A unique historical resource is being preserved for future generations thanks to the ongoing work of conservators at the University.
The Wellington Archive, which is housed at Southampton, is one of the most prestigious collections of primary documents relating to British history in the first half of the 19th century.
The archive contains the papers of Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington. Covering the period from 1790 until the Duke’s death in 1852, the collection’s 100,000 items offer an exceptional insight into Britain and its empire during the Napoleonic Wars. They also provide an unrivalled record of Wellington’s extraordinary political career.
The University has held the collection since the early 1980s; when it arrived, 10 per cent of the content was too fragile to handle. Ongoing conservation work is underway and the University is seeking to raise £700,000 to complete this ambitious task and safeguard the archive for future researchers.
Professor Chris Woolgar, Head of Special Collections and Professor of History and Archival Studies, comments: "The collection is exceptional among the papers of 19th-century figures for its size and scope. This is partly because it comes from the great age of government by correspondence.
"Also, because of his status as a popular hero, a vast range of people wrote to Wellington on a wide range of subjects, offering him their views on things military and the causes they wished to promote – even the opportunity to be godfather to their children or to have them named after him! His correspondence was a major part of his daily life."
It is hoped that the conservation work will be completed by 2015, in preparation for the bicentenary of Waterloo and the Napoleonic Wars. As well as preserving the collection, the work will significantly improve access for researchers worldwide by placing important sections of the archive online.