Resources for research
Like most museums, we can only display a part of our collection in the rooms open to the public. A wealth of additional material is available for study by researchers, in our Library, in store, and in the archives of the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies in Aylesbury.
So whether you are interested in Cowper and Newton and their circle, the history of English Evangelicalism, Olney and the surrounding villages, local trade and industries (particularly the cottage industry of lacemaking), slavery and the campaign for its abolition, or any other themes represented in the museum's collections, you are welcome to make enquiries. Just contact our House Manager on 01234 711516 or for guidance on accessing our holdings. The museum has a study area next to its office, and books, papers or other materials can be brought out for you to examine. If you should wish to consult the original manuscripts held at Aylesbury we can provide directions and contact numbers for the staff there, who are always most willing to help.
The Library was set up as an integral part of the museum from its foundation in 1900. It contains a unique collection of books from Cowper's own library, early editions of his and John Newton's work, biographies and criticism, and later relevant publications by the museum's founder, Thomas Wright, and by modern scholars. A highlight is the collection of fine early editions of Cowper bequeathed to the museum by John Sparrow, Warden of All Souls' College, Oxford. The Library is also home to much interesting material, both ephemeral and more substantial, on Olney and the surrounding area, lacemaking and other trades. It is not open to the general public, but researchers are welcome to consult its holdings by appointment.
In addition to the items on display the museum has in store many other objects, including lace and textiles, paintings, photographs, and collections of material often donated by local people. All the items which have been accessioned, and thus form part of the museum's permanent collection, are documented and can be searched on cards and on the Catalist system.
The Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies, Aylesbury
The museum possesses an important collection of original manuscripts, mainly by William Cowper, but also by John Newton and others, and miscellaneous items such a very fine parchment pedigree of Cowper's father's family. The core of the collection is the sequence of 176 letters from Cowper to his lifetime friend and supporter Joseph Hill: these include some of the most famous and most-quoted passages from his extensive and much-admired correspondence. There are also some 50 other letters, and manuscripts of his poems To Mary, The Negro's Lament and Yardley Oak.
Because the museum does not have suitable archive storage for all of the unique and fragile items in it collection, it has been our practice to deposit them at the Centre, in accommodation meeting recognised national archive standards and where they can be consulted by researchers or museum staff at any time. The Centre has also provided photocopies of the manuscripts, which are available at the museum. You can contact the Centre either through the museum or direct on 01296 382587.
The Cowper and Newton Journal
The museum publishes this scholarly journal once a year. It welcomes articles and reviews on any topic connected with William Cowper, John Newton and their milieu. See here for details.