Historic Day as Hull History Centre opens to the public

25th January 2010

After months of anticipation, the new, purpose-built Hull History Centre has opened to the public.

To mark the first day of operations, the Lord Mayor of Hull and the Vice-Chancellor of the University handed over two significant items from the archives - the 1299 Royal Charter which marks the birth of Hull as a strategic port and Philip Larkin's second work book containing his pencil-written poems from March 1950 to September 1951.

Thanks to a generous £7.7m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Hull is the first city in the UK to bring together its city and university archives, local studies resources and specialist staff into one building - a welcoming, spacious environment that will transform the way local people access and view the collections, with hi-tech storage to preserve items for future generations.

The £7.7m contribution is the largest grant that Hull has received from the HLF to date, and one of the largest amounts given to any archive project in England.

The Hull History Centre is a fitting home for the 9,000 metres of archives which include the most extensive range of WW2 records nationally, the personal letters of pioneering aviator Amy Johnson, archives relating to anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce, the pressure group Liberty and a wealth of local history and maritime records.

This one-stop shop offers longer opening hours, more and better space to view and use archive material, a separate space for school and community groups, the same quiet search-room, 12 public-access PCs, how-to workshops, guided behind-the-scenes tours, advice sessions from local family history groups, and a programme of public events. There is also a fully equipped conservation studio so that fragile items will survive for use by future generations.

Later in the year, the centre's arcade will include a cafe serving hot and cold drinks and snacks, and displays offering tips on how to start exploring the resources - whether for local history, family history or just curiosity.

The Lord Mayor of Kingston upon Hull and the Admiral of the Humber, Councillor Karen Woods said: "The idea for the Hull History Centre came about 10 years ago and it's taken foresight and hard work from both partners to reach this milestone - the day the centre opens to the public. Local people cannot have failed to notice this impressive building taking shape and we hope they will be equally impressed when they get inside.

"Hi-tech but welcoming, the centre will transform the way people use and view the collections. It's a place for everyone and we hope it will encourage people who haven't used the archives before to come inside, browse and even make some discoveries of their own."

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hull, Professor Calie Pistorius said: "The University is proud to be the custodian of such nationally important archives as that of Philip Larkin, our former librarian and renowned poet. We are delighted that we are now sharing such an impressive and important building, where we can help take of our precious archives for generations to come.

"As well as giving our archives the best environment to be stored safely, the History Centre will also make archive material much more accessible to the public and hopefully engage more people with their and the city's past."

Fiona Spiers, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund Yorkshire and Humber, said: "It's wonderful that Hull's treasure trove of an archive has moved into a new home and is now opening its doors to the public. The Heritage Lottery Fund is proud to have helped make this relocation possible and we congratulate both Hull City Council and the University of Hull for undertaking this ambitious project.

"The History Centre will be a huge asset to the city, enabling visitors to view important documents including the city's Royal Charter and to learn more about famous local residents such as William Wilberforce, Amy Johnson and Philip Larkin."