HL Deb 25 January 1978 vol 388 cc455-6WA

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether a decision has been taken about the allocation of the Blenheim archives.

The MINISTER of STATE, DEPARTMENT of EDUCATION and SCIENCE (Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge)

Yes. As announced in another place by my right honourable friend the Minister of State, Treasury, on 20th January 1977, a collection of papers known as "The Blenheim archives" has been accepted in lieu of estate duty and paid for from the National Land Fund. The papers are of major historical interest and a number of libraries have wished to acquire them. In accordance with current practice, I have sought the advice of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts. The unanimous advice of the Commission is that the papers should be allocated to the British Library. After long and careful consideration I have decided to follow that advice.

The Royal Commission and I have been very keenly aware of the strong wish of members of the Duke of Marlborough's family, and of a number of others, that the papers should be placed with other family collections in the keeping of Churchill College, Cambridge. In deciding that they should be assigned to the British Library, I have in particular been influenced by the Commission's advice that the cataloguing, arrangements and scholarly use of "The Blenheim archives" will require constant reference to and close comparison with other papers of the period already held by the British Library. I have also been impressed by the scale of the resources required for the proper cataloguing and conservation of the collection, which comprises about 30,000 documents.

I have been assured by the chairman of the British Library Board that if the Library were to acquire the papers an immediate and sustained major effort would be made to ensure access by scholars to the collection at the earliest possible moment. A detailed catalogue with index is expected to be available for visitors in about 18 months and to be published in 1980.