Lower Sixth Former Will Barnes has spent the last year meticulously researching and sharing many of the wonderful gems that are stored in Bedford School’s vast and varied archive collection. Will has also travelled far afield to gather new evidence and archives to add to the school’s collection: Cambridge, Westminster and Lambeth Palace to name just a few – all of which he has diligently shared with his increasing number of followers on Twitter. Last Friday saw the pinnacle of his work: a fascinating exhibition held in the school’s main foyer, much to the delight of the many people from across the school community who attended. Will told us… 

“It was in the Easter term of my Fifth Form when Mr Herring, my history teacher at the time, asked me whether I would be interested in getting involved with the school archives. Mrs Harrison had asked him for a boy who would be interested in helping her with the archives. Due to exam commitments in the Fifth Form, I didn’t really have a chance to get my teeth stuck into it, so as the Sixth Form approached I decided to make a few plans to ensure that I got the best out of this unique opportunity.

Firstly I set up a Twitter page (@bedscharchives), where each week I would put a tweet out linking relevant events in the school week with corresponding events from the past. For example, for my first tweet, I put out a tweet about the rugby match against Oundle from the 1920s as the Rugby Club had a fixture against Oundle that weekend. I have produced many of these tweets throughout the year and I also regenerated the blog that Mrs Harrison started and I have written slightly longer articles on some of the items. I then faced the issue of making the work that I was doing public and trying to get as many people interested in it as possible. So, I gave a speech in main school assembly. There has been a spike in activity since and a large number of boys now follow the page.

The assembly was great. However I felt as though I only gave a very small insight into the marvels of the school archives. Mrs Betterton contacted me and suggested that we do some sort of exhibition to enable these marvels to be shown off, and this is what we did! Mrs Betterton very kindly lent me two of her show cabinets and we used some of the plinths that are typically used for exhibitions.  I selected a number of items that I thought the boys, and any other guests, would find interesting, whilst also trying to give an overview of the school, giving examples of some of the key things, which in my opinion make the school so great. The items ranged from old photos of the science labs, to programmes for swimming galas, where ‘the monitors race the rest’. I was stunned by the number of people who turned up, which may be partly due to the fact there was wine on offer (not for the boys of course), and I was very flattered by the wholly positive feedback on the exhibition. The best thing about the exhibition was seeing others (a lot of them very close friends mine), enjoying something that I enjoy also. It has given me a heightened sense of pride to be a Bedfordian and I am sure the same can be said of my classmates. I would like to thank Mrs Harrison and Mrs Betterton for all the support that they have given me and without it I doubt any of this would be possible. I feel very honoured to, in a way, represent the history of Bedford School. It is so great, and from my speech to the whole school, the archives have made me realise what a small part of the Bedford School jigsaw I am and we all are. It has made me want to contribute something to the school, something that could find itself in the archives in ten years’ time.”

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