Albums and archives? No, we don’t mean vinyl records and stodgy old buildings full of dusty whatnot.
Here’s what we mean. “Album” is fairly straightforward – a group of photographic prints collected in the form of a book. “Archive” is a broader term – and typically a more variegated collection of material. The Society of American Archivists says that “the word archives… refers to the permanently valuable records – such as letters, reports, accounts, minute books, draft and final manuscripts, and photographs – of people, businesses, and government… They are the documentary evidence of past events… the facts we use to interpret and understand history.” Put more simply, an archive is a coherent collection of varied material that offers us a window on the person, place, or time it frames.
Why the explanation of terms? Because we have managed to gather a large and diverse treasure trove of albums and archives related to Sir Winston S. Churchill.
Albums and archives are compelling. They are often unique in content and presentation. They offer us perspective and insight different than the edited, printed, and polished history of books. And they can also be tantalizingly intriguing to figure out; they often come to us shorn of the context and raison d’etre explaining when and why they were created and what they are trying to show us.
The material we have accumulated is truly diverse in time and content. Our collection of albums and archives spans Churchill’s engagement in the Boer War as a young cavalry officer and war correspondent to the State Funeral honoring the end of his life. This span is difficult to overstate, extending from colonial conflicts fought on horseback at the end of Queen Victoria’s reign well into the age of nuclear weapons and human exploration of space.
In our hoard of albums and archives there are, of course, photograph collections – taken and collected by journalists, soldiers and sailors, staff, and various spectators. There are also fascinating collections of non-photograph material.
There are archives of members of Churchill’s staff, including his Chief Clerk at 10 Downing Street during the Second World War. There is a remarkable memento album of one of the military pilots at the Yalta Conference.
There is an incredible set of 24 large, hard-backed promotional posters from the original publication of The Second World War, still preserved in the gigantic wooden crate in which they were shipped by the publisher, Life Magazine. There are images and items that may exist nowhere else and would otherwise be lost to history. And, of course, within some of these albums and archives are found the inscriptions and signatures of Churchill.
The unexpected challenge we’ve faced is how best to present this material to you.
This time of year typically finds us putting the finishing touches on a print catalogue. Our catalogues are the result of diligent, disciplined, and even positively covetous accumulation; we pick a theme, amass material – sometimes for several years – and then pour it all into an annual catalogue.
This year, something different. Because, like Churchill, this collection of material is larger than life. And we are having some trouble squeezing all these albums and archives we’ve been hoarding between the covers of a catalogue!
So, instead, we will begin releasing this material in early November in small groups of half a dozen or fewer items at a time.
As always, those on our contact list will receive first notification of when we list these items, and first opportunity to own them. Stay tuned!