Animal Health Trust’s archives rescued from oblivion

Photo by Phinehas Adams

All of the archives covering almost 80 years from the recently closed Animal Health Trust are now safe in the care of the charity partner of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS).

RCVS Knowledge collaborated with former staff members of the Animal Health Trust to secure about 160 boxes of material, which were at risk of being destroyed when the Trust closed in July 2020.

RCVS Knowledge’s mission is to advance the quality of veterinary care for the benefit of animals, the public, and society. It provides free tools, resources and education to support thousands of veterinary professionals, and provides access to veterinary research, quality improvement resources and historical collections.

Collected last week, the AHT materials date back to 1942, when the Animal Health Trust was founded by former RCVS President Dr W.R. Wooldridge. They contain the full set of Annual and Scientific Reports from 1947 through to 2019. The Royal Charters will also be placed in the care of RCVS Knowledge and maintained in its archives.

“It was a shock to learn of the sudden closure in 2020 of what had been a world-class research institute, and a tragedy for the staff involved,” said Dr Andrew Higgins, AHT Director from 1988-99.

“I am so grateful to RCVS Knowledge for their encouragement and enthusiasm to save this unique record for posterity, and that so many important and unique documents and photographs are now stored safely in their archives.”

The Animal Health Trust’s library, containing journals, textbooks and reports, was gifted to the Harper and Keele Veterinary School by Lord Kirkham, former Deputy President of AHT. RCVS Knowledge is keen to collaborate with the university and has offered to loan any additional materials that may be of interest to them.

Lorna Cahill Bannister, Archivist at RCVS Knowledge, said there were various challenges in retrieving the collections, but their efforts paid off. “I look forward to delving into the collections and utilising this excellent resource of history from one of the UK’s leading veterinary research charities for almost 80 years.”

The collection will join the rest of RCVS Knowledge’s archives, which hold the official record of the veterinary professions in the UK. Plans for the collection include cataloging the material, which, given the large volume of materials collected, will require additional funding for RCVS Knowledge to complete.

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