As one of the most widely-used collections of modern political papers at the Bodleian Library it is vital that the Conservative Party Archive (CPA) is kept as up-to-date and relevant as possible, so that it continues to represent the work of the Conservative Party in the 21st Century as fully as it does for the late 19th and 20th centuries. To ensure that the CPA continues to be a valued academic resource, the Library funds an ongoing programme of cataloguing new material as it becomes available from the Party, and proactively seeks to fill gaps in the CPA's holdings by acquiring archival material from retired Party officials.
The Conservative Party Archive Trust, which owns the CPA, assists the Library is raising the funds for this important work. Although the Conservative Party has itself contributed considerably towards this since 2015, the CPA still depends on the generosity of contributions from individual members of the Party, our readers, and the general public, to ensure that it continues to be viable.
Friends of the Conservative Party Archive
Launched in October 2015, the Friends is open to anyone to join, and by doing so you will assist us in preserving and making available the archives of the Conservative Party to all who wish to study it.
Donations & Project Sponsorship
Any contribution you are able to make in support of our work is appreciated and will, if desired, be publicly recognised. Some may prefer to support a specific project. Below is a list of urgent projects we are keen to progress with and for which specific funding is required. To discuss any of the following please contact either the Conservative Party Archivist or the Head of Development at the Bodleian Libraries. Donations which are Gift Aided will allow us to maximise the value of your donation.
Cataloguing the Archive
The total size of the Archive’s cataloguing backlog contains enough work for one archivist for about eight years. However, it will take up to four years to clear the high priority material, at a cost of c.£35,000 per annum. Several large consignments of records, including papers of the Conservative Research Department, c1980-1996 and the papers of William Hague as Party Leader, 1997-2001, remain uncatalogued.
Processing of electronic records
Over the past decade the Archive’s electronic component has increased dramatically, reflecting the transition of working practises and the predominance of computers. Now, the majority of files created by Conservative Campaign Headquarters are ‘born-digital’. The Bodleian Library has been pioneering the work needed to create the infrastructure necessary to curate electronic records successfully for several years, but with a backlog of well over 200,000 electronic files already held by the Archive, a specialist curator is urgently needed to process these files in order to open them up for research.
Enabling more online content
The Archive’s Conservative poster collection – over 600 images, dating from 1886 to the present day – is available online, thanks to a project successfully funded by the Conservative Party Archive Trust in 2008. However, there is much more of the Archive which could be made available online via the Bodleian website, providing free access to researchers in the UK and around the world, including election handbills and literature, c1885-present, party political broadcasts, and recordings of speeches made at the annual Conservative Party Conference.
Digital conversion of analogue audio-visual material
The Archive holds a small audio-visual collection consisting of a wide range of obsolete analogue formats, from a 1928 gramophone recording of Baldwin’s 1928 election rally speech to various-format audio and video tapes of annual Party conference speeches into the late 1990s, including over 500 VHS and Beta video tapes. In order to be made accessible to readers this analogue material will first need to be converted to digital, which is a slow and costly process, particularly for the more obscure formats (for instance, Dictabelt tapes which were commonplace in the 1950s-1960s and now cost well over £500 per 15-minutes belt to convert). In the meantime, this material only has a finite lifespan and is deteriorating.
Conservative Prime Ministers’ speech transcripts, 1950-present
The Archive holds a collection of well over 50,000 transcripts of speeches made by Conservative Front Bench Ministers and Shadow Ministers, from c.1950-the present, increasing with the Party’s annual output. These speeches – if made available online and in a freely-searchable and standardised format – would provide a major boost to research into British politics of the second half of the 20th century. For the Conservative Prime Ministers between 1951-1997 alone there are well over 10,000 pages of transcripts which need to be scanned using OCR technology.