Nearly 500,000 royal documents housed in Windsor Castle’s iconic Round Tower are being scanned and sent to William & Mary to be transcribed by students in Swem Library.
The Georgian Papers Programme, a project that is making these documents public, promises to fundamentally change how the world sees such figures as King George III. W&M and the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture are the primary U.S. partners in this initiative.
The documents may not be the Holy Grail of archives, but they aren’t far off. They will allow historians to gain a deeper understanding about Britain’s role in the world, including its relationships with Colonial America, the fledgling United States and other European countries. Scholars also expect insights into British politics, the Enlightenment, science, food, artistic patronage, life at court, the education of royal children and more.
The project has already released more than 33,000 digitized documents, including some penned by King George III regarding the American Revolution, making them freely available online. Until now, only 15 percent of the collection has been published, and access has been limited.
The program represents a partnership between, on the American side, the Omohundro Institute and W&M, with leading British partners the Royal Archives, Royal Library and King’s College London.
The Omohundro Institute, recognized globally as the leader in early American historical studies, is deeply embedded in the program. With funding through its Lapidus Initiative, it has committed to support up to eight research fellowships annually. W&M Libraries provides technical expertise for the project, and the university is also sending history faculty and classes to Windsor Castle.
The project was launched by Queen Elizabeth II, who has twice visited W&M – once in 1957 and again 50 years later for the 400th commemoration of the founding of Jamestown.
“Her Majesty fully supports the work currently underway to make the historic treasures of the Royal Archives widely accessible to the world through digital technology,” said Royal Librarian Oliver Urquhart Irvine. “Having the Omohundro Institute and William & Mary as our primary U.S. partners is essential in bringing academic rigor, depth and context to the interpretation of key papers that will shed new light on the emergence of the United States of America itself.”