After publishing a booklet featuring our 70 favourite records on Sussex Day (16 June), and posting each of those 70 records on this blog over the past 6 months, our 70th Birthday celebrations culminated on Saturday 12 November, with our public Open Day and evening Reception.
The day was a great opportunity to get a selection of these most-loved records out for the public to come and see, as well as plenty of other highlights from our collection. This included our oldest record; a South Saxon charter dated 780 AD, which even some of our longest-serving staff members had never glimpsed outside of its safe home in the strongroom. We also had a display of records from the Royal Sussex Regimental archive to commemorate Remembrance Day, and a selection of records relating to the Royal Maundy Service and visit by the Queen to Chichester Cathedral in 1986. The Cathedral kindly loaned us a set of their presentation Maundy Money coins for the display, which proved extremely popular with visitors.
We also had displays highlighting our most recent project work, with information on the Graylingwell Heritage Project, the Chichester Festival Theatre Archive, and the Shoreham Community Archive. We also displayed examples of the ongoing work on our latest partnership project with Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the Guinea Pig Club and East Grinstead Museum, on the hospital archives and pioneering work of Sir Archibald McIndoe in treating WWII airmen at East Grinstead.
In addition to our own family and military advice desks, the Sussex Family History Group kindly volunteered to offer advice and assistance to researchers, and were invaluable in guiding our visitors through genealogy sources throughout the day. West Sussex Archives Society were another great help, with a stand advertising their brilliant work and support of the Record Office, as well as assisting in our tea room serving light refreshments all day. Record Office volunteers also came along to lend us a hand in the tea room and on the door, where we recorded 300 visitors during the day.
Most popular of all were our behind-the-scenes tours, which gave members of the public the chance to have a look around our strongrooms, conservation area, scanning facilities and learn a little about the Record Office and our work as they went. Although we had scheduled 4 tours, due to demand we ended up having to take 2 seperate groups around for each tour, and feedback from visitors showed a real enthusiasm and interest in the management and care of our collections.
Come the evening, the records made way for canapes and prosecco as we welcomed those who nominated records for our ’70 favourites’ and contributed to the booklet and blog. Around 100 of our depositors, partners, supporters, volunteers, friends, current and former staff members came along to mark the occasion and raise a toast to 70 years of the Record Office. Along with kind donations of local produce from Goodwood Farm cheeses to luxury truffles from Noble & Stace Chocolatiers, former Shippam’s employees provided tasters of their famous paste, and arrived with a beautifully iced Record Office fruit cake from Diane Eldridge, which was a lovely surprise!
West Sussex Archive Society generously provided our 70th birthday cake, which was cut by local author, playwright and Record Office researcher Kate Mosse following speeches by West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member David Barling and County Archivist Wendy Walker.
We would like to thank all those who contributed their support to our ongoing celebrations, and those who attended either of our events. It was wonderful to see so many friendly faces coming out to celebrate the Record Office and the work that we do.
Here’s to the next 70 years!