A night in the archives: Sixties. Culture. Revolution. Scandal

On Friday 19 May, we held our latest late event – ‘Archives at Night: Sixties. Culture. Revolution. Scandal’. We threw open our doors and welcomed over 400 visitors for an evening inspired by all things 1960s.

Neon images of Jimi Hendrix, Twiggy and John Lennon

Sixties icons to welcome our visitors (image credit: Joao Santos)

Two visitors look at original documents

Visitors enjoying the original document display (image credit: Matt Blair)

We have a wealth of records from every era in our collection, and the 1960s are no exception. The night included talks on subjects ranging from the Hyde Park concerts to the Profumo affair, and youth and counter culture.

Particularly popular on the night were the displays of original documents. Our visitors were able to see a huge range of records from the decade, including documents covering:

  • the career of The Beatles
  • the crimes of the Kray twins
  • the theft of the World Cup
  • the strike of the women workers of Ford Dagenham
  • original evidence from the trial of Penguin books for the publication of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’

Pop up performances throughout the night were all drawn directly from the words in our collection. They dramatized extracts from key records featured in the document displays, as well as records on the death of JFK, the riot of mods and rockers in Brighton, and the popularity of Radio Caroline.

Our guests were also treated to a nostalgic screening of public information films from the decade.

Throughout the night, a DJ entertained with sixties music, dancers performed, a bar served up themed cocktails – such as the Modhito and the Mary Quantreu – and our photographers were kept very busy with guests re-staging the famous photo of the Fab Four on Abbey Road in our photobooth.

Two dancers in black and white chequered mini-dresses

Two dancers performing at Archives at Night (image credit: Matt Blair)

The evening provided a wonderful opportunity to open up our collection to demonstrate the diverse nature of the records we hold and was our response to the nationwide Museums at Night festival, which runs twice a year.

Our next Archives at Night will take place in October. Be sure to sign up to our newsletter to make sure you hear about it first!

Related podcasts and blogs

England ’66: The best of times

1968: Year of revolutions

Summer of ’69

October 1973: The end of the sixties?

The hippy shake… or just shaken up?

Related resources

Sixties Britain: document collection

Public information films




  1. Nonn Procter says:

    I heard nothing but praise from those I knew who attended.

  2. Kate R says:

    A really fabulous night, brilliantly organised, with all the staff entering into the spirit of the event. Went to the talks on the Profumo Affair and Rock in the Royal Parks, both excellent – informative, entertaining and delivered with great flair. Definitely a night to remember – still cannot quite believe that I was dancing to the Rolling Stones in the middle of the National Archives!

  3. massimo says:

    great post

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