The box labelled RCPP/Robinson/7/6 has always carried an air of enigma about it. When the majority of the collection you work with is typewritten papers from 1970s-80s, two bubble-wrapped, oddly-shaped artefacts do tend to stand out, containing as they do probably the very last thing you would expect to find in the archive of a late-twentieth century Cambridge college. It all began with our benefactor, Sir David Robinson, and his irreverence for the hallowed halls of academia.
According to College legend, former Junior Bursar and later Fellow Archivist, Commander George Coupe, was approached one day by Sir David Robinson brandishing a large box. 'Here, you lot should like these - they're old fossils too', the benefactor reportedly said, handing it over. On opening it George Coupe discovered two tusks from a woolly mammoth, apparently excavated in the grounds of Kempton Park racecourse during recent renovations. The tusks then spent many years in the office of the first Warden, Lord Lewis, before finding their way to the College Archive.
Image: Kempton Park racecourse, Surrey, in 2012. Photograph by Simeon87
David Robinson had bought Kempton Park in 1969, as explored in one of our earlier posts. Seemingly as owner of the land on which they were found, he had exercised his right to take possession of the tusks and give them to his newly-founded College.
Fascinated to come across these completely unexpected objects in the archive, I've been in touch with the kindly experts at the wonderful Sedgwick Museum for advice about how best to care for the tusks and look forward to learning a bit more about their origins.
Find out more about the Robinson College Archive.
For any archives enquiries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.