Established in 2005 as part of the 450th anniversary celebrations the School Archive has been rescuing material to help preserve the long history of Gresham’s for posterity ever since.
Originally, it was long-neglected documents and photograph albums from the damp Library basement that were saved, but since then a huge amount of material has been added, much of it donated by OGs. A recent treasure unearthed in Old School House is a bronze medal awarded to Gresham’s for its contribution to international peace in the inter-war years. Other gems include school registers from the nineteenth century, pupil diaries and books about OGs, as well as a cricket bat belonging to late nineteenth headmaster Reverend Roberts.
From humble beginnings behind the stage in Tallis, the collection has recently moved to the Library building (Rooms 7 & 8) with the Languages department. The Archive is mainly used to help answer the many historical enquiries from the public about the School, many of which involve family history research into OGs. Academics visit to carry out research into our scientists, poets, musicians or our notorious spies, whilst members of staff use it to find information for talks to the History Society on characters such as the founder Sir John Gresham. Displays are prepared for Open Day, Speech Day, and reunions, as well to commemorate anniversaries. Articles on famous OGs and topics such as the history of boarding houses appear in the OG magazine and a selection can be viewed on this website.
Most public schools such as Harrow and Westminster have archives and it is interesting to meet other archivists and exchange information and advice at our annual conference. On a recent visit to Charterhouse. I spent some time learning of their successful World War I history project where pupils use the school archives and the internet to research one of the fallen from their School, tracing their life from classroom to cemetery.
With Simon Kinder, Head of History at Gresham’s, we introduced a pilot project here with two classes of Year 9 pupils researching an OG who fought and died in the Great War using sources in the archives and internet websites in the Library. They find out about his early life and School career, as well as researching his career after School and in the armed forces. This is a continuation of the excellent research work by Sue Smart and her pupils for her book ‘When Heroes Die’.
Simon Kinder added, “We have this huge resource at our fingertips and the pupils are incredibly lucky to have access to such first-hand sources. I am really keen for them to explore and utilise it to the full. Liz has been doing an amazing job cataloguing the material and who knows what else may turn up as we make it more accessible to everyone!”
A large part of the collection is catalogued onto a computer database allowing for detailed research at the touch of a button. As part of our WWI Centenary commemorations we were able to digitise our photograph albums, registers, and other resources thanks to a £10,000 HLF grant to produce a dedicated website, www.greshamsatwar.co.uk. We are also delighted to be able to make available the first 50 years of The Gresham magazine available online for OGs, researchers, pupils and staff to use and plan to continue this digitisation programme as funding allows.