KURF Students Visit Royal Archives at Windsor: Treasures of the Round Tower

Dr Anna Maerker, Senior Lecturer in the History of Medicine, King’s College London and a member of the GPP Academic Steering Committee


At the Round Tower of Windsor Castle: Harrison Cutler, Ayesha Hussain, Lloyd Ross (left to right).
At the Round Tower of Windsor Castle: Harrison Cutler, Ayesha Hussain, Lloyd Ross (left to right).

This summer, three undergraduate students from the History Department visited the Royal Archives at Windsor, joined by members of staff Dr Angel-Luke O’Donnell and Dr Anna Maerker. Ayesha Hussain, Harrison Cutler and Lloyd Ross received summer fellowships through the King’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship scheme (KURF) which gives undergraduate students the opportunity to learn alongside leading academics by pursuing guided research. The students worked on a range of projects related to Georgian history:
– “Marginalised Indians: Native Americans in British Archives, 1763 to 1795” (Harrison Cutler, supervisor: Dr Angel-Luke O’Donnell),
– “Beyond the Madness of King George: Reassessing Medicine and Healing at the Hanoverian Court” (Ayesha Hussain, supervisor: Dr Anna Maerker),
– “The concept of ‘internal police’ in late eighteenth-century discourse” (Lloyd Ross, supervisor: Dr Max Edling).

The students’ visit to the Royal Archives was made possible through King’s partnership with the Royal Household on the Georgian Papers Programme, a major project to digitise and interpret the archives of the Georgian papers held at Windsor Castle. The five year programme, officially launched by Her Majesty the Queen on 1st April 2015, will digitise some 350,000 pages of original archives. With academic leadership provided by King’s College London and international partners, the Programme also supports research and interpretation of this material.

Students and staff were introduced to the archives, digitisation, and conservation lab by project manager Dr Oliver Walton and archivist Rachael Krier. They greatly enjoyed their encounters with this unique collection of historical documents which provided insights into the everyday life of King George III and his household, from the gathering of political intelligence to concerns about the health of the family. The visit also highlighted the challenges of cataloguing and digitising historical archives.

It was good to finally have a chance to practically implement some of the elements I’ve been taught during my degree, as primary sources are always alluded to through photocopies or webpages, and so to read through a variety of actual eighteenth-century pieces was a welcome addition. It was also good to go behind the scenes of Windsor Castle when accessing the collection!” (Lloyd Ross)

Going to the Royal Archives was a fascinating opportunity to visit one of the more unique collections in the UK. Rachael Krier and Oliver Walton showed off the work that goes into cataloguing and digitising the collections in the archive. The morning began with an enlightening introduction about the organisation of the material. Both Oliver and Rachael provided insights into the origins of the collections (from the cellar of the Duke of Wellington) and the relatively good condition of all the materials. The introduction also included a visit to the conservation room and a chance to discuss the cleaning and conservation practices of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century documents. I was particularly interested in the treatment of the leather bindings and mounting practices. These small considerations have a dramatic effect on the lifespan of important documents. Overall, the visit provided insights into the work of archives and helps a researcher better understand and design their own project in the archive.” (Dr Angel-Luke O’Donnell)

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