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Official Archive Opening

The Burford Tolsey Archive was officially opened at 4:00 pm on Friday 18th November 2022 by Dr Antonia Boström, Director of Collections, Victoria & Albert Museum.

Afterwards, at the Warwick Hall, Brig. Clendon Daukes gave a speech where he gave the background to the Archive project, thanked the the many people involved in its creation and introduced Antonio prior to her talk on 'The Lure of Archives - the past brought alive'.

Here is the speech given by Clendon Daukes, Chairman


Earlier this afternoon a small gathering of trustees witnessed the formal opening of Burford’s new archive.  The ribbon was cut by Dr Antonia Bostrom who I will have great pleasure in introducing in a moment.


Each and everyone one of you is here this evening because you have supported (and continue to support) the wonderful enterprise which is the Burford Tolsey Museum & Archive.


You will know that our splendid Museum was opened in 1960 and is housed in the Tolsey through the generous offices of the Town Council.  Short of space though we are, there can be few more interesting ways of spending an hour or so than perusing the collection so studiously built up and so lovingly cared for over the past half century by Chris Walker.

In 1960 we considered ourselves mature enough to look after our historical artefacts and charters, and so created a museum.  62 years later we have made another ‘great leap forward’.   Now we believe it is time to gather, catalogue and preserve the historical documents, deeds and illustrations of this mediaeval town with its 270 listed buildings and monuments.  These and the impressive volume of material collected over many years by our patrons, the historians, Raymond and Joan Moody; several family archives, the

chronicles of the Town’s Council and those of the surrounding villages, papers relating to our large number of groups and societies, and the oral history of our past and present residents will all be looked after and made available to the public in a purpose-built archive: an Archive to complement the Museum – a single charity in two locations. 


We are here to celebrate the completion of three phases of this great enterprise:

the acquisition of a suitable building in the heart of the Town; the appeal to raise the funds needed for its conversion, and the subsequent building programme.


None of this would have been possible without the active participation and support of all those here.  Indeed invitations to this evening have only gone out to those who are donors (corporate and individual), friends, benefactors or volunteers – you are therefore a very special group. 

Word got out that there was to be a party this evening and over the past few days I have received several messages asking if they could join us – ‘I regret that it is by invitation only’ I have said rather primly, adding for good measure that we had reached our capacity anyway!

This is a community project par excellence.  You represent the hundreds of individuals and several grant making charities who have supported us in our fundraising events, by donating towards the conversion of the building and subsequently by subscribing.  Many of you have already been part of the enterprise as volunteers, others have more recently become Friends or Benefactors.  A few of you have reached the giddy heights as Patrons.  All of you deserve our deep gratitude – I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – we could not have achieved any of this without you. 


As a member of this community or as a visitor, the Archive will allow you to research and enjoy articles; books; deeds; letters; old illustrations, postcards and photographs; oral histories; past projects and surveys; chronicles and much more. 


We have come a long way from the first meeting of half a dozen of us who, ten years ago had a dream of our own archive.


First among those we have to thank are the Trustees of the Falkland Hall Charity chaired by David Cohen who purchased the leasehold of the building to provide us with the space for a new Archive.  Furthermore between 2018 and the end of 2021 we used the FHC’s infrastructure as a platform for our fundraising appeal – special thanks are due to John Yeatman, FHC’s treasurer, who made this possible.  Our debt to FHC extends still further. It has undertaken to make a contribution to the Archive’s annual running costs from some of the income it anticipates generating from the small flat it has built above our Archive.


I should also add the enormous amount of work undertaken these last four years by the Trustees of the Museum & Archive.  Confounded by parallel, but necessary appeals, to stop lorries trundling up and down the High St; the requirement to raise funds to re-establish Burford’s PO and of course the interruption of two years of Covid, this small team has battled on to raise in excess of ¼ million pounds to convert an 18C barn into a purpose-built archive and flat. 


We have been helped by Carol Anderson, formerly Oxfordshire Manager of Museums to whom we are very grateful. 


We owe a debt of gratitude to John Horner who designed the conversion of the building and coaxed the project past the planners.


The Marketing and Strategy has come from Peter Martin who has steered us with consummate skill to where we are today. 


David Cohen, supported by Jan who is also a Trustee and the charity’s Hon Secretary, has of course led the FHC side of things AND, with John Horner, has managed the building project – with his customary coolness under what have been on occasions very trying circumstances.


Pete Freeman, sadly not able to be with us this evening, has provided invaluable advice and support in developing programmes for the acquisition and cataloguing of archival material and for the IT required to digitise this material in the future.


Nigel Barraclough, who as Treasurer, battles with uncooperative banks but still manages to keep us on a straight but very narrow financial path.


Lynnette Derry, our membership Secretary who has also orchestrated the evening’s gathering here – thank you Lynnette.


And of course Chris Walker, born and bred in Burford.  Together with his invaluable work with the Museum and his encyclopaedic knowledge of all things to do with Burford, he adds the Archive to his museum curatorial role. He is going to be a busy man!


Sue Ashton is naturally also a Trustee.  The project would not have got off the ground had not Sue and the Warner family stepped forward to allow FHC to acquire the leasehold of their barn in Swan Lane – beautifully located a stone’s throw from the Tolsey Museum. 

Thank you Sue and your family for the central part you have played in this whole enterprise.  Without your kindness we would not be here today, nor would we have this lovely building, we are proud to call our Archive.


In that connection I will give way to Sue Ashton for a moment.





That is all very exciting – The Falkland Hall Charity, our landlord, now has the freehold of the Archive building and we can proceed with the confidence the Warner family and you, our supporters have invested in us. 


What of the future?


One of our central aims is to involve as much of the local and wider community as we can.  You (donors, subscribers and volunteers) will continue to enjoy the regular newsletters we put out.  Residents and visitors alike will be able to peruse the contents of the Archive and research their family and houses’ histories.     In due course we plan to digitise our collection which will allow access by everyone.  We will mount exhibitions and attract expert speakers on relevant subjects (we have the first of these this evening).  We will offer support to students in their studies into local hist & social science and continue to develop such features as our new app which provides a commentary on our guided tour of the Town.

The Museum already attracts enquiries from people around the World who trace their families’ histories back to Burford, and the Archive will help the Town Council in attracting still more tourists.


To achieve these goals we need more volunteers.  Peter Martin is standing by to take down the names of anyone who would like to join our team of volunteers We have established groups involved in managing the collections; using technology to record material; arranging events and fundraising and Marketing.  Fundraising goes on.  Our running costs will continue to need funding.  So please don’t stop your donations and subscriptions.  We won’t survive without them.   And we are always in need of more volunteers to man the Museum and the Archive to welcome visitors and tourists.


I’ve spoken for too long but it has been an opportunity to bring you, our donors and supporters up to date with this exciting enterprise.


The highlight of the evening however is our welcome to Dr Antonia Boström.

Antonia is Director of Collections at the V & A.  She brings to that post a wealth of experience.  She studied at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, where her PhD focused on Florentine sculpture in the second half of the 16th C.

She began her museum career at the V&A in 1980, working in the National Art Library and in the Sculpture Department. In 1996 she moved to the United States where she worked in art museums for nearly 20 years. Her career there included a string of senior positions in Detroit, at the Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.

In 2016 Antonia returned to the V&A as Keeper of Sculpture, Ceramics & Glass, and in May 2018 was appointed the Director of Collections. 


She has given up some of her precious time to come and open our Archive today.  We are very privileged to have her here and we welcome her warmly.  She has agreed to mark the event with a talk entitled:  The Lure of Archives – the Past brought Alive’.             


Please welcome Dr Antonia Boström.

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