Thanks to Derek Pickett and Nick Xylas for collating most of these items of interest from the media. If you too spot something you’d like to share, please do send it through!
The cathedral authorities at Exeter are moving their collection of over 70,000 books, documents and records to a new home. For £1.5m, they have refurbished the West Wing of the Bishop’s Palace, allowing historic treasures to be brought together in one place with the right facilities for conservation and access.
The oldest legal document preserved is the cathedral’s Foundation Charter, granted by Edward the Confessor in 1050, when the first Bishop of Exeter, Leofric was consecrated. The collection officially started in 1072 when Leofric died and bequeathed 70 books and it continues to grow.
Among the books is a collection of Anglo-Saxon poetry. “There’s quite a number of remains of Anglo-Saxon still existing,” librarian Peter Thomas said, “but most of it is prose so books of literature are very rare. There are only four, and the Exeter Book is probably the oldest of them
Ann Barwood, Canon Librarian (above, with the Foundation Charter), explained that the money
was “neither here nor there” when it came to preserving the cathedral’s archives. “It was important that we could preserve them fully and properly, otherwise they may as well have gone into the skip.”
With the aid of £750,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the cathedral plans to support outreach work including letting children and family history enthusiasts access the documents. According to Ann Barwood, “It’s about making the cathedral alive for people. We are on a journey, we’ve hit the 21 st century but now we can see what happened in the 12 th and 13 th and how we have come to be who we are today.”
Improved access is not just the news from Exeter. HLF funding has also been made available to the English Folk Dance and Song Society to digitise material from six archives nationwide, including the Alfred Williams collection held at Chippenham. The project will see free access online to 58,000 digital images. A drop in the ocean, however, compared to the 1.5 million ancient texts planned to be put online in an innovative collaboration between the Vatican Library and Oxford’s Bodleian Library. Both hope that digitisation will benefit scholars by uniting virtually materials that have been dispersed between the two collections over the centuries.