2013 is an important year for my host organisation, the Borthwick Institute for Archives, based at the University of York. The year simultaneously marks both the 50th anniversary of the University’s establishment, and the 60th anniversary of the Borthwick’s foundation. The latter became a part of the former in 1963, on occasion of the university’s opening.
Formed in 1953 as a repository and public research centre for the vast ecclesiastical archive of the Archdiocese of York, the Borthwick has since acquired material of increasingly broad and diverse origins. No longer renowned solely for its extensive church records, dating as far back as the 13th century, the Borthwick now boasts holdings that range from the archive of internationally acclaimed playwright Alan Ayckbourn, to those of the famous confectionery firms, Rowntree’s and Terry’s. Other highlights include the secret war diaries of E. F. L. Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax, who served as Foreign Secretary and British Ambassador to the United States during World War II, and the archive of The Retreat, a Quaker-founded hospital for the mentally ill, established in 1796, which pioneered humane, progressive therapies at a time when most other asylums were treating their patients as little more than animals.