Whose Archive? Whose History? Destruction of Archives at Ruskin College, Oxford

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The Walton Street site, Ruskin College, Oxford

By Hilda Kean

Sign the petition at Care2 now to stop further vandalism: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/120/368/331/stop-further-archive-destruction-at-ruskin-college-oxford/

I remember being impressed by the diary of John Ward, a nineteenth century weaver from Lancashire, who had written daily accounts in a cash-book of the effects of the cotton famine caused by the American Civil War. There would be readers who may have thought these entries trivial: ‘A clear frosty day but now tonight is raining. I have joined the Low Moor Mechanics’ Institute and Reading-room. It is a penny per week, so I will see a daily paper regular.’i But the students whom I then taught at Ruskin College (and I) thought otherwise. These tiny glimpses and traces of a past evoked another world. What added to the interest were the circumstances by which the diary had been handed down to us. This possibly unique diary of a working weaver from the 1860s had been retrieved in 1947 from a heap of rubbish by a labourer who was feeding the furnace at the Clitheroe destructor. While someone had seen fit to discard it, another, also a working man, had realised its value. Without the binman’s intervention, the wider social history community would never have known that the diary – and, of course, its author – even existed.

In 1993 I took up a post at Ruskin College to work with Raphael Samuel getting a new postgraduate degree in Public History off the ground. Stephen Yeo, another historian of the labour movement, was principal. I never dreamed that such an act of destruction, as had nearly happened to John Ward’s diary, would occur at Ruskin. But times change and this is precisely what has, already, happened.

Ruskin College, founded in central Oxford in 1899, has recently sold its main Walton Street building to Exeter College and has moved to the outskirts of the city at Headington. This has been seen as an opportunity, by some, to ditch the College’s past both literally and metaphorically.

The College was a repository of lived experience of the trade union and labour movement of the twentieth century and its records complemented that. Some see past experience as unrelated to the future. As the college principal, Audrey Mullender has declared in email correspondence, ‘I think we must live by our future’, seeing this almost in contradistinction to the past. Others, particularly historians, tend to see a correlation between these time variables.

Much material from Ruskin’s past has already been physically trashed. This includes admission records of some of the trade union students who attended Ruskin in its first decades. These were activists, sponsored by their unions, who usually went back into the trade union and labour movement as leaders. Such archival matter is like gold dust to labour and social historians enabling a better understanding of the political and cultural life of working class people in the twentieth century. With the huge interest in family and local history it is also the sort of material that descendants find fascinating.

The destruction to date has not happened by accident. The college principal had stated her intentions, or, more accurately, her decision; the chair and vice-chair of governors, themselves from a trade union background, were advised of this intended operation months ago and took no action. The trashing of such records, David Norman, the chair, declared in email correspondence, was an ‘internal administrative matter’ and thus he declined to intervene.

Attempts to reason with the principal fell on deaf ears. Most of the files, this ‘hanging on to a load of old paper that no one ever looked at’ as Audrey Mullender has described it in emails, was of scant historical value. The records, she had decided, were ‘extremely thin and boring’. In addition they did not provide ‘a complete record’.

This indicates a complete lack of understanding about the nature of archives – and why historians find them fascinating. What is extremely boring to one individual is often engaging to another re-visiting the material in decades to come. In New Zealand, for example, one short-sighted official destroyed nineteenth century census records thinking they would be of no interest whereas, obviously, these are items of fascination to family and public historians. Even within state records, of course, one never receives full records – the 1861 census, for example, has huge gaps. Archives by their very nature never contain ‘complete’ records. Choices are always made by depositers and archivists. There is no ‘objective’ position.

For Audrey Mullender, so-called personal material such as that contained in past student applications could not be seen by anyone. This also illustrates a total misunderstanding of the spirit of data protection. To its credit, SOAS, to take but one example, has recognised that exemptions in legislation allow the permanent retention of data for historical and statistical research. As it has wisely stated, ‘SOAS’s history should not be endangered by the over zealous destruction of data that could be retained as historical archives.’ii

As those of us who actually use and value archives realise, routinely we are forbidden from accessing personal archives for some period of time, varying from archive to archive but often for period of 100 to 70 years. Clearly archives have the facilities and rationale for ensuring that records are preserved; colleges do not automatically have the space. This is especially the case at Ruskin, where a new supposedly purpose-built library has less storage space than the cramped library it has replaced.

