Library of Congress, Britain's Royal Library, King's College to Collaborate On Papers of King George III

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

The Library of Congress, the Royal Collection Trust, and King's College London today signed a memorandum of understanding in which they agree to share resources to aid in the digitization of the papers of King George III (1738-1820), the English monarch in power when the American colonies declared independence, creating a new nation.

Some 85 percent of the items in the archive, based at England's Windsor Castle, have never before been examined by scholars. They include correspondence, maps and royal household ledgers.

The Library of Congress is supporting a National Digital Stewardship Residency Program fellow who will analyze the existing and proposed metadata for historical materials from this era, including the King George papers at Windsor Castle.

Work to be done under the MOU will also include making the materials available to scholars; holding a conference at the Library of Congress about using collections at various institutions in a synergistic manner; and laying the groundwork for an exhibition at the Library of Congress, currently planned for 2020/2021. 

The Library of Congress holds the papers of numerous United States founders (of both genders), including those of George Washington, making an exhibition combining aspects of the U.S. and British collections a promising opportunity to provide historical context.

Oliver Urquhart Irvine, Librarian, Royal Library and Royal Archives; Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden; and Dr. Joanna Newman, Vice President and Vice Principal (International) King's College London
From left: Oliver Urquhart Irvine, Librarian, Royal Library and Royal Archives; Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden; and Dr. Joanna Newman, Vice President and Vice Principal (International) King's College London

The MOU is the first international agreement by new Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, who noted, "This collaboration will take us right to the beginning of our nation, linking for the first time materials from the English perspective and the perspective of its rogue colony— the new United States of America. I am so pleased for the Library of Congress to provide personnel in our digital stewardship program to assist in this important work. We are also very interested in the prospect of a joint exhibition that would allow our great institutions to provide context and content in a collaborative fashion. The public can benefit greatly from this joint effort."

"We are delighted to be signing this agreement with the Library of Congress and King's College London to work together to address some of the major challenges facing archives in the 21st century in transforming access to historic collections, supporting research and encouraging public enjoyment of our shared past," said Librarian Oliver Urquhart Irvine of the Royal Library.

"We're delighted to welcome the Library of Congress as a partner to the program, as their papers and archival knowledge are certain to shed new light on the life and work of a famous monarch," said Dr. Joanna Newman, MBE, vice president and vice-principal (International)  at King's College London. "Discoveries and insights from this project will span scholarly interests in the history, culture, economy and politics of early American history and world politics of the time."

King George III ruled England from 1760 until 1820, a period that encompassed not only the American Revolution, but Britain's encounter with Napoleon. While history has often viewed George's reign as heavy-handed—especially when authored by historians from the United States —researchers writing in the late 20th century have been more sympathetic, attributing some of the policy that inflamed the colonies to the king's ministers. George's episodes of mania, possibly resulting from a disease called porphyria, have also been the subject of study, a stage play, and a film in popular release.

With the memorandum of understanding, the Library of Congress will join the Georgian Papers Programme, a partnership of the Royal Library and Royal Archives and King's College, London. This five-year project aims to build an open online collection containing nearly 350,000 digitized items from the Royal Archives, including the papers of King George III.  The Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture is the primary program partner in the U.S. Other stateside partners include Mount Vernon, the historic site that was the home of U.S. President George Washington; Virginia's College of William and Mary, and the Sons of the American Revolution.

The Royal Collection Trust is a registered charity in the United Kingdom with the objective of presenting and providing access to the Royal Collection, which includes the Royal Library. The Royal Library serves as the Sovereign's official library. The Royal Archives is a private archive which offers public access to historical papers for educational purposes and academic study. 

King's College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (2016/17 QS World University Rankings) and among the oldest in England. King's has more than 27,600 students (of whom nearly 10,500 are graduate students) from some 150 countries worldwide, and some 6,800 staff.

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