National Trust and British Library investigate hidden links between collections - Museums Association

National Trust and British Library investigate hidden links between collections

Research partnership aims to inform future public programming
Collections National Trust Research
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Rebecca Atkinson
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Visitors Looking Inside The Writing Shed At Shaw's Corner, Hertfordshire
Visitors Looking Inside The Writing Shed At Shaw's Corner, Hertfordshire National Trust Images Arnhel de Serra

The National Trust and the British Library have announced a new partnership and two doctoral fellowships that will seek to uncover links between the library’s collections and the trust’s properties.

It is hoped that the work will help inform future collaborations including larger-scale research projects and public programming such as exhibitions across both organisation’s sites.

The fellowships, which are funded by the Royal Oak Foundation and the British Library, will run from January to March 2022.

The authors’ houses fellowship will investigate connections between houses of writers now owned by the National Trust and the ways in which those literary figures inspired and collaborated with each other.

The British Library’s collection of letters, diaries, visitors’ books and other archives includes writers such as Bernard Shaw, who lived at Shaw’s Corner in Welwyn from 1906 until his death in 1950, and Virginia Woolf, who purchased Monk’s House in Lewis with her husband Leonard in 1919.  

The second fellowship will focus on the books and manuscripts that may once have been kept in National Trust properties and are now held by the British Library. Initial research reveals up to 40 instances of these but early findings suggest there could be many more.

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One example is the National Trust property Blickling in Norfolk where, in 1932, the Marquess of Lothian sold many of his books at auction – it is not known whether any ended up in the British Library.

“High-quality research is crucial to our cause and underpins all the work we do to understand, conserve and interpret our places,” said Anita Weatherby, the head of research at the National Trust. “We are delighted with this new collaborative research partnership with the British Library, which will allow us to uncover previously unknown links between our two places and collections and enable us to share new findings and stories with our supporters.”

Allan Sudlow, the British Library’s head of research development, added: “We welcome the opportunity to co-fund and support this unique fellowship programme for early career research.

"There are many hidden connections and synergies across the library's collections with the people, places and stories associated with National Trust properties. We hope this is a first step to uncovering some of them, and we look forward to sharing them with audiences across the country.”

The deadline to apply for the fellowships is 18 October. Further details are available online.

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