Save the Ruskin College Archives!


If you are in Oxford please do support this important campaign

There’s a picket at Ruskin College tomorrow from 10.30-11am when the governors meet to protest the destruction of archives, please come down and show support, especially if you’re in Oxford.

Please find below an update on the campaign including action and links – and please circulate widely.

Principal of Ruskin College, Audrey Mullender, ordered the shredding of thousands of historic student records from 1899 to recent years, an act which has been nationally condemned by students, staff, historians, archivists and journalists. No records have been scanned and only barest details digitised. Information on students’ backgrounds, progress and achievements has now gone. Only some from the 1950s remain.

She has insisted, after the event, that these actions were legally justified despite repeated advice to the contrary from experienced archivists and internationally prestigious historians.

Nicholas Kingsley, Head of Archives Sector Development & Secretary of the Historical Manuscripts Commission at the National Archive, confirmed last Thursday ‘it would have been acceptable to retain these records indefinitely for historical purposes’.

In October we listed the records that have been destroyed. They included thousands of files on individual students as well as those of the Ruskin Student Union. Student dissertations, often based on the unique opportunities for access to working lives that Ruskin students possessed, were also destroyed. Further unwanted material, including collections on the National Register of Archives, had been dispersed to other archives.

Over 7,500 people * (see examples of names below) have signed the petition to halt immediately the destruction and to transfer the remaining records to an institution committed to preserving the recorded experiences of working people.

We have had no confirmation from Ruskin management that the remaining historic student records, mainly dating from the 1950s, will be saved. We have had no expression of regret as to the destruction of records relating to so many people’s lives.

In order to save the remaining student archives and to ensure that no further destruction takes place we are lobbying the next meeting of the Ruskin College governing executive on Friday 30 November from 10.30 am outside the Rookery entrance, Ruskin College, the new Headington site, Dunstan Road, 0X3 9BZ.

We will be presenting the petition. We will also be laying a wreath in memory of the achievements of students whose lives have been eradicated from the records. Please come and show your support and, if you can, bring your banner or placard. Please email me on [email protected] if you can come. We will adjourn afterwards for coffee in the White Hart.

Please also write again to the governing executive members (email details attached) alerting them to the advice of the National Archives and asking them to save the remaining archives – and to help salvage Ruskin’s tarnished reputation.

Dr Hilda Kean FRHistS

*Signatories include Sarah Waters, Alan Bennett, M Lewycka, Sir Brian Harrison former editor of the Oxford DNB; Dr Nick Mansfield former director of the People’s History Museum; Dr Eve Setch History publisher at Routledge; Professor Alison Light (widow of Raphael Samuel); Professor Jonathan Rose author of The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes; Stewart Maclennan, chair of the Scottish Labour History Society; Harry Barnes, former Labour MP and former Ruskin student; MPs John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn ;Professor Geoff Whitty, former director of the Institute of Education; Professor Pat Thane, co-founder of History and Policy; Alice Kessler-Harris former President, Organization of American Historians; Dr Andrew Foster, Chair of the Public History Committee of the Historical Association; Professor Geoff Eley, Chair of the History Department at the University of Michigan; Dr. Serge Noiret, Chair of the International Federation for Public History, Italy; Dorothy Sheridan, former archivist of the Mass Observation archive; Dr. Roger Fieldhouse, joint author of A History of Modern British Adult Education;Keith Bilton on behalf of the Social Work History Network; Bob Price, leader of Oxford City Council; former governors including David Buckle and Brian Cohen; and hundreds and hundreds of former Ruskin students and staff.

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