Some of the rare material housed in the former building is now safe from further onslaught since it was given some time ago to the Bishopsgate Institute. The Institute already housed the papers of Raphael Samuel, long time tutor of History at the College. To this has been added collections relating to the History Workshop. Conscious of the intrinsic value of the pamphlets, ephemera and records that Ruskin holds – and keen to expand their growing collection of radical collection, such as material emanating from the Stop the War Coalition – Stefan Dickers, the library and archives manager at the Bishopsgate, volunteered to take any material that Ruskin did not want. Some material was donated, such as a photograph and portrait of Raphael Samuel and MA dissertations in Public History taught at the College from 1996 – 2012 when the course was closed down. But rather than take up this offer of receiving all unwanted material it was decided to eradicate it. Papers have not gone to a landfill site but have been specifically destroyed. Even the removal firm seemed puzzled and sought clarification from the principal who allegedly confirmed that indeed such material must be destroyed. Perhaps the firm’s staff were viewers of ‘Who do you think you are?’ and understood their worth…

While some valuable material is now saved from such acts of philistinism the destruction of Ruskin’s past has not yet finished. The iconography that adorned the public walls of the College–the anti-imperialist mural in the block named after anti-apartheid activist David Kitson; the banner from the miners’ strike of 1984-5 when the College hosted striking miners; the plaque presented to Charles Bowerman, former President of the TUC and member of Ruskin’s governing council – are no longer part of the public history and public profile of the College. Volunteer students working in the archive instructed to shred labour movement pamphlets acted with the imagination and integrity one expects of the best of the Ruskin tradition. Other material such as pamphlets or ephemera has been squirreled away by staff keen to preserve the past – but understandably wary of their own future in the current climate.

Brecht famously enumerated ‘the questions of a worker who reads’. Weaver John Ward was one such worker. The Clitheroe labourer who rescued his writing was another. Ruskin students have provided such readers in their thousands, ordinary people interested in the past, present and future who asked questions of the world around them. Like Brecht’s character, they contemplated traces of the past that some people regard as valuable and others choose to ignore.

The destruction of the Ruskin archive will not stop such questions being raised, but better to retain the traces, than to wipe them out.

Hilda Kean is the former Dean of Ruskin College. Her latest book is The Public History Reader (Routledge, forthcoming 2013) edited with Paul Martin.

i John Burnett Useful Toil.Autobiographies of Working People from the 1820s to the 1920s, Penguin,1977, p.80.

ii ’ http://www.soas.ac.uk/infocomp/dpa/policy/retaining/ (site accessed 1 October 2012)

Related: Losing the Memory of Generations, by David Horsfield, former Ruskin librarian

Come on Ruskin, do the right thing by Toby Butler, ex-Ruskin student

Sign the petition at Care2 now to stop further vandalism: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/120/368/331/stop-further-archive-destruction-at-ruskin-college-oxford/


78 Responses to “Whose Archive? Whose History? Destruction of Archives at Ruskin College, Oxford”

  1. M Sarah Wickham
    October 4, 2012 at 11:34 am #

    I have submitted a freedom of information request for the College’s records management policy and retention schedule http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/records_management#outgoing-226730

  2. Anna
    October 4, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    Monstrous. Thank you Hilda for the clarity and passion of your report.

  3. JD
    October 4, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    I have some beautiful old and unique photos and a directory documenting the old yards and houses to be destroyed as part of the unhealthy Housing Act in 1901 in Leeds, amazing histroical artifacts, they were found in a skip behind Leeds Civic hall a few years ago, scary to think what they throw out.

  4. Martin Bashforth
    October 4, 2012 at 3:50 pm #

    Just been emailed by a former archive colleague from where I used to work, and could not believe what I was reading, especially in relation to an educational institution such as Ruskin. I have signed the on-line petition. The Principal is clearly an idiot and the trade unionists who failed to do anything should hang their heads in shame.

  5. Student
    October 4, 2012 at 5:31 pm #

    Seems a perfect example of why trades unions should not be allowed to run anything.

