The DPA has been gathering archives since its founding in 1883. It has been collecting photographs; letters; maps and reports that reflect its history and that of Dartmoor for over 130 years. These include the papers of Ted Birkett Dixon, a self-trained archaeologist who for decades recorded the ancient features of the Dartmoor landscape; the Association’s own minutes going back 130 years, showing the reasons for the DPA’s founding; photographs of many of the stone crosses that mark the landscape and much more besides.

Some of Ted Birkett Dixon’s papers before restoration.

 

The same papers after some tlc.

The archives are currently housed at the DPA’s headquarters in Princetown, at the heart of the national park. They have been for the most part neatly filed but not stored or catalogued to archival standards. Thus the DPA can’t be absolutely sure what material is lurking on shelf in their store or what its significance might be. To help with this, in 2016 they started employing Dr Helen Blackman, an archivist and historian who also works for the Exmoor Society. It is Helen’s job to sift through the material, decide what needs to be kept, restore some of the crumpled and torn field notes and generally ensure that the archive is more usable for researchers and DPA members.

Dr Blackman said “Although it can be daunting taking on an extensive archive that hasn’t ever been catalogued or sorted, it’s also exciting as you never really know what might turn up. Working on Exmoor I found a previously unpublished manuscript by the author Hope Bourne and slides that showed the changing landscape on the moor. It will be intriguing to see difference between the archives on Dartmoor and Exmoor and what they say about the history of the moors in the south west.”

The DPA would love to have volunteers to help with this project. You do not need any training in history but it helps if you are a methodical and careful worker. You need to be able to travel to Princetown and to have some free time during the week. Full training will be given. The DPA can be contacted on 01822 890646 or via email at info@dartmoorpreservation.co.uk