Over the years the Friends of The National Archives have funded numerous projects involving:

  • Conservation, digitisation, cataloguing and indexing of documents
  • Education and outreach projects
  • Family days
  • Events and conferences
  • Specialist equipment
  • Films, radio, art, drawing and drama that use original documents

Our Trustees are always keen to develop innovative ways in which we can support the Archives.

Current Projects

2013 to present: The Prize Papers

The Prize Papers is a collection of letters and papers found on ships captured by the British from 1652 to 1815. The National Archives is a partner in a 20-year digitisation and research project to make these confiscated letters and papers freely available. The Friends have been supporting various aspects of this project since 2013.

2022: Cataloguing the Great Cowcher Books

The Great Cowcher Books of the duchy of Lancaster (TNA, DL 42/1-2) are some of the greatest treasures deposited within The National Archives. They are perhaps second only to Domesday Book in their importance as a record of medieval landholding and lordship across many counties of England and Wales. Equally, the books are compiled using the finest, most high-quality materials. Yet, both their beauty as objects and the importance of their content to researchers remain under-appreciated.

Thanks to this Friends-funded project, Lordship, Identities and Communities: The Duchy of Lancaster’s Medieval Estates, this is all about to change.

On 18 May 2022 Professor Louise Wilkinson gave an update on the project entitled ‘The Treasures of the Medieval Duchy of Lancaster’ to Friends Members. The talk is available to FTNA Members via The Talks Programme, under Archive of Past Talks / Other Historical Topics.

Recent Projects (Highlights)

2023: SEND Inventions Workshop

During the summer term of 2023, specialist SEND practitioner Noel Hayden and The National Archives’ Education Team worked with a group of post 16+ students from Henry Tyndale SEND School in Hampshire. They worked with the students at their school, and the students also visited the archives, to find out more about the records in the collection and the ‘Spirit of Invention’ exhibition.

Using the exhibition and the Victorian BT Design Registers as their inspiration, the students went on to design and make their very own inventions. Each design was centred around the themes of well-being, keeping clean and looking after yourself. The students produced some wonderful ideas to create their proto-types including a ‘Disco Bathroom’, ‘Laser Nail Cutter’ and a ‘Super Clothes-Hanger’ that can organise clothes by colour and de-crease them at the same time!

At the end of the project, the students returned to The National Archives to celebrate their hard work. Friends and colleagues were also invited to view the students’ inventions on display in the exhibition space, and to hear some of the students give short presentations about their designs. Thanks to the work of the Exhibitions team, three of the students also saw their inventions animated and set to music!

Please see the SEND Inventions Workshop page on The National Archives website for more information about this project.

2022: LGBTQ Project and Premiere

For the last seven years The National Archives Education and Outreach Department have run an annual young peoples’ project. In 2022 the theme was LGBTQ history, to tie in with the 50th anniversary of the first Pride March in London in 1972.

To learn more, visit the LGBTQ history project pages on The National Archives website.

2021: Rebels in the Records

For several years the Friends have been supporting The National Archives Education Department to create classroom resources based on records held in the archives. One example is the ‘Rebel in the Records’ series of films combining puppetry, model-making and animation created by young people in July 2021.

They explored people and groups who have stood up for what they believed in, campaigned for change or lived in a different way to their contemporary society. The young people created, animated, scripted and recorded their films remotely.

Read the results of this project via this article on The National Archives website.

2021: Your Unfortunate Servants

The Friends provided funding towards the making of a digitally recorded version of a radio play specially written by Dominic Green, Writer in Residence at The National Archives. “Your Unfortunate Servants” is inspired by a set of paupers’ letters held at The National Archives.

The play is set in 19th-century Cardiff, and dramatizes the plight of paupers under the New Poor Law and in the Victorian workhouse. The letters were found in uncatalogued volumes of correspondence as part of The National Archives and Nottingham Trent University collaborative research project In Their Own Write (ITOW).

ITOW is focused on examining the agency of the Victorian poor – what did they think in regard to welfare, what did they want and how did they respond to the conditions of the time – particularly the workhouse where many thousands of people were confined?

Learn more about In Their Own Write via The National Archives website.

2021: Art and Archives

The Friends provided funding towards three events in collaboration with Nottingham Trent University which looked at the developing, nurturing and inspiration of creative practice with the collections at The National Archives.

Day 1 Video: Archives as Creative Practice

Day 2 Video: Creative Encounters with Archives

2021: Council Housing Online for Share

The Friends provided funding for the delivery of an online workshop based on the Council Housing Movement to engage disabled members of Share, a Battersea-based charity, as part of the Wandsworth Heritage festival.