    • poster
      October 5, 2012 at 5:47 pm #

      Sure, let’s let the likes of Murdoch run everything!

  6. Jennifer Summers
    October 4, 2012 at 9:18 pm #

    As a person from the antipodies who has visited Ruskin College I would like to support protection of all of Ruskin’s archives. In the days where Google is digitising books, scanning and making accessible material in digital platforms why are the Ruskin College archievbes under threat. Scolars in the future must be able to see and feel these precious written and photographic records from earier times. Conservation would be preferable to desecration.

  7. Sad
    October 4, 2012 at 10:34 pm #

    The Social worker who runs the place has ” given” a painting of Bernard shaw back to the labour party. She appears to embody the worst aspects of moralising tyrannising socalled feminism and should be summarily dismissed for her vandalism

    • Lori
      October 5, 2012 at 12:25 am #

      What grounds do you have for attributing this vandalism to feminism?

      • Hannah
        October 5, 2012 at 8:30 am #

        Question seconded.

        • SAd
          October 5, 2012 at 9:00 am #

          I don’t have any quarrel with feminism- only with the principal who I called a so-called feminist. This wasn’t a mistake. It is part of a clear attempt to “reinterpret “the institution and eradicate this aspect of its history, using a feminist rhetoric of inclusion. As John Crace wrote in the Guardian in 2004 “Her managerial style will probably have the greatest impact. As chair of faculty at Warwick, she had to become something of a “meeting hack” and she’s used to getting her own way.”

          • Sad
            October 5, 2012 at 9:14 am #

            I accept though that my comment could have been better phrased

  8. Donnacha De Grant
    October 5, 2012 at 12:18 am #

    I remember visiting Ruskin College under an arrangement with Fircroft College in the 60s. I am appalled by the vulgar philistinism exhibited in this what amounts to vandalism pure and simple. How the dirty hand of neoliberalism stretches everywhere into social life! Truly the age of the Barbarian. And behind it all the sensed project of obliterating the history of working class literacy and the accompanying militancy. A pox on all their houses.

  9. Emma M
    October 5, 2012 at 8:44 am #

    These wholesale destructions appear to be happening everywhere and where, once libraries were seen as the repositories of knowledge, culture and identity of the past, the present and the future, they are becoming little more than a vehicle of ambition for executives who want to show how they can change the world. Those people who campaign to make records and, thereby our history, matter in by preserving our collections are daily called dinosaurs and accused of lacking the vision to move forward. Isn’t this what Big Brother was all about? I wonder if there is a move to destroy all those works of art kept in almost permanent storage in museums and galleries everywhere – because no-one ever sees them anyway?

  10. Rob
    October 5, 2012 at 9:11 am #

    Comrades I am speechless. This is just beyond belief

  11. Boris
    October 5, 2012 at 10:06 am #

    My father used to teach at Ruskin during the 1960/70s. If he were alive today he would be rolling in his grave at such wanton destruction! I’m charitably assuming that the current principle is an ignorant buffoon rather than a malicious vandal, but I could be wrong.

  12. Tom hughes
    October 5, 2012 at 11:21 am #

    One would expect this sort of behaviour from administrators and bureaucrats shame on them.

  13. David McInerney
    October 5, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    The executives never do this work themselves. All workers involved in the ‘destruction’ of these archives should liberate (‘steal’) rather than destroy these records. Pass them on to those who will protect them. Digitize them and keep disseminate them as widely as possible.

  14. Simon
    October 5, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    Recently on a walk we found a whole load of historical diaries & photo albums in a recycling bin. The house owner, direct descendant of the people involved ‘didn’t want them’. We tracked down better homes – the school where the little girl was as school and wriing about, and the national archives for a military diary from India in the late victorian times. I blame trendy decluttering – and just not caring.

  15. Jon Lawrence Risdon
    October 5, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    Wonder if any of the governing body is a Common Purpose graduate? There certainly seems to have been some “going beyond authority” here.

