University receives UN recognition for archive

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Clara Punsita Ritthikarn

University receives recognition from UNESCO for work in the Crutchley Archive, preserving British cultural history.

A research team led by the University of Glasgow’s senior lecturer and Head of History of Art, Dr. Anita Quye, examined the Crutchley Archive which has just become one of three archival collections to be recently added to the UK’s Memory of the World Register, which is the documentary heritage equivalent of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 

This inscription of the Collections highlights the significance of the survival and accessibility of UNESCO’s commitment to preservation.  The Crutchley Archive is an important, detailed record of a prominent 18th Century UK industry, providing measured recipes for the survival and preservation of quality samples.  

 “If we hadn’t researched the Crutchley Archive in-depth it would still be a colourful curiosity in a box in Southwark Archive’s collection store,” said Dr. Quye.

She noted that The Crutchley Archive “is a rare chance to understand textile dyeing and dyers’ practice in London in the early 1700s. Red splashes and tinted pages in the calculation books from Crutchley dye houses, hundreds of detailed instructions to dye wool with cochineal, madder and ‘tin spirits’ in ‘ye great kettle’ using ‘water from the River Thames’, and thousands of dyed fabric samples of the end results.”

“It’s the closest we can get to looking over the dyers’ shoulders as they work.” she added.

Along with Dr. Quye, the research team includes Dr Dominique Cardon, Emerita Research Director at the French National Centre of Scientific Research (CNRS) in Lyon, and Dr Jenny Balfour Paul, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Exeter University.

The other two archives are James Watt Papers at Birmingham Library and IK Brunel’s Screw Propeller Report at SS Great Britain, a museum ship in Bristol.  While James Watt’s work provides a unique insight into the most significant scientific and technological advancements of the industrial revolution in both world and UK history, Bruel’s experiments on the screw propeller mark a pivotal point in the modern world economy. 

The inscription of all these three collections was announced on International Archives Day, 9 June 2020. Previously, UK Ambassador and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, Matthew Lodge said, “I am delighted that these rich and varied examples of the United Kingdom’s documentary heritage will be inscribed onto UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register”.

“In UNESCO’s 75th anniversary year, and for the UK as a proud founding member of the organisation, the inscription of these documents marks a further positive step in our international efforts to preserve and share material that tells the story of modern humanity’s journey.”

“From the records of the textile dye houses in the 18th century to James Watt and IK Brunel’s inventions that shaped Britain and the modern world, these documents remind us all of our nation’s history and our shared heritage. We look forward to continuing to support UNESCO’s work and this valuable programme over the coming years,” he added.

In 1993, a United Nations advisory committee had an action plan to preserve significant documentary heritage from across the globe so that the further generations can learn these historical archives. This plan led to the establishment of the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme, the documentary heritage equivalent of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

This World Programme is responsible to protect uniquely important collections as national significance, including historical documents such as the Bill of Rights, the HIV/Aids collections from Lothian Health Services Archive, The Children Society and the Peterloo Massacre Relief Fund.  

Apparently, the programme aims to represent British society through cultural heritage. 


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