Have you ever wondered what it would be like to explore deep into an archive, traversing historical documents to discover what life was like in the past? That’s precisely what a group of 9-14 year-olds did in the last week of July, when they visited the Richmond upon Thames Local Studies Library & Archive to take part in our Archive Explorers summer activities.

Firstly our intrepid explorers were introduced to the world of archives and the fascinating stories they hold. We looked at photographs from World War II, a 400 year-old document from Richmond Palace, and then we attempted to find where we live on historical maps.

Exploring unique documents
Exploring unique documents

Next up, we looked at what might have happened to the Borough of Richmond upon Thames if different choices had been made in the past. We saw a 1773 plan that showed a proposal to build Richmond Bridge further downstream (at the end of Water Lane) and considered what would have happened if the plan for a beautiful early-20th Century theatre in Twickenham had ever been built.

There was a lot to think about, including just how much we can trust an archive document if sometimes they show things that never came to fruition?

Finally we looked at the rich theatre history in the Borough, including our links to famous 18th Century actors David Garrick and Peg Woffington.

Each session concluded with an activity, including making board games and producing a play. The creativity of the explorers was astounding. We had board games with some really innovative gameplay (including dancing!) and a play involving a ghostly cat and brightly-decorated masks.

Creating board games

It was a great week and, going by the feedback involved, the explorers enjoyed themselves.

Creating Board Games

This is now our second year of Archive Explorers and we’re hoping to run it next summer too, so do mention it to anyone you know who might be interested.

Looking for more summer activities?

Why not check out our KYPSnap selfie trail, running throughout August and September. Follow clues to find historical sites throughout the Borough and take a selfie when you find them. If you find enough sites you’ll be able to collect a medal! Further details can be found here: www.richmond.gov.uk/kypsnap

KYPSnap is part of our Know Your Place heritage festival, which starts in earnest in September. We have a selection of walks, talks, workshops and more on offer,. Visit www.richmond.gov.uk/know your place website for further information. Tickets for events are selling fast, so make sure to book your place; it is possible to book events online, or you can book in person by visiting any library within the Borough.


Find out more

Anyone can visit the Richmond upon Thames Local Studies Library & Archive to learn about the history of the Borough and see the unique archival documents that we hold. Further information about how to visit us, including our address and opening times, can be found on the Local Studies website: www.richmond.gov.uk/local_studies_collection.


A poster created by one of the explorers, based on the story of a 19th Century woman who fell in love with a shoemaker

[Janine Stanford, Archivist]