  16. Alun
    October 5, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    As a Ruskin student of 1968-70 and incidentally a Professor of History I think this is a bloody outrage. Thinks are already happening but all ex-Ruskin student must have an interest in this

    • Jenny Benfield
      October 7, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

      I agree. And 1981-84 you were my personal tutor and it is great to see despite being a prof. your language is as earthy as ever! I have been thinking of you a lot recently as I am currently doing an MA in History at OU. Best wishes, Jenny Foister (now Benfield and a grandmother!)

  17. Lorraine Johnson
    October 5, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

    So much of what my sisters and I have achieved in the last twenty years is only because my father was given the opportunity to study at Ruskin in the 1970s. So much social history is bound up in Ruskin’s archives and records.

  18. Toby Butler
    October 6, 2012 at 8:23 am #

    This has just been covered as a news story by the Daily Telegraph see

  19. Barbara Nicholls
    October 6, 2012 at 11:30 am #

    Only two months or so ago I went to film old photographs and the famous “round Robin” protest when the first Principal was sacked for creating a wide ranging curricula. The film i was working on was to do with the early history of Ruskin for a new documentary about labour history. The library staff were very helpful and it truly was a eye opener on early trade union involvement in establishing educational pathways.
    I am deeply shocked to hear that the archive is being destroyed. How on earth can such a vital collection of labour history be decimated especially when the Bishopsgate Institute have offered to take it on to preserve for future historians at no cost?
    This wilful destruction of our archive is extraordinary. I’d say to the Principal “Do the right thing ! You have been standing on the shoulders of giants of worker’s history – now honour the struggle that created the college and … your job!”

    • Hilda Kean
      October 6, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

      p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; }

      I look forward to seeing the film! As has been confirmed in
      the Daily Telegraph piece shredding of an archive of thousands of records of
      past students has already taken place. But insiders have found that some such
      records still exist – awaiting the same fate unless the College can be
      persuaded to change its mind!

      It is not the case that ‘everything’ has been
      destroyed and nor did I say this in the article above. However, in an effort to
      ‘re-brand’ Ruskin and move it away from its labour movement past, iconography
      of the college has been removed – given to other institutions or
      individuals. Items such as an anti-imperialist photographic montage, for
      example, are no longer wanted in the new Ruskin.

      Please do write to the governors to persuade them to act to
      save the last of the historic student records before it is too late. The Bishopsgate archivist has re-confirmed that the institute would be delighted to take them. Hilda Kean http://hildakean.com/

  20. Ger Britch
    October 6, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    Fahrenheit 451

  21. Stefan Dickers
    October 6, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

    Further coverage in the Times Literary Supplement.

  22. Anna Davin
    October 6, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    Any chance we can post frames or more from the Ruskin footage Barbara has just told us about?

  23. Peter Love
    October 7, 2012 at 4:59 am #

    ‘I think we must live by our future.’ Yes, but the past, present and future are all part of the same process. The future is also posterity, to which we have a duty of care in our custody of common people’s voices. The Australian Society for the Study of Labour History was founded in 1961, partly out of a concern at the rate of destruction of trade union records. In this fight, we join you in common cause to urge the sponsors of Ruskin College to sustain a living history, not cremate it.

  24. Dr John Tully
    October 7, 2012 at 8:47 am #

    I am shocked and saddened to hear of this monstrous philistinism. Is there not some other institution willing to take charge of these materials? Please continue to fight the good fight to retain them. For my part I am circulating the petition in Australia and have also sent it to the US. John Tully, Victoria University, Melbourne.

  25. Felix Driver
    October 7, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    This week I am working in student record archives at the Institute of Education, having recently also consulted staff records at Goldsmiths. If these records had not been available, I would not have been able to identify the fact that the person I was studying (who became a senior academic in the University of London in the middle decades of the C20th) had taught in a Quaker school during the 1920s, prior to that had been a conscientious objector in the First World War, and been educated in schools in the poorest part of Bermondsey around 1900. Those working-class roots and that personal experience of ethical resistance, I thjnk, in many ways shaped his subsequent career: the key point to note is that without these archives, these things would have been more or less entirely invisible.

    Scraps of ‘old paper’ in the archives of such institutions may be ‘extremely thin and boring’ in themselves: but they can unlock worlds we have barely dreamed of. Thank goodness that so many UK Universities have an enlightened approach to their own histories, and thank goodness for the archivists trained to care for them!

