Photograph © Raymond Townsend

About the Archive

“The most compelling reason for recording children’s lore, for me, was to leave a picture, for future
generations, of how the children of today amuse themselves in their own free time.”
Iona Opie (2001), p. xiii

The Opies collected books, toys and information about the folklore of children and adults, especially children's language, traditions and play culture. Their archive is largely made up of papers, newspaper cuttings and sound recordings from the period c.1930–1999, plus some earlier materials. The archive materials were deposited at several repositories by Iona Opie – the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford, the Folklore Society Archives in London, and the British Library, London. These materials are complemented by the Opie Collection of Children’s Literature which is also at the Bodleian Libraries.

The Archive of Iona and Peter Opie at the Bodleian Library contains the bulk of the Opie papers. There are a total of 362 boxes, divided into children's papers, working files, publications, professional correspondence, personal papers, and collected materials and miscellaneous. Bodleian Archives and Manuscripts gives an overview of the collection and provides a description of the boxes and files.

Photo of Opie manuscript

Manuscript image from Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, MS. Opie 10

Series A, the children's papers, contains the responses of an estimated 10,000 children from schools all over Britain to a series of surveys undertaken by the Opies in the period c.1950–1980. Boxes 1–37 and 44–46 have been digitised by the Bodleian and are in the process of being catalogued to item level by researchers at the University of Sheffield. The catalogued images are accessible on this website and will be added to as this work progresses.

The Opie Papers held by the Folklore Society, London, comprise 24 boxes and cover the period c.1950–1985. They contain adult and child contributions relating to children’s folklore, weatherlore, customs and beliefs, as well as Opie research materials, personal papers and Folklore Society papers. They can be consulted by prior appointment.

The Opie Collection of Children’s Games and Songs consists of 137 audio recordings made by Iona Opie in various parts of Britain in 1969–1983. The recordings contain 85 hours of games, songs and rhymes, and accompanying explanations, mostly collected from unnamed children.

The recordings are deposited at the British Library where they have been digitised and made available for anyone to listen to as part of the British Library Sounds collection. A number of the recordings are also featured on the British Library's educational website, Playtimes: A Century of Children's Games and Rhymes.

Links to the recordings and information about them will also be added to this website in due course.