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Institutional Archives

Explore Your Archive: What can the Institutional Archive do for you?

16 November 2015
This week is the launch week for Explore Your Archive, a campaign encouraging people to discover the stories, the facts, the places and the people that are at the heart of our communities. Archives across the UK and Ireland are taking part to raise awareness of the value of archives to society and of the rich variety of content that is held, preserved and made available to users. As part of this campaign, we wanted to tell you about some of the ways you can explore Cardiff University’s Institutional Archive.

As our about page explains, the Institutional Archives’ collections include records from Cardiff University and its predecessor bodies. The collections include letter books, photographs, newspaper cuttings, deeds, charters, minute books, plans, accounts, files and official publications such as prospectuses and programmes. But why should you be interested in exploring these collections?

If you’re a student
Millicent "Hetty" MacKenzie, the UK's first female professor [Ref. UCC/Misc/P/55]
Millicent “Hetty” MacKenzie, the UK’s first female professor [Ref. UCC/Misc/P/55]

For students, the archives can help to foster a sense of identity by allowing a direct connection with what has gone before. Finding out about the rich and exciting history of the University can help you to feel as though you are part of something bigger. We received a lovely testimonial from a colleague in the Students’ Union which explains this link with identity beautifully:

The history of Cardiff University is woven with stories of people who define how we see ourselves today. A University forged through innovation and sacrifice, determination and creativity.  It’s brilliant that I’ve been able to find out things that have happened here, so that I can be proud I was from Cardiff University as well.

(The full testimony, along with others, can be read here.)

If you’re an alumnus
English Honours Class, 1926-27 [Ref. G3/13]
English Honours Class, 1926-27 [Ref. G3/13]

For alumni or previous staff members, archives can provide a poignant reminder of time spent in Cardiff. We have pictures of buildings, people and the local area which can trigger visual memories, and we can also provide information about what was studied as part of your degree from prospectuses.

We have a lot of enquiries from people needing transcripts or verification of qualifications, showing the evidential value that archives can provide.

Academic Research

The Institutional Archive contains a wealth of untapped primary sources. Among others, these may be of interest to people researching the history of education (both Universities and teacher training), Welsh history, the history of specific subjects taught at the University, history of sport, and various aspects of social history. We can also advise on using archives in academic research as well as giving information about related archives held in other repositories.

Family History
Student Registration Book, 1906-1910 [Ref. UCC/R/Stu/Reg/1]
Student Registration Book, 1906-1910 [Ref. UCC/R/Stu/Reg/1]

If you are interested in finding out more about your family history and you had an ancestor who attended a predecessor institution, we might be able to help you. We hold student records going back to our foundation in 1883 which are quite comprehensive for University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire, University College Cardiff and the Welsh National School of Medicine. (Please note that records containing personal data of living individuals are restricted in line with the Data Protection Act.) The matriculation records contain information such as date of birth, hometown, parental (usually father’s) address and occupation and so on. Some records give details of results and courses studied, and some of the Welsh National School of Medicine records detail what students when on to do after graduating. We also have students records from our other predecessor institutions such as UWIST (University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology, formerly Welsh College of Advanced Technology and Cardiff Technical College) and Llandaff College of Education (Home Economics). Seeing records of ancestors can create an intense emotional reaction as it feels like an immediate and direct link with your past.

Local History
Plan of Main Building from New College Fund - Statement and Appeal, 1905 [Ref. UCC/R/Pub/App/4/1
Plan of Main Building from New College Fund – Statement and Appeal, 1905 [Ref. UCC/R/Pub/App/4/1

Over the years, Cardiff University and its predecessors have had a tremendous impact on the local area. The history of Cardiff is thus bound up with the development of the University. Of specific interest may be plans and architectural drawings which illustrate the physical impact that the University has had on the city, as well as photographs and promotional material from events such as royal visits and the 1931 pageant.

How to explore your archive

We hope this post has encouraged you to explore the wealth of information in the Institutional Archive. If you are interested in finding out more, email us at


  1. Alex Howell

    I sent an email explaining that my father had studied architecture at Cardiff University and I have been waiting for a response. I am also trying to find out if my grandfather had studied pharmacy at the university. If someone could direct me, I would be most grateful.
    Many thanks

    • Judith Dray

      Hi Alex, Thanks for your comment. As our email correspondence said, you have reached the correct people and as soon as we’ve conducted a search, we will let you know what we find about your family members. Thanks once again for contacting the Institutional Archives.
      Best wishes,

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