  26. H M Turton
    October 7, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

    Although claims are being made that this process has been necessary and selective, and that news of the destruction is misinformed, damage has already been done, and there has been no warning, let alone a consultation process. The petition is one way of registering our shock and anger. Contacting the Chair of the Governing Executive, David Norman is another. Not only does this damage our valuable history, it also brings our principles into disrepute. Friends, colleagues and former alumni of Ruskin, unite to prevent any more abuses of power.

  27. Becky Conekin
    October 7, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    Sad and shocked! I’ve signed the petition, but is there anything else we can do?

  28. dougie_carnall
    October 7, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    One is reminded of the maxim that the best way to understand the senior management of any institution is to assume it has been infiltrated by elements dedicated to its destruction. One can sympathise with the difficulties of space and staffing required in this case; but if these were lacking, another home should have been found. The thoughtless destruction of such materials is barbarous. Oxford colleges aren’t what they used to be it seems. Quelle honte!

  29. Lesley Acton
    October 8, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

    This vandalism is nothing short of the destruction of our cultural heritage. It must stop – NOW.

  30. John McDonnell MP
    October 8, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    You have my support for this campaign. Too much of the material of our working class history has been lost and of all places Ruskin is where we would naturally look to for its preservation.

  31. Carmel George
    October 8, 2012 at 4:06 pm #

    This is an outrageous action that is being considered by the Principal of Ruskin and as a former librarian at the College I understand the value to past and present students of the archive material. I hope that past students and staff as well as those currently at the college, will speak out against this proposed atrocity.

  32. Gordon Williams
    October 8, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    Why not consider court action to restrain further destruction of the archives?

  33. Josephine Beaton
    October 8, 2012 at 5:32 pm #

    What is a principal of Ruskin who does not appreciate the value of historical records in their care?
    What is a new building, purporting to be a university building, if it cannot house the unique material the old library held?At the very least what remains should go to the Bishopsgate.
    Stephen Poliakoff’s film “Shooting The Past” applies.

  34. Annie Skinner
    October 9, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

    When John Prescott visited Ruskin College several years ago, when the BBC were making a film about him, the Principal retrieved his file and read out reports from his tutors in public. Lord Prescott was delighted to hear about his past life at Ruskin, as were members of the audience, including the press. This was how it was reported in the local newspaper:
    ‘The present principal of Ruskin, Prof Audrey Mullender, had earlier delighted Mr Prescott when she came across his old student files. It proved a treasure of source material for his book.
    “It came as a real surprise. I was in the process of writing the book. I had no school reports or anything when Audrey rang and said that she had found my old files. Did I want them, or should she throw them out?
    “I was amazed how detailed they were. Every little scrap had been retained, from bills to private reports on my progress. I hadn’t known how hard Ruskin had worked on my behalf to get me there.”
    He also learnt that he was more highly regarded as a student than he’d imagined.’
    More on this report can be found here: http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/archive/2008/06/13/Features+%28otfeatures%29/2331021.Prezza_recalls_Oxford_years/

  35. Dr Tim Philipson
    October 9, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

    sic transit gloria mundi.
    Speaking as a non-sentimental ex-Ruskiner who does not see all change as some sort of ‘betrayal’, I do however recognise that I owe much to the College, and that the ethos which underpinned this experience itself owed so much the Colleges collective history. This makes the wilful destruction of the College archive all the more depressing. The one thought that has realy puzzled me for many years though is exactly why the College has a tendancy to appoint such bloody awful Principals with such blooody awful principles.

  36. Martin Duncan-jones
    October 10, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    This recalls the scandal a few years ago when Waltham Forest Council did its best to trash its only gem, the world-renowned William Morris Gallery. The then Chief Executive ignorantly dismissed him as a ‘white imperialist’, and the Council’s only employee with a world-wide reputation, the Keeper Peter Cormack, was forced out of his job:the budget and opening hours were slashed, and secret negotiations entered into to get the collection out of thew Borough. Thankfully a world-wide campaign of protest forced a U-turn, and now those same people responsible for the assault on the Gallery are claiming credit for its rescue.
    But at the same time, 200,000 library books were incinerated by the same management, as the central library was revamped, and filled with computers and a fish tank.Three others were closed, denying primary access to information for people in the poorest parts of the borough.

