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Saturday, 6 August 2011

Follow Friday - The Dark Archivist


This is a bit of fun for Friday. The Dark Archivist is a cartoon super-hero, who hangs out at the Oxfordshire History Centre. This is the new name for the combined Oxfordshire Record Office, Oxfordshire Studies and Oxfordshire Health Archives. It is housed in St Luke's Church in Cowley, which was converted for use as the Record Office several years ago.

I once attended a fascinating talk and tour by the County Archivist, Carl Boardman, who told the story of how the redundant church premises were acquired to house the county archives. The church is a large one, but never had a large congregation to match. It was built by Lord Nuffield, founder of the Morris Motor Company and a great benefactor of Oxford and its university. He had the church built for the large number of new workers coming to Oxford to work in his factory, but didn't allow for the fact that they came from South Wales and most of them were nonconformists, and not members of the Church of England.

The conversion from church to record office was very nicely done, with the reading room in the former nave, and the archivist's office in the former organ loft. This gives the office a great view of the researchers below - any transgressors with pens of other forbidden items are swiftly detected. It's amazing how few people think of looking up.

The Dark Archivist was Carl Boardman's idea, and it went live in 2007. It's a different, and fun, way of looking at Oxford's history, even if you have no particular interest in the area. Although it is connected to the Oxfordshire History Centre site, it is not part of it, and the link isn't very prominent. So it's easier to find the standalone site. Have fun.

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