Archives Society celebrates fifty years of hard work at West Sussex Record Office
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Founded in 1973 to raise awareness of and interest in historical documents relevant to the county, the archives society has bought, preserved and researched a range of hugely important historical documents for the record office.
These include scrapbooks by and diaries of dignitaries, commonplace books by ministers, invoices from local landowners historical maps and land registers, some of which were on display at the open day and all of which help local historians build an accurate portrait of West Sussex over the centuries.
Kicking off at 10am on Saturday, November 25, and featuring representatives from a range of other groups, including the Royal Sussex Regiment, the day was considered a rousing success.
“It’s been delightful,” said Archive Society Chair Richard Howell. “I think people have learned so much about what we do from this visit because everything we do is just there on display. Often it’s just empty desks, and it’s hard to extrapolate about what we do from that.
"And of course one of the purposes of the archive society is to buy and preserve documents for the record office. So it’s lovely to lay them all out like this, and be able to say ‘we did that’.”
For the archive society's many participants, membership is about more than access to their many talks and long history of important work; its about access to a community of like-minded researchers, and the fulfilling sense of preserving the area’s unique identity.
"There’s an importance to what we do,” says Mr Howell. “Because without us these documents would be lost. Researching history is like gathering pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and, if there’s a piece missing, you can’t complete the picture. But we help find that piece.”
Biographer and novelist Lord Egremont also attended the open day, and was full of praise for the Archive Society’s work. “The archives are such an important of the history of the county, and of the county’s identity. To feel that there are so many people interested in the record office and the archive society is really wonderful,” he said.