The Churchill Archives Centre was purpose-built in 1973 to house Sir Winston Churchill’s papers— some 3000 boxes of letters and documents ranging from his first childhood letters, via his great war-time speeches, to the writings which earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature. They form an incomparable documentary treasure trove.
The Churchill Papers served as the inspiration and the starting point for a larger endeavour — the creation of a wide-ranging archive of the Churchill era and after, covering those fields of public life in which Sir Winston played a personal role or took a personal interest. Today the Centre holds the papers of almost 600 important figures and the number is still growing. Contemporaries of Winston Churchill, including friends and family, sit alongside major political, military and scientific figures like Margaret Thatcher, Ernest Bevin, John Major, Neil Kinnock, Admiral Ramsay, Field Marshal Slim, Frank Whittle and Rosalind Franklin.
The Archives Centre is situated within the grounds of Churchill College, itself the National and Commonwealth Memorial to Sir Winston. It includes air-conditioned reading rooms, a strong room with elaborate security systems, and a sophisticated conservation laboratory and a sorting room in which raw history is put into boxes. The mission of the Centre is to preserve and provide access to the unique materials in its care.
The Centre was built thanks to the generosity of celebrated American citizens whose names are proudly displayed in bronze lettering on the wall of the Exhibition Hall. Its work is supported by income from the Churchill College Archives Trust, the Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States, the Heritage Lottery Fund, and by the sponsorship of Churchill College and other distinguished benefactors. Thanks to its success in attracting valuable papers, the Centre at one point ran out of space and built an extension which was opened in 2002.
In more recent years, the Centre has become the repository for the personal papers of Lady Thatcher and Sir John Major. Thus we have become the closest thing in this country to not one but several great American presidential libraries — a unique distinction. The Centre has received national designated status for all its collections (2005) and has been granted National Archives Accreditation (2015). The Churchill Papers have also been inscribed on the UNESCO International Memory of the World Register (2015).