During the course of the 1980s the Trust identified a major deficit in the sources and resources available for research, study, communication and training in relation to the history, practice and public understanding of therapeutic work with children, young people and adults, particularly in residential therapeutic settings. Having ascertained that these needs were not being met elsewhere, the Trust set out an ambitious programme.
In 1989 it established the Archive and Study Centre, creating a permanent, professional home for the memory of the field - the records, objects and experiences making up the heritage of this area of life and work. As a result of this successful work, the Trust built the Barns Conference Centre which opened in 2002, with the aim of providing facilities in support of the Archive and Study Centre, for day and residential seminars, conferences, meetings, and events.
Since its beginnings in a bedroom, with just one collection, the Archive and Study Centre has brought together well over 500 archive collections, created an extensive specialist research library, and housed an audio-visual/oral history collection approaching 3,000 items.
The decision to create an archive as a resource for learning and development was based on several factors and in large part stems from the ethos and ideas of the early founders of the Trust. They understood the difficulties of the work, and the difficulties of doing the work, and also had a keen sense of the value of archives and history as practical tools for learning, training, and developing practice: Gathering, preserving and using records are woven into the discussion and the core concern from the founding of the Trust in 1966 onwards.
The Trust was founded in 1966 by Dr. Marjorie Franklin ("The Founder"), David Wills OBE, Arthur Barron and Ambrose Appelbe. Ambrose Appelbe was a solicitor. The other three were therapeutic practitioners: Marjorie Franklin was a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, David Wills was a psychiatric social worker, Arthur Barron was a Child Psychotherapist and consultant. They had all first worked together at Hawkspur Camp for Men, an early therapeutic community for young men aged 16 to 25, which ran from 1936 to 1940 in the Essex countryside. The approach they were taking then was still new and untried. The camp for men was described in 1943 as "an experiment in group living", and the book which David Wills wrote about it in 1941 was called "The Hawkspur Experiment". His next book, about a wartime hostel and school for unbilletable boys in Scotland in which he developed the work further was called "The Barns Experiment"
This experimental approach to developing new methods meant they kept detailed records of their discussions and decision-making, and thorough case records for each of the clients. Within their resources, they also did follow-up studies. Marjorie Franklin, who coined the term 'planned environment therapy', considered the keeping of records and an interest in research a key element of planned environment therapy. When the Trust was formed in 1966, thirty years after Hawkspur Camp opened, Marjorie Franklin, David Wills and Arthur Barron had already built up a considerable body of archival information among them, which needed to be looked after.
In the minutes of the newly founded Trust, David Wills agreed to continue to look after the records of Q Camps and Hawkspur Camp for Men (which had been sent to him for safekeeping from London to Scotland during the War; were bombed en route; saved and repackaged, and sent on again). The Trust agreed to take responsibility for the records of Children's Social Adjustment Ltd. and the special school it ran in Hampshire, Alresford Place School; this had been Marjorie Franklin's special project, and she agreed to look after the records. Arthur Barron agreed to take the records of Hawkspur Camp for Boys, of which he had been Camp Chief. The minutes in 1972 show that Arthur Barron's portion required an entire removal pantechnicon to carry (for which the Trust paid) when he moved house.
Although Franklin, Wills and Barron had a keen sense of history and of the importance of archives, they were first and foremost practitioners, and took a practical view of the purpose of the Trust and the records. The Trust and the archives were there to be put to use to improve understanding, practice, and the welfare of others. This actively engaged approach is immanent in the original aims and objectives of the Trust:
"To investigate and study, publish results and expositions, and train workers and eventually carry out in practice methods of treatment of: emotionally disturbed, maladjusted, or delinquent children: young persons or adults, by means of planned environmental therapy, especially in association with specialised psychotherapy"
When Marjorie Franklin died in 1975, all of her own personal and professional archives and the records she was looking after on behalf of the Trust disappeared or were destroyed by her housekeeper. These included the archives of Childrens Social Adjustment Ltd and Alresford Place School, as well as books and a painting of Marjorie Franklin by the pioneering therapeutic artist Arthur Segal. The Trust minutes make it clear how hard but fruitlessly they - and particularly a new trustee, Robert Laslett - worked to try to recover something of what had been lost. Meanwhile, Arthur Barron had become estranged from the Trust, and it wasn't clear what had happened to the records he held.
