REGENT’S PARK COLLEGE has received almost £500,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Baptist Union Newington Court Fund to digitise and improve access to its collection of rare Baptist books.
The grant of £488,000 comes after a highly competitive application process lasting over two years. Part of the money will be used to convert the contents of the college’s Angus Library into digital form and place them online in a searchable catalogue. This will involve the digitisation of over 70,000 books, pamphlets, journals, church records and letters dating from the late 15th century which document the history of British Baptism.
It is hoped that the money will improve awareness of non-conformist history by allowing much greater ease of access to the collection. As such the college aims to provide significant learning opportunities for History students, both nationally and in the local area. This will involve working with Oxford area schools to produce teaching resources which will be made available online to secondary schools across the country.
Reverend Emma Walsh, the college librarian, commented, “This grant will help us realise the dream of helping more people discover and engage with the unique riches that are held in the Angus.”
Walsh added, “It provides fascinating opportunities for people to engage with a collection that has been unknown for such a long time, but is so important when it comes to looking at how non-conformists have impacted the shaping of the history of the nation.”
“We intend for the educational materials to be used to supplement the national curriculum in areas as diverse as slavery, the role of women, and the British Empire,” Walsh continued.
As part of its attempts to promote knowledge of the collection, the college will also be using the funds to arrange taster sessions for school children from disadvantaged backgrounds to visit the library and experience the collection first hand.
Walsh told Cherwell, “We are particularly excited to be expanding our partnership with IntoUniversity – who work with disadvantaged children in the London area – by running these sessions, which will attempt to de-mystify the use of archive materials and raise aspirations amongst school leavers to study History at University.”
In the future there are also plans to make use of the easy availability of the collection by running biennial lectures and exhibitions on Baptist history.
Dr Robert Ellis, the Principal of Regent’s Park, said, “We are privileged to have the Angus Library and Archive at Regent’s Park College where it can be accessed alongside the unrivalled resources of the University of Oxford. The college’s governing body is delighted at this grant which will enable us to further improve accessibility and awareness of the collection’s unique content.”
Stuart McLeod, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South East, added, “Saving our historic archives is so important – they are a valuable resource for anyone wanting to explore their past. The Angus is bursting with stories and facts that give us clues as to what Baptist life was like and how that has shaped us into what we are today.”