Why Are Norfolk’s Archives So Good?
Norfolk’s archival heritage is outstanding. More archives have survived for Norfolk than for any other region in the United Kingdom outside London. The quality of what has survived is staggering too. This is a reflection of Norfolk’s exceptional wealth and population density in the middle ages, and its stability thereafter. Many individual collections are fantastic examples of their kind. Together, they constitute an unrivalled resource. Norfolk’s Archives underpin the study of almost every aspect of life in Norfolk during the last 1,000 years.
The records of the City of Norwich, from the late twelfth century, rank among the most complete for any city in the United Kingdom. The UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register contains an inscription for the medieval records of St Giles’s Hospital in Norwich (known as the Great Hospital). They have no rival anywhere in the country. King’s Lynn Borough Archives is a very fine borough collection. It dates back to the thirteenth century and reflects the rich history of King’s Lynn.
What are Archives?
NORAH defines archives as records and rare printed works which are worthy of permanent preservation because of their educational and evidential value. In this context, individuals or organisations create or collect records as part of their day-to-day activity. By their nature, Norfolk’s archives are either unique or very rare. They are likely to be in one of the following formats; paper, parchment, audiovisual recordings on a variety of carriers, photographic material and born digital files.
Where Can I Find Norfolk’s Archives?
The main repository of Norfolk’s archives is the Norfolk Record Office. Though its main office is located at The Archive Centre in Norwich, it also operates the King’s Lynn Borough Archives and has a presence at the Norfolk Heritage Centre, which in its capacity as the County’s main local studies collection holds significant collections of rare printed works and photographs in its own right.
The National Archives’ Archives Unlocked vision document talks of an archive ecology whereby archives can be found in the collections of a wide variety of organisations and individuals. This is particularly true for Norfolk. Important collections, such as the world famous Paston letters can be found in the British Library, whilst many community archives based in the county hold significant collections of unique photographs and other records. NORAH recognises this complex archival landscape. It is keen to support partnerships so as many people as possible can enjoy accessing this wonderful resource.