Reepham Archive established in the Bircham Centre

The Bircham Centre and the Reepham Society have formally brought their archive collections under one roof as the Reepham Archive.

Seated (left to right) are Sue Ivins, chair of the trustees of the Bircham Centre, and Mike Cowdrey chairman of the Reepham Society. Standing (left to right) are archivists Chris Peakome and Jan Henry

The idea of bringing together these two historic collections that illustrate the history of Reepham and the local area was not new. However, it was made possible when the Bircham Centre, after a large amount of time and effort by the trustees and volunteers, opened the Centre’s archive rooms in October 2013.
This offered, for the first time, the possibility of a permanent home for the Reepham Society’s collection of photographs, maps and documents, some of which date back to the late 1700s.
The three beautifully restored rooms, which are around 400 years old, include items from World War I and many more stretching back to Saxon and even Roman times.
The aims of the Reepham Archive are to nurture interest in and knowledge of the heritage and development of the town and surrounding area among residents, schools and visitors by preserving and making available to the public this unique collection of local history.
As well as preserving the original artefacts and documents, the Archive plans to create a searchable database with digital images. In future, it will be possible to search for an individual document or browse the collection remotely.
The Reepham Archive will also mount exhibitions; the first of these will be held later this summer and will feature Reepham and the surrounding communities during World War I. If you have any material on this subject that you could lend or donate to the exhibition, please contact the Bircham Centre.
The archive rooms are open to the public on Wednesday and Saturday mornings between 9 am and midday; appointments can also be made outside these hours.
Current resources for visitors include a computer and information retrieval facility, a paper room for reading and research, and an exhibition of some of the items in the collection.
Copies of documents or photographs can be requested and made available for a small fee or donation.
Sue Ivins, chair of the trustees of the Bircham Centre, described the creation of the joint archive as a “fantastic asset and one of the most amazing things that has happened to Reepham in many years. The Archive has been made complete with the Reepham Society’s collection and both organisations are now working together as a team.”
Reepham Society chairman Mike Cowdrey likened the Society’s archive to “a homeless family with a suitcase full of heirlooms. We are indeed grateful to the Bircham Centre’s trustees, who provided this marvellous opportunity.”
Both Mrs Ivins and Mr Cowdrey praised the not insubstantial work of Bircham Centre administrator Gill Wheatley, who has “steered the two teams towards this successful amalgamation”.
The formal establishment of the Reepham Archive on 7 May marks an important step in the preservation and promotion of the town’s heritage, but there remains a huge amount of work to be done.
The Bircham Centre trustees and the Reepham Society executive committee will jointly manage the development of the Archive, but they will need volunteers to carry out a wide range of interesting and rewarding tasks, from manning the archive rooms on Wednesday and Saturday mornings to digitalising the collections and helping to mount exhibitions. “You don’t have to be an expert to get involved,” Mrs Ivins stressed.
If you would like to join the team and be a vital part of this work, please call the Bircham Centre on 01603 879242, email or visit the Reepham Archive during opening hours.

Related stories: