Following the award of a substantial grant, the treasures of Baptist history in Great Britain are set to reach a wider audience.
Regent’s Park College in Oxford has successfully applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) seeking support for a project at its Angus Library and Archive to help more people engage with Baptist history and heritage.
The library’s collection comprises more than 70,000 printed books, pamphlets, journals, church and association records, church histories, manuscript letters and other artifacts from the late 15th century to the present day.
As well as raising awareness of the library, the development grant of nearly $129,000 will provide the basis of a second bid this time next year.
If successful, the library and archive could benefit from more than $630,000 for the project, described as “transformative” in making the denomination’s history more widely known.
The project will also help people in local Baptist churches learn how to preserve their historical documents.
“We are privileged to count the Angus Library and Archive among our resources at Regent’s Park College, where they can be accessed alongside the unrivaled libraries and collections of the University of Oxford,” said college president Rev. Robert Ellis.
“We are delighted that the HLF is enabling us to further improve accessibility to and awareness of this unique resource.”
The initial grant will be used to develop volunteer programs as well as a more comprehensive program of exhibitions, tours, seminars and training.
It will also enable a full assessment of the collection, which will help protect it for the future.
If the second phase funding is successful – four out of five successful first-phase applications are – churches can expect to receive direct benefits. The library will run training courses teaching churches how to protect their archives and write their church histories.
There will be exhibitions, tours and seminars aimed at helping people engage with their history.
College librarian Rev. Emma Walsh said the drive to make the Angus Library more accessible is for both the denomination and the wider population.
“There is huge potential to be unlocked. The Angus is such an amazing resource; there is so much that people don’t realize is here,” she told The Baptist Times.
“From a Baptist point of view, it’s part of our heritage. To know where we’re going, we need to know where we’ve come from.
“But from a national point of view, it’s also vitally important. The development of the Baptist denomination, along with other Nonconformist denominations, changed the face of faith in this country. It’s part of the identity of Britain.”
She said the second phase funding will be “transformative for the Angus and make the hidden history contained therein available to many more people.”