Thomas Cook’s extensive archive of documents and artefacts will be housed in Leicestershire.

The county archives office won a tender to secure the future of the social history treasure the company has collected over its 178-year history.

The company, founded by Leicester travel pioneer Thomas Cook, who went bankrupt in the summer, had accumulated a collection of international significance including minute books and personnel files, posters, travel guides and schedules.

The collection records the first days of package travel to the present day and offers 60,000 photos and souvenirs, including glass and porcelain, uniforms through the ages and even a model of the Nile steamboat.

It had been kept privately at the company’s head office in Peterborough and many historians feared it would be lost after the company closed.

The Thomas Cook statue outside Leicester Station
(Image: Mike Sewell)

However, the Wigston Archives Office will now be responsible for the preservation of the items transferred there.

The Thomas Cook Archives will be the largest single collection in the records office.

It will be carefully cataloged by the staff of the archives office before being made available to the public.

County Hall senior archivist Robin Jenkins said, “This is an internationally important archive of a business that started in Leicester and was operated from there during its formative years. .

“We already host an important Thomas Cook collection concerning both the man and his company.

“We consider the collection to be ‘coming home’ to Leicestershire and we will be delighted to manage it here and promote its use.

“The collection also integrates closely with other local businesses that often started in the 19th century and have an international reputation – such as Wolsey, Symington and Ladybird Books.”

Leicestershire County Council Chief Nick Rushton said: “I am delighted that the Archives Office has been chosen as the permanent residence for this important collection.

“The offer was a success because of the close local links with Thomas Cook, as well as because the record office enjoys an excellent reputation for its innovative work of raising awareness and promoting its collections.

“The fact that Thomas Cook’s archives will be housed at the Record Office will preserve them for future generations, while providing a valuable resource to the people of Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland.”

Thomas Cook founded his travel company in Leicester and organized his first excursion to Loughborough in 1841.

The company grew rapidly and in 1855, it organized continental tours, opening an office in London in 1865.

Thomas Cook is said to have invented package travel and to provide affordable travel for ordinary people.

In 1878 Cook retired to Leicester, where he died in 1892.

The company he founded has become a household name with global reach. It finally ceased operations in September 2019 and a permanent residence was sought for its archives.

The call for tenders for the Thomas Cook Archives was supported by the County of Leicestershire, the County Councils of Leicester City and Rutland, the Universities of Leicester and DeMontfort, the Oral History Archives of the East Midlands and the Archives media from central England.

Leicester City Mayor Peter Soulsby added: “Thomas Cook is one of Leicester’s best known sons, and his pioneering work, which essentially invented package travel, means that his name has become known worldwide. .

“It is fitting that this fascinating archive of the company’s history is housed in Leicestershire, so close to where his groundbreaking holiday work took place.”

Business Archives Council Vice-President Alison Turton said: “The deposit of the Thomas Cook archives with the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland is a historic achievement. It demonstrates the vital importance of archivists and academics working with insolvency practitioners to ensure the survival and accessibility of commercial archives of national significance. “

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Professor of History and Strategy at the University of Bristol, Stephanie Decker, who was the independent academic advisor to the selection board, said: “It is great news that the Thomas Cook archives have been saved and will be hosted in the region where the business started. Archives have local to global relevance and are very important to anyone interested in the history of travel and leisure. “