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Archive Store Room Racking
Library and Archives

Moving Magdalene's Memories

Magdalene is home to a treasure trove of historical records and documents which over the centuries have been stored in different locations around the College.

The first priority was to bring together all of the College’s archival records physically into their new home in the Archive Centre on the ground floor of the New Library, with a future aim to catalogue them onto a searchable online database to be made available for researchers worldwide.

In September 2021 work began on the important job of moving the College Archive from the Old Library and the Pepys Building. To ensure a successful move a lot of planning was involved, including assessing the number and size of records and the order in which they needed to be moved.

College Charter

The Archive contains items dating back to the 1400s, including the 1538 Grant of Arms to Lord Audley and the 1542 Foundation Charter, both recently beautifully conserved and now safely stored in the Archive's environmentally controlled storeroom. Other treasures such as the personal papers of notable College Members, records showing the running of the College and admission of students back to the 16th century, and photographs of all aspects of College life and buildings were then prepared to be moved. Time was spent carefully packing, as each document, volume, or file had to be wrapped in bubble wrap or boxed to ensure they were transported safely. The Archivist had the help of volunteer Mrs Rachel Perry Eichhorst and the Housekeeping Department, who worked hard to load up all the records and transport them the short way across First and Second Courts.

Perhaps one of the most important collections in the Archive are papers relating to mountaineer George Mallory, who attended Magdalene 1905–09. These papers include approximately 800 letters written between George and his wife Ruth. The Archivist was able to provide material relating to Mallory’s time at the College and as a mountaineer for the first exhibition held in the Robert Cripps Gallery.

Now that most of the College’s archives are safely in the storeroom the second part of the move is being planned, which involves relocating the contents of the storerooms in the Lutyens Building.

It is hoped the move and online catalogue will generate even more interest in the archive in addition to the varied and fascinating enquiries we already receive. Recent enquiries have included the College’s connection with Copped Hall, payments made to builders for work to the Chapel in the 1750s, teaching in Colleges during the Civil War, the history of the Boat Club, and the significance of the green snake on the gates to River Court (no-one seems to know the answer to this so if you do, please get in touch!).

We have also welcomed our first researchers to the work room and we are open every Monday and Thursday 9.30m – 4pm. If you have any questions about the College history or would like to make an appointment please do get in touch:

By Mrs Katy Green, College Archivist

This article was first published in Magdalene Matters Spring/Summer 2022 Issue 52.