When David Wills died in 1981 his records and the archives he had been looking after remained with his widow, Elizabeth, who was herself a pioneering art therapist. When she died at the end of 1987, Robert Laslett, who had been appointed by David Wills as his literary executor and who was then a lecturer in special education at Birmingham University, took the archives home and began to sort and organise them. He saw that they were an immensely important practical and historical resource, which needed to be available to researchers and the public. He also quickly realised that sorting, cataloguing, managing and making them available were beyond him, and needed the resources of a dedicated institution. None of the institutions he approached were interested. He therefore turned to the Trust, which recognised a significant need which was not being met elsewhere, because of which the heritage and history of the field was in danger of being lost.
At about this time, the records which Arthur Barron had been looking after were destroyed.
At the suggestion of trustee John Cross, Dr. Craig Fees was engaged to step in, processing and listing the David Wills archives, but also commissioned to carry out a study of the options and the implications of various approaches to meeting the need which the Trust had identified.
Fees read widely and consulted, among others, with Julia Sheppard at the Wellcome Library, who, with Janet Foster, was then revising the comprehensive British Archives and was able to lay out in detail the provision then available for related and potentially overlapping archives. She also directed him to Patricia Allderidge of the Bethlem Royal Hospital and the Maudsley Hospital Archive, whose purpose-built medium-sized archive was then twenty years old. He consulted as well with Dr. Michael Halls, the Modern Archivist of Kings College, Cambridge whose new facility was then five years old.
Dr. Fees reported to the Trust in June 1989, noting that:
"The concept of an Archive and Study Centre is exciting and it will undoubtedly be a powerful tool in the work of the PETT. But it is also, by definition, a perpetual responsibility. This merits a careful consideration of what it is for, and what its coverage will be, which will then determine features of the design."
Drawing various discussions together he pointed out that;
"A larger archive - one that takes in papers from persons and institutions from outside the community [of the immediate Planned Environment Therapy Trust and its founders]...and is dedicated to a broader theme, such as pioneer work with emotionally disturbed and deprived children as such - creates much greater demands, at a commensurately greater expense."
In terms of facilities:"If the aim of the PETT is to provide a Study Centre to which visiting scholars can be invited to work in congenial surroundings, supported perhaps by a research fellowship, then the Archive becomes a kind of appendix: it is not the Archive that is the attraction, but the retreat. The small Archive would be sufficient, perhaps with obvious additions." On the other hand; "If the aim of the PETT is to provide an active centre for research and discussion then it makes sense to have as comprehensive an archive as possible as an attraction and stimulus. In this case, the archivist's role would properly extend beyond archiving into organising seminars and small conferences, publications and information services, maximising and advertising the potential of the facilities [emphasis added]. This, however, would be a full-time role, and the PETT would not only have to find the salary for a qualified person but design the Archive and Study Centre to make it possible for these activities to be comfortably and effectively carried on, both in terms of office and of meeting space."
The considerations involved in the design and construction of an Archive and Study Centre "centred on the premise that our archival materials will largely be comprised of twentieth century paper of varying quality, much of it of an extremely sensitive nature" and were set out in detail, based on the discussions with archivists and specialist reading including BS5454. These included general requirements for the archive block proper, including the archive storage area and the various office, working and users' rooms; as well as the specific requirements in relation to security; environmental controls; and electrics ("Modern researchers have a variety of electronic devices to help them, including portable computers and tape-recorders, and the reading room ought therefore to be equipped with power points for each study station. Ideally there should be no power-points within the repository, and wiring in the Archive block should be kept to a minimum to reduce the possibility of fire."). It also included the need to invest in a computer and software for archival management.
The report further noted that the Trust, "might want to consider developing links between the Archive and Study Centre and other institutions, such as University Departments, which might welcome a close relationship with the sort of specialised research facility we are thinking of. This might have implications on ultimate scope and design"
"While it is in the process of building the Archive the PETT might consider sponsoring a separate but related survey into the whereabouts, condition, and accessibility, of archival materials relating to the people and places who have worked with emotionally disturbed and deprived children in Great Britain. The process of the survey would undoubtedly bring to light lost, forgotten or endangered collections, increase the general awareness of those who hold them of the need to preserve what we would consider to be archival materials, and probably lead to more collections being placed in safe and accessible hands. Publication of the survey as a descriptive list would almost certainly lead to an increased level of research. Both the process and the publication would serve to generate awareness of the existence of the Archive and Study Centre of its holdings and purpose."
Although a major commitment for what was a relatively small charity, the Trust decided to take the most ambitious of the courses set out in the report, and indeed to surpass it by extending the suggested remit of the new Archive and Study Centre from children and young people to the history and archives of work with adults as well. A bequest from the David and Elizabeth Wills estate made it possible to hire Dr. Craig Fees as the founding archivist, and to begin the process of building what the report had called "an active centre for research and discussion".