In 1920 the University College of Swansea opened its doors to 89 students, comprising 81 men and 8 women. In the 100 years that follow, the University College, or what we now know as Swansea University, has seen significant change and development.  Evidence of those changes are documented in the University archive collections, cared for and managed at the Richard Burton Archives at Swansea University.

Aerial photograph of Swansea University, Singleton, c.1940s. Courtesy of the Richard Burton Archives (reference: 1999/11)
University College of Swansea students in academic dress, c.1920s. Courtesy of the Richard Burton Archives (UNI/SU/PC/5/5)

Aerial photograph of the University College of Swansea, Singleton, c.1940s. Courtesy of the Richard Burton Archives (reference: 1999/11)

University College of Swansea students in academic dress, c.1920s. Courtesy of the Richard Burton Archives (UNI/SU/PC/5)

The University archives are a treasure trove of information, forming a corporate memory that documents the aims, objectives, and achievements of the University. They also offer a unique glimpse into the people and events, which have helped shape the University into what it is today. 

The collections include official minute books and departmental records, photographs, Student Union newspapers, architectural plans, correspondence, press cuttings and personal papers of former staff and students; it spans over 300 metres and covers a number of academic departments, professional services and the student body.  The collections also include a variety of formats such as paper, audiocassette, film, photograph, textile and born-digital material. The archive collections are unique, and are not found anywhere else in the world.

archive stack

The Archives’ storing room, 2019. Courtesy of the Richard Burton Archives

The University archive collections are continually growing with great pace; over 50 new deposits of University related material have been deposited to the Archives in the last 3 years, enhancing the existing collections. The online catalogue, describing the University collections is available here, and is being continually updated with newly catalogued material. 

The Voices of Swansea University, 1920-2020 oral history project is part of the University’s archive collections. Established by Dr Sam Blaxland in 2016, the project aims to capture the memories and experiences of former staff and students of Swansea University. At present, Sam has recorded over 107 hours, which have been added to the Archives to be preserved and made accessible for future teaching and research opportunities.

Further information about the University cataloguing project can be found on the Richard Burton Archives blog.


The Richard Burton Archives has a dedicated team of professional staff to help you to get the most out of the collections.

Emily Hewitt joined the Archives in 2016 to catalogue and provide access to the University archive collections. She provides advice on the University collections, oral history and supports centenary and other research related to the University’s history.

Assistant Archivist Emily Hewitt, 2019. Courtesy of the Archives & Records Council Wales.

Assistant Archivist Emily Hewitt, 2019. Photo: Archives and Records Council Wales

About the Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

The Richard Burton Archives, located within Swansea University’s Library, is also home to the Richard Burton Collection; the South Wales Coalfield Collection; the Raymond Williams Papers; and other major collections on the local area. These collections provide a fascinating insight into the industrial, cultural, social, political and educational history of South Wales. The Archives has more than two kilometres of shelving available to store the University’s archive collections under strict environmental conditions; ensuring their long-term preservation. A designated reading room is also available for researchers to consult the collections.

The aim of the Richard Burton Archives is to preserve Swansea University’s archive collections and to make them accessible for current and future generations. It also provides support for the world-leading research being carried out by the University; while enhancing links between the University and the local community. Further details can be found here.


Tel: 01792 295021
Twitter: @SwanUniArchives