Dr Margaret O’Sullivan 1945-2021

We are sorry to say that Margaret O’Sullivan, our former county archivist, died last week at the age of 75.

Margaret joined Derbyshire County Council in 1989 after the retirement of the first county archivist, Joan Sinar. Joan had been responsible for setting up the record office in County Hall in the early 1960s but by the late 1980s, the Record Office had outgrown the space and was beginning a move to the former Ernest Bailey Grammar School – the building we still occupy today. Margaret arrived to complete the move and see the Record Office through another two decades of growth and development.

Dr Margaret O’Sullivan in the mid 1990s

In the 1990s Margaret introduced new ways to promote the service and its collections, publishing the Record Office Guide as well as a set of ‘Archives First’ research guides on popular topics. In the early 2000s she introduced a monthly newsletter to keep users up to