Campaign to unlock Thomas Hardy archive

August 9, 2022

Dorset Archives Trust is leading a fundraising effort to permanently unlock the internationally significant, UNESCO-listed archive of author Thomas Hardy, gifted to Dorset Museum in 1937 and held on deposit at Dorset History Centre.

The majority of the collection, which consists of over 150 boxes of material and includes the manuscript of the Mayor of Casterbridge, and correspondence to Hardy from luminaries such as T.E. Lawrence and Siegfried Sassoon, is at present almost invisible to the wider world.

Dorset History Centre are hoping to raise £60,000 to employ an archivist to work with volunteers over a period of 18 months to unlock this fantastic resource. The project will create a free online catalogue, ensuring that Hardy’s archives – the bedrock of any research into the author, his life and work  – will be discoverable and usable for all.

Carola Campbell, Chairman of Dorset Archives Trust said “The Dorset Archive Trust is thrilled and proud to support the Dorset History Centre’s project Unlocking Thomas Hardy.  The Hardy archives are a treasure trove of Dorset’s most famous author’s work, thoughts and images.  The importance of cataloguing these precious 150 boxes containing thousands of items, cannot be over-emphasised.  It provides the most complete picture of Thomas Hardy, a uniquely talented and complex man, whose writings are revered around the globe.  Most importantly the project will make these archives fully accessible to everyone, for the very first time.”

Elisabeth Selby, Interim Director of Dorset Museum said “The Thomas Hardy archive was moved from Dorset Museum on deposit to Dorset History Centre in 2018 with the aim of improving access for researchers. This project will take that aim one step further, by ensuring that the archive is accessible online for the first time. We fully support this fundraising campaign and project.”

The fundraising campaign is being supported by the Thomas Hardy Society whose members include academics from the many UK and foreign universities.

 The Thomas Hardy Society’s chairman Richard Franklin commented: “The Hardy Archive on deposit at the Dorset History is the biggest and most important collection of material about Thomas Hardy in the world. Having access to it is vital to any research into the life and work of the great Dorset author. At present, however, there is no catalogue to make the collection fully and helpfully accessible to researchers and enquirers. It is vital that such a catalogue be created. We need the financial support of all those who are interested in and love the writings of Hardy to make the archive available to all.”

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