    People whose visions for a fairer future, in the wake of Morris and Ruskin, inevitably imply the creation of bureaucracies capable of such actions, need to do some serious reflection on causes and consequences.

  37. Martin Malone
    October 14, 2012 at 7:13 pm #

    Disgraceful. What is the Student Union doing about this

    • Emailaddress
      October 17, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

      Bertolt Brecht

      Questions from A Worker Who Reads

      Who built Thebes of the seven gates?
      In the books you will find the name of kings.
      Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock?
      And Babylon, many times demolished.
      Who raised it up so many times? In what houses
      Of gold-glittering Lima did the builders live?
      Where, the evening that the Wall of China was finished
      Did the masons go? Great Rome
      Is full of triumphal arches. Who erected them? Over whom
      Did the Caesars triumph? Had Byzantium, much praised in song,
      Only palaces for its inhabitants? Even in fabled Atlantis
      The night the ocean engulfed it
      The drowning still bawled for their slaves.

      The young Alexander conquered India.
      Was he alone?
      Caesar beat the Gauls.
      Did he not have even a cook with him?
      Philip of Spain wept when his armada
      Went down. Was he the only one to weep?
      Frederick the Second won the Seven Years’ War. Who
      Else won it?

      Every page a victory.
      Who cooked the feast for the victors?
      Every ten years a great man.
      Who paid the bill?

      So many reports.
      So many questions.

      At Ruskin College workers organised themselves, proudly learning their history amongst the towers of Oxford.

      For generations they did this. Men and women workers in struggle from all over Britain and further afield They came to Ruskin to study, to learn and to change, and to tell that history that had been hidden so long to the towns and villages and workplaces they came from ,and to the world at large.

      Until a turncoat  Principal without principle took this history and shredded it.
      Shame on her and honour to those who resist and continue to name these heroes and to tel and retell their story.


  38. Paul, Ruskin 89 - 91
    October 15, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    I was greatly fortunate to be tutored by Raph Samuel during my time at Ruskin. As well as being a historian of immense stature, he was one of the most laid-back, softly-spoken & calm human beings I have met.

    Having said that, I reckon that even he’d be spitting feathers at this Goebbels-like act of destruction.

  39. Ron Fraser
    October 16, 2012 at 6:52 am #

    Such crass justifications for these actions!  It’s not “memorabilia” we want to preserve, Professor Mullender, it’s the invaluable social and biographical material these records contain(ed). The destruction should stop now, and arrangements made for some institution (Bishopsgate or other) that realises the importance of these individual records for understanding the history of working class agency in Britain. “Data protection” is a feeble excuse for this destruction – we need real protection of this data. Protection of the privacy of the living can be ensured without destruction of the records.  (I am a member of the Australian Society of Labour History, and a graduate of Keele University’s Master’s course in Victorian Studies.)

  40. Toby
    October 19, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

    For the latest on this and a link to a document outlining the status of various parts of the Ruskin archive/records see ‘when is an archive not an archive’ on http://hildakean.com/?page_id=943

  41. Nancy Schimmel
    October 25, 2012 at 5:56 am #

    As a librarian, I find this disturbing.

  42. Peter Harnetty
    October 25, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

    This is unbelievable.  As a historian myself (of South Asia) I know the value of local records.  Even in India, district offices retain land records and other such material dating back well into the 19th century (admittedly not always in very good order – but they are there).  I do hope what’s left can be saved.

    Peter Harnetty(Prof. Emeritus University of British Columbia)

  43. Andy Cohen
    October 25, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

    This kind of behavior from so-called scholars genuinely stinks.  This woman must be being paid off by someone, to exhibit such a callous attitude toward the bare bones of historical interpretation. She has no right to destroy the stuff, and should be enjoined from doing so right away.  And fired.

  44. David Norman
    October 27, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    Not only is this an act of deliberate vandalism, not only was it avoidable and not only did it certainly not raise difficult data protection issues, but in my case it raised particular fury because my namesake, David Norman, as chairman of governors, was amongst those culpable. I AM NOT THAT DAVID NORMAN!!!