The aim was to help adults with learning needs explore and understand architectural and design features within their local area and to enjoy an activity that connects them both with the past and present.

Material from HLG (Housing Design) as well as BT52 (Images of household objects) was supplemented with images of gardening and household object advertisements held at Wandsworth Archives.

2017: The Rat Who Ate History

This project allowed The National Archives Education Team work with local schools, to expand their specialist educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision.

Funded entirely by the Friends, ‘The Rat Who Ate History’ has allowed the Education team at The National Archives with Theatre Tots, a company that creates, writes and performs interactive shows for children across the key stages, and with a range of different needs. It also helped the team build relationships with two local SEND schools.

This article by Rachel Hillman and Emily Morris from the TNA Education Team explains one of the more unusual projects funded by the Friends.

2014: Digitising records of First World War military service tribunals (MH 47)

The Friends and the Federation of Family History Societies jointly funded a project to digitise records relating to 15,000 individuals who appealed against compulsory conscription into the British Army, including ‘Conscientious Objectors’.

This project opened up a valuable resource, which was poorly-described and consequently under-used, to researchers.

2008: ADM 27: Admiralty Allotment Registers

Cataloguing the registers which detail payments of Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel serving on ships from their wages to next of kin.

Conserving 18th-century wool sample books (C 104/3)

Dating from the Court of Chancery 1724-1736, these wool sample books were submitted as exhibits in the case of the dyeing and clothier business of the Whitchurch family of Frome, Somerset.

Within this collection are six recipe books, which include the dye recipe with a colour sample alongside. The sample books are unique and a source of incredible value for textile, social and industry historians. They would not have survived had they not been submitted as evidence to the court of Chancery.

These delicate books required specialist conservation. A generous contribution from the Friends enabled this to take place quickly.

Cataloguing medieval deeds (WARD 2)

The Friends funded an expert cataloguer to input the deed series WARD 2 into The National Archives’ online catalogue, to enable researchers to search the records by family name and place name.

These documents contain evidence and deeds exhibited in cases heard before the Court of Wards and Liveries, starting as early as 1200 and going up to the reign of Charles I (c. 1649). They are a very rich source for personal and genealogical history, as well as local history in England and Wales and evidence for the development and use of property law and the English legal system.

2006: Conserving paintings from the Ministry of Information 1939-1946 (INF 3)

The Friends made a contribution towards conservation materials to house valuable works of art at The National Archives. These original paintings and drawings were produced for the Ministry of Information for propaganda and publicity purposes during the Second World War.

This is an important and unique collection, containing work by highly regarded artists such as Mervyn Peake, illustrator of the Gormenghast Trilogy and Alice In Wonderland.

2005: Court of Chancery

Converting printed and manuscript catalogues of litigation into an electronic format for the online catalogue.

Previous Projects

More information about the projects funded by the Friends can be found on the following pages:

Other projects

Some of the other project work we have supported include:

  • SP 20/10-13 (Parliamentary Sequestration Committee)
  • KB 9 (King’s Bench Indictments) MH47 (Conscientious Objectors Tribunals)
  • C 5, 7, & 8 (Chancery proceedings)
  • HCA 30 & 32 (Prize papers – the High Court of Admiralty)

We have supported various conferences, including those on:

  • RMS Titanic
  • Railways
  • Various aspects of the First World War
  • The Prize Papers.

We help to fund talks and events at The National Archives and supported the Writer of the Month series in 2013.

We have supported competitions based on the use of historical records to create films and computer games. We have jointly funded projects with the British Association of Local History, the Federation of Family History Societies and the National Maritime Museum.

Funding Process

Written in the Friends of The National Archives CIO Constitution are the objects of the charity.  These objects include the education of the public about the documents and records held at the Archives in Kew, in particular but not exclusively by promoting, supporting and assisting The National Archives.

Since the inception of the Friends in 1988 funds raised from membership subscriptions, legacies and generous donations have been used to support a wide range of TNA projects and activities.

TNA staff approach the Friends with their completed, detailed project funding application.  This application is then presented to the FTNA Trustees at the bi-monthly council meetings where discussion is had and very careful consideration given before a decision is taken about whether or not to support the project.  All funding decisions are based upon criteria which include:-

  • Whether the funding enables an activity to be undertaken which would not otherwise be possible, or would be significantly reduced because of financial or practical constraints.
  • Whether the funding adds value to, enhances or extends an activity beyond that initially possible due to financial constraints.
  • Whether the funding provides a legacy both for the Friends, as well as for The National Archives.