Regent’s Park College has been awarded nearly half a million pounds to digitise its collection of Baptist literature.
The funding of £488,000 was granted to the Angus Library and Archive by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Baptist Union of Great Britain, to allow the three year project to go ahead.
The college’s Angus library holds over 70,000 items of Baptist ephemera, dating from the late 15th century to the present day, many of which are unique to the collection. The funding is intended not only to safeguard these records through their digitisation, but to promote wider knowledge of the Baptist movement, and its role in the history of the United Kingdom.
Stuart McLeod, of the Heritage Lottery Fund, stressed the importance of saving historic archives: “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.”
As well as the digitisation of the records, the grant will be used to help fund a variety of outreach programmes and events. These will include providing courses for GCSE students from disadvantaged backgrounds to work with archiving original historical materials, the provision of lesson packs for secondary school teachers, as well as running training courses for church congregations, to help them archive their own church’s history.
As well as the greater accessibility of the archive once digitised, the grant will help pay for biennial lectures and exhibitions linked to events such as Black History Month and International Women’s Day.
The college’s librarians have been delighted by the news, remarking that the funding has been a “long time coming”. Emma Walsh, college librarian, commented: “As a result of the grant, the treasures that are in the Angus Library will be available and known by a much wider audience.”
“400 years ago the first Baptist community settled in Spitalfields, London. It is exciting that in the year that this anniversary has been celebrated we can start a new phase of helping people engage with another aspect of the nation’s shared history.”
However, some have been less excited by the news, as the Angus Library is little-used by the majority of students at the college. Ashley Cooke, Regent’s Park student, said: “To be honest, I don’t know much about it, it doesn’t affect undergraduates at all. I think it’s going to be more helpful to postgraduates and people like that.”
Elsewhere, though, the news has been welcomed. Joe Hackett, a first year historian, commented: “English religious history in schools is, I think, all too often boiled down to ‘Catholics vs. Protestants’, and hopefully the digitisation of this wealth of nonconformist history can help change that”.
The Angus Library is seeking volunteers to assist in work essential to the system’s delivery, and have encouraged all those interested to get in contact for further details.