  45. Penry Williams
    October 28, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    As a retired historian who spent much of his working life reading records of the past and teaching others to read and use them, I find this literally incredible. By curious coincidence I was going to come yesterday to the opening ceremony of Ruskin College buildings, as a guest of Gordon Marsden MP. In the event I was ill and could not go, but I saw Gordon afterwards and he cannot have known of this, or else he would have mentioned it. He is a historian, previously editor of History Today; and he delivered a speech at the opening on long-term learning. He should be able to give you support. Margaret Jay was also at the opening and the speech. This is not the only attack on learning that has got me angry; but it is the most direct and the most lamentable.

    Penry Williams, retired history fellow and tutor, New College, Oxford.

  46. Richard Fellows
    December 7, 2012 at 10:30 pm #

    As a historian, Oxford graduate, and admirer of the founding ambitions of Ruskin College, I find your article shocking and hard to believe. How very sad to read of this as a result of visiting HWO to look at Eric Hobsbawm’s special edition of Past and Present.

  47. Joy Travers
    December 9, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    When Ruskin Cololege offered to tutor me in WW1 history I donated to it 500 letters exchanged between my grandparents W F and E B Toynbee  and their son out in Egypt in the war. The letters tell of the lives of a Walthamstow working class family in which Will Toynbee, the only working class compositor seconded to the War Office (Voluntary Enlistment, and later, Lord Derby’s Scheme) and the Treasury (War Savings Campaign) to speak at factories and outdoor demonstrations and Lizzie, his wife, keeping the home fires burning. Stan Toynbee was the only clerk in the Deputy Judge Advocate’s Office in Cairo/Alexandria from 1915 to 1919. The exchange of letters is unique and is the main purpose of my book “A Toynbee to Remember” to be published shortly. To my horror I find that those 500 original letters have been disposed or, I don’t yet know where or if they have been destroyed. Fortunately I have photocopies of every letter, but they aren’t the same as the ones which so delighted the then librairians David and Val Horsfall who photocopied them for me in return for the donation to the College. I am not an academic, although I do have an MA from Kent University. But I am appalled at the crass hubris of Audrey Mullender who glories in wrecking historial records simply to fullfil  her own views about education.

    Joy Travers, after years of research into the three major subjects of the book: Brotherhood Movement, Labour Party and Trades Union pioneer – Will Toynbee was well known in all three areas.

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  1. Whose Archive? Whose History? Destruction of Archives at Ruskin College, Oxford | History Workshop « Radical Studies Network - October 4, 2012

    [...] Whose Archive? Whose History? Destruction of Archives at Ruskin College, Oxford | History Workshop. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. [...]

  2. Stop the Destruction of Ruskin College’s Archive « Education Activist Network - October 5, 2012

    [...] please sign the petition here to stop any further damage and safeguard that which [...]

  3. Stop the further destruction of archival material at Ruskin College, Oxford « socialist history news - October 5, 2012

    [...] What ever would Raphael Samuel – or Eric Hobsbawm for that matter – have made of this? Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. [...]

  4. Whose Archive? Whose History? Destruction of Archives at Ruskin College, Oxford | History Workshop « Labour History Melbourne - October 7, 2012

    [...] Whose Archive? Whose History? Destruction of Archives at Ruskin College, Oxford | History Workshop. Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInEmailPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Tags: Ruskin College [...]

  5. Sunday Morning Medicine | Nursing Clio - October 7, 2012

    [...] Another week, another archive in danger. [...]

  6. Ruskin Governors’ Meeting | History Workshop - October 8, 2012

    [...] We hear that the governors at Ruskin College will be meeting with the College Principal tomorrow (that is, Tuesday 9 October), and that the future of the remaining archives will be discussed. No doubt there will be considerable pressure on the Principal, considering the petition of more than 2,500 signatures (and, strangely, more than 4,500 facebook ‘likes’), letter in the Guardian, coverage in the TLS and the Telegraph, and Hilda Kean’s article. [...]

  7. 11/23 « katyia7 - October 9, 2012

    [...] Good morning. http://www.historyworkshop.org.uk/whose-archive-whose-history-destruction-of-archives-at-ruskin-coll… [...]

