Small beginnings can be important. A chance remark at a lecture to a well-established evening class at Warwickshire County Record Office in the autumn of 1988 was the starting point of this organisation [the Friends of the Warwickshire County Record Office].
The then conservator, David Dornley, was describing, very amusingly, his efforts to use a borrowed sewing machine to make beanbags for use by researchers to support archive books. To one or two listeners it seemed a waste of valuable conservator’s time to struggle so. Amongst murmurs of ‘why didn’t you ask one of us to help?’ the statement ‘what this office needs is friends’ was heard.
Later, after the excellent lecture, as we talked among ourselves, our tutor, Christine Hodgetts, took up this suggestion. The common opinion was that it was worth following up, but the chief archivist must first be asked if it was appropriate to think about setting up such an organisation.
The first gift
Michael Farr was approached and gave his approval, good wishes and advice. A steering committee was set up, most of the members being from the evening class; £5 from each initial member was put into a kitty, and with these funds we were in business. We took over the making of the beanbags. A visit to the remnant box at the upholstery department of House of Fraser in Leamington Spa provided a length of velvet; the Co-operative stores, the beans. The bags were made; as a final touch, petersham ribbon inscribed ‘Gift of the FWCRO’ was sewn across a corner as a carrying handle.
These, with four bound copies of PhD theses, were the first of many gifts and donations this organisation has made to the record office in the many years since it began.
This is an edited version of an article originally published in the Friends of the Warwickshire County Record Office Newsletter, September 2003, and is reproduced with their permission.