Events & News

NYPAP Farther Afield

October 9, 2015
Article from the Fall 2015 Newsletter

The Archive Project crossed the pond this summer for the Victorian Society in America’s London Summer School. The Victorian Society in America (VSA) is a national not-for-profit organization committed to the preservation, protection, understanding, and enjoyment of nineteenth century heritage. It was founded in 1966 as a sister organization to the Victorian Society in the United Kingdom, by such noted preservationists as Brendan Gill, Henry-Russell Hitchcock, and Margot Gayle. Since then, the VSA has fulfilled its mission through publications, symposia, architectural tours, and its summer schools, while also making tremendous contributions to the preservation of many historic buildings.

Matthew Coody, executive director of the Archive Project, was awarded a scholarship to study architecture, interior design, art, landscape, decorative arts, and historic preservation at the London Summer School, which was founded by legendary architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner in 1974. Now in its 41st year, this dynamic educational experience is the leading study program for Victorian London, with a distinguished roster of experts that includes course director Ian Cox and historian Gavin Stamp. Both academically rigorous and physically demanding, the intensive program explored a considerable amount in London and beyond, with trips to Brighton, Oxford, Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool, all within the span of two weeks. Matthew enjoyed lectures by leading scholars, engaging social experiences with like-minded individuals from across the world, opportunities to get behind the scenes at museums and galleries, and private tours of fantastic historic sites, including the Foreign Office, the Palace of Westminster, the Victoria and Albert Museum, St. Pancras Station, Liverpool Cathedral, Wightwick Manor, William Morris’s Red House, and the 1890s country houses of Lutyens and Voysey.

Of special interest was a visit to the archives of the Royal Albert Hall. As the “world’s most famous stage,” the Hall’s archive is a unique resource of culture, arts and science heritage. The archive exists to record, preserve, and make accessible the records and artifacts that document the wide variety of ways in which the Hall has been used by the British and international public since its opening in 1871, and also to record information relating to the iconic building and the organization that runs it. As the guardian of the Hall’s collective memory, the archive is responsible for managing a collection that includes include handbills, posters, photographs, plans, prints, art works, administrative records, and ephemeral items such as tickets, leaflets and merchandising. Matthew had the opportunity to speak with the archivists on how their collection was amassed, maintained, and circulated to the public. As just one example of the remarkable assortment of buildings, collections, and material objects viewed during the program, one can imagine the inspirational nature of the trip and the lasting influence it will have. 

Above: The Victorian Society in America's London Summer School visits the Royal Albert Hall Archive; Courtesy of Matthew Coody