  8. UnionHome | » History of Our Movement – Under Threat - October 10, 2012

    [...] “Papers have not gone to a landfill site but have been specifically destroyed. Even the removal firm seemed puzzled and sought clarification from the principal who allegedly confirmed that indeed such material must be destroyed”, writes Hilda Kean in an article on the History Workshop website. [...]

  9. Losing the Memory of Generations | History Workshop - October 11, 2012

    [...] events described in Hilda Kean’s article do not reflect well on the officers of Ruskin College. They appear to have been responsible for [...]

  10. Destruction of Archival Records in Ruskin College, Oxford « Archivist In-Process - October 15, 2012

    [...] the people. Let them know that a world without a past is not the world in which you want to live. http://www.historyworkshop.org.uk/whose-archive-whose-history-destruction-of-archives-at-ruskin-coll… Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like [...]

  11. Gli archivi da buttare del Ruskin College | Società Italiana di Storia del Lavoro - October 16, 2012

    [...] l’educazione dei lavoratori. La storia di questa vicenda e l’appello si trovano qui: http://www.historyworkshop.org.uk/whose-archive-whose-history-destruction-of-archives-at-ruskin-coll… Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Mi piaceBe the first to like this. Questa voce è stata [...]

  12. Ruskin College records | M Sarah Wickham - October 21, 2012

    [...] storm has blown up over the “destruction of Ruskin’s archives”.  Starting with a blog post by former Dean of Ruskin and followed by a number of other blog posts on history workshop online, [...]

  13. Meeting: Destruction of Archives/Records at Ruskin College, 5pm, November 15th | History Workshop - October 27, 2012

    [...] Whose Archive, Whose History? Destruction of Archives at Ruskin College, Oxford by Hilda Kean [...]

  14. ラスキンカレッジ(イギリス)の歴史資料廃棄 « 全史料協 調査・研究委員会ブログ - November 2, 2012

    [...] “Whose Archive? Whose History? Destruction of Archives at Ruskin College, Oxford” Share this:TwitterFacebookいいね:いいね最初の「いいね」をつけてみませんか。 カテゴリー:お知らせ コメント (0) トラックバック (0) コメントする トラックバック [...]

  15. ラスキンカレッジ(イギリス)の歴史資料廃棄 « 全史料協 調査・研究委員会ブログ - November 2, 2012

    [...] “Whose Archive? Whose History? Destruction of Archives at Ruskin College, Oxford” [...]

  16. Ruskin round-up | M Sarah Wickham - November 4, 2012

    [...] Hilda Kean’s blog posts 1st, 11th, 19th Oct http://hildakean.com/?m=201210 4th Oct 2012 http://www.historyworkshop.org.uk/whose-archive-whose-history-destruction-of-archives-at-ruskin-coll… [...]

  17. Perdere il passato - January 19, 2013

    [...] delle poche a studiare storicamente la relazione fra esseri umani e animali [5]), ha lanciato una petizione che ha in poco tempo raccolto più di 7.000 sottoscrizioni. Un successo che forse getta una luce [...]

  18. Ruskin College and the Museum of London: different archives, different approaches | Hilda Kean - April 29, 2013

    [...] articles and comments at History Workshop Online   New pieces have been added by David Horsfield, librarian 1972 – 2004 on the nature of the [...]

  19. Whose archive? Whose history? The Women’s Library and Ruskin College, Oxford | Hilda Kean - April 29, 2013

    [...] A longer article discussing the destruction of the Ruskin archive is now available at History Workshop Online [...]

  20. Samantha Shave, ‘History for below’ | the many-headed monster - July 26, 2013

    [...] examples of this process available – there’s the sell-off and merge option and, worse still, the destruction option. The holding of these collections, separately and completely, on university campuses represented [...]

  21. New Ruskin Archives | History Workshop - August 16, 2013

    […] stop the destruction of student records which went back to the foundation of the college in 1899 (Whose Archive? Whose History? Destruction of Archives at Ruskin College, Oxford). The destruction was the result of an ill-considered interpretation of the Data Protection Act and […]

  22. Project Showcase: Newruskinarchives | History@Work - January 3, 2014

    […] “Whose archive? Whose history?  Destruction of archives at Ruskin College, Oxford” (History Workshop Online, Oct. 4, 2012) […]

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