Back in February something quite exciting happened at the Seven Stories archive. Late one evening, after a long drive, dozens upon dozens of crates and boxes found their way into our archive from Beverley Naidoo’s house. Beverley wrote about the experience in her blog, where you can see some of the collection in its natural habitat and can catch a glimpse of our Archivist, Kris, and Collections and Exhibitions Director, Sarah, preparing the files for their long journey to Gateshead. 

Since that day in February I have been sorting, re-packaging and cataloguing everything that Beverley gave us. The collection spans Beverley’s career from her academic work, to her first and most recent novels. Luckily for me, Beverley’s collection has been quite easy to catalogue; I can confirm that she is quite an organised author. Beverley labelled up a lot of her files in detail so I knew exactly where to start and how to order everything. All of the papers have been re-housed into archive boxes and I’ll be replacing her colourful folders  with acid-free (but cutting out and keeping all of her helpful labels).

Repackaging in progress; some of Beverley's originals files for The Other Side of Truth. 

Beverley’s collection gives a perfect snapshot into her writing process but also gives an insight into the impact of her novels.  Letters sent to Beverley from children (and adults) from all over the world span from the late eighties to 2014 and fill approximately six of our archive boxes;  these letters are fascinating, they offer an overview of attitudes to race and diversity over three decades and show just how moving and thought provoking Beverley’s novels are. 

The whole team at Seven Stories have been enthusiastic about Beverley’s collection and before I’d even managed to get everything unpacked and into archive boxes our education team were looking for original material to use in a school project with Shotton Hall Academy.  A lucky Year 8 Drama class developed a play about Beverley’s Journey to Jo’burg, and looking at the original drafts, illustration and research materials became part of their writing process. Our Learning Manager, Debbie, and I took a couple of boxes of Beverley's Journey to Jo’burg material to Shotten Hall and let the students look at and discuss the material. The students also had a chance to talk to Dave Temple who, as a local miner, was involved in anti-apartheid by supporting South African miners. It was great to see the students and Dave so engaged with the archive,  it created some great discussion points about the reality of the apartheid and human rights. I was even asked questions about archive conservation!

The big performance took place at the beginning of June and both Seven Stories and Shotton Hall were host to a very special guest.

Kris and I with Beverley and her collection in our store.

It seemed fitting that Beverley should visit our Collection team and see her archive in situ before heading to Durham to watch the play it inspired.  We spent the morning chatting to Beverley, her husband Nandha, and IBBY president for Palestine Jehan Helou, it was great to show them some material from other collections. They discovered familiar faces in photographs from the Elizabeth Laird collection and I think we managed to convince them that Beverley’s archive is in good company at Seven Stories.

Hopefully Beverley’s will be a collection that continues to grow. We see huge opportunities to use it in educational programmes and hopefully it will generate a lot of research interest. It has certainly sparked many discussions between our staff and volunteers. The whole experience has been a wonderful example of how our archive collections are currently expanding and how our collections can be used to inspire and educate.

The acquisition of Beverley's archive is part of our 'Collecting Cultures' programme and, over the coming months there will be news of other exciting additions to the Seven Stories Collections. 

If you'd like to find out more about the Seven Stories Collection, then 
email: or phone: 0191 495 2707 or comment on this blog.

Seven Stories was able to support the acquisition of the Beverley Naidoo collection through support from a Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Collecting Cultures’ grant. This has been awarded to Seven Stories in recognition of the museum’s national role in telling a comprehensive story of modern British children’s literature. For more information on our HLF Collecting Cultures project see: