important archives located outside London. For example:- the archive of the composer Benjamin Britten at Aldeburgh in Suffolk; Shakespeare documents held in Stratford and at The Hive and, most recently, the Richard Attenborough film archive that is now open and available to all at the University of Sussex.
- In the past, archives have been split and scattered across the world, so students and experts have always had to go to wherever the collections are if they wish to view original documents. Worcester is close to airports and easily accessible by train and car. To stay in Worcestershire is cheaper than staying in London and The Hive is also close to the two other important Elgar collections (at the Elgar Birthplace Museum, Lower Broadheath and University of Birmingham).
- The Hive is an Accredited Archive in a purpose built building overlooking the Malvern Hills. It was awarded Record Keeper of the Year 2017 by the Archives and Records Association. We hold material from the 12th century to the present day with a digitisation service that already provides images to scholars and family historians across the world in less than a week from request to delivery.
- Unlike the British Library our relatively small collection is held in one building, meaning that from walking into The Hive you can have the document you requested within 10 to 20 minutes of ordering it.
- Most importantly, we can increase access to the Elgar Archive for local people and visitors who are interested and intrigued by it. We have a strong record of winning funding, not only to conserve and catalogue important collections, but also to use them as the basis for innovative community and arts projects.
We believe that if the Elgar Archive was at The Hive it would be just as accessible to people from across the world as it would be in London. These visitors would also benefit from visiting or staying in Worcester, surrounded by the landscape and places that so inspired the composer. Importantly to us, and perhaps to Elgar if we could have asked him, the collection could be viewed, used and appreciated by the people of Worcestershire.
Many people have already been in touch with us, and we are grateful for everyone who has offered support. Responses to our earlier emails about this issue do demonstrate that there is real concern at local, regional, national and international level about this matter. If you share that concern we would urge you to contact the Elgar Foundation and the Birthplace Management Committee to ask them to reconsider their decision. We would be grateful if you could copy us into your correspondence as it is helpful for us to know how people feel about this matter.
The correspondence address for the Foundation is The Elgar Foundation, Thorneloe House, 25 Barbourne Road, Worcester, WR1 1RU and the active directors are named at Companies House as being William Carslake; Professor Michael Clarke; Howard Emerson, Lord Flight; Mark Brindley; David Hawkins; Andrew Jowett; Professor Colin Lawson; Rt.Hon. David Mellor; Michael Messenger; Robert Montgomery; Andrew Neill; and Professor John Whenham.
Please feel free to contact Adrian Gregson, our Collections Manager, directly on this issue at Agregson3@worcestershire.gov.uk or on 01905 844929.