An “outstanding” historic trove of documents, newspaper clippings and images has been saved and will be accessible for public use at the new Oldham Heritage and Arts Centre.
The fate of the former archives of the Oldham Evening Chronicle newspaper was uncertain after the daily newspaper printed its last-ever edition in August 2017. The ‘Chron’ had been publishing as a weekday daily since 1854 and was one of the last local independent newspapers left in England. An independent assessment of its archives found that the photographic and documentary archive at the Union Street office was “outstanding and absolutely vital for telling the story of the borough of Oldham”.
Oldham Council has since worked closely with the joint administrators of the newspaper to ensure the collection is saved. The archives have now been transferred to public ownership and are set to take pride of place in the new Oldham Heritage and Arts Centre. The facility – which sees the welcome restoration of the Grade II former library building on Union Street for a new use – will showcase the story of Oldham’s past from its time as the cotton spinning capital of the world to the present day. This move ensures the Chronicle archives will be accessible to the public alongside the borough’s extensive collection of objects, works of art, heritage and archive information.
Jean Stretton, Oldham Council Leader, said: “This is brilliant news – it would have been a tragedy for this important collection to have been lost to future generations. So many Oldham residents appeared in the Chronicle’s pages or depended upon it for information and the new Heritage and Arts Centre will be the perfect home for this unique collection. I’m thrilled we’ve been able to get this deal done and would like to thank KPMG for their support in transferring this archive to our stewardship.”
Paul Flint and Jonathan Marston of KPMG were appointed joint administrators of Hirst, Kidd & Rennie on August 31 2017, and shared the view the archives should be placed in public ownership.
Paul Flint said: “We are delighted to have been able to preserve this historic collection which provides such an important and fascinating record of OIdham’s recent past. Ensuring that the archives will be available for generations to come was an important consideration during the administration process, and we are grateful for the support of Oldham Council in facilitating their transfer to their new home.”
The Chronicle archive is 25.35 cubic metres in size and consists of the firm’s own business records, news cuttings covering key people, events, places, communities, crime and sport (in hard copy and microfilm) plus photographs and negatives or glass slides dating back to the 1930s.
The collection has been boxed and bar-coded before being moved to temporary storage. It will remain in this safe environment until the new collections store – being developed as part of the Oldham Heritage and Arts Centre – is ready to open in late 2019/early 2020 when it will be made available for public use.
Oldham Council is looking to progress a grant funding application to assist with funding the work needed to catalogue and digitise this collection.