Scanning of collection at Chippenham, ready to go online

Students of both the author's life and his works will soon have instant access to the whole of the historic Alfred Williams Collection at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre at Chippenham, thanks to a huge grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) have been awarded a total of £585,400 to digitise and make available online key documents relating to six giants of the folksong collecting tradition, including Alfred, Cecil Sharp and Ralph Vaugan Williams.

And the good news for Alfred Williams followers is the whole of the collection at Chippenham is to be scanned and uploaded, not just the papers relating to Alfred's folksong-collecting project.

The collection features six and a half boxes of manuscripts, notes, letters, photographs, official documents, army records, certificates and other material, and will produce an estimate 9,700 different images by the time scanning is complete.

A decision was also made to scan both sides of each document because Alfred often re-used paper, so key notes may appear on the reverse of other documents. The collection contains lots of previously unpublished material, including several whole books that never made it into print.

Claire Skinner, Prinicipal Archivist at Chippenham, said it was unlikely such an undertaking could have been carried out by the History Centre in the foreseeable future, because of cost, but the EFDSS's grant would now the collection accessible to everybody online.

The collection is being removed from the archive and is expected to be inaccessible during June, July and Auugst 2012 while scanning work is carried out, but will return after that, so the public will still be able to inspect the actual documents.

Caroline Ockwell, secretary of the Alfred Williams Heritage Society said: "As well as being arguably Wiltshire's greatest ever writer, Alfred also led an inspiring life, and being able to access the archives online will help us understand more about him and show why he is still important, even 82 years after his death.

“Studying was a huge challenge for him, so I know he would have been absolutely thrilled to think that material relating to his projects will shortly become so accessible.

“Our society exists because we think more people, including schoolchildren, would benefit from finding out about the life and works of this extraordinary man, and now everybody will be able to learn more about him without making the trip to Chippenham.”

Link to the EFDSS press release about the project

The pictures show Claire Skinner, Principal Archivist at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre with the documents, along with Caroline Ockwell, secretary of the Alfred Williams Heritage Society, plus some of the records that will be scanned.