DORSET’S history centre has been handed a £35,000 grant to help preserve the archives of author Thomas Hardy.
The Dorset History Centre (DHC), in Dorchester, was awarded the money by the Archives Revealed programme at The National Archives.
An application process identified the service’s efforts to catalogue the world-renowned author’s archives as a high priority.
The DHC, with its support charity Dorset Archives Trust, has been leading efforts to raise a total of £68,000 and is hopeful of raising the additional £26,000 to meet that target by the autumn.
The funds will employ an archivist to work on the collection, creating a new freely-accessible catalogue – descriptions of all Hardy’s archives, opening the collection up in a way never before possible.
At present, the UNESCO-inscribed treasure is something of a hidden gem, with very little public information available about what it contains and how it can be accessed.
The project will change all that, with detailed descriptions of Hardy’s archives – the letters, photographs, poetry, manuscript novels (including the Mayor of Casterbridge and Under the Greenwood Tree), musical scores and printed material so making them accessible to the wider world.
Understanding the archive is key to understanding Hardy and his world – his intimate thoughts, political opinions and the world of which he formed part, the centre said.
“This is the finest Hardy archive in the world and this investment will bring it to life,” a spokesperson added.
Anyone who wishes to contribute to the project can donate by going to the website of the Dorset Archives Trust (www.dorsetarchivestrust.org).
Cllr Laura Beddow, cabinet member for culture and communities at Dorset Council, said: “We are delighted to have received this important grant from The National Archives which recognises the importance of this important part of our cultural heritage.
“I fully support the fundraising efforts to raise the balance of the funds required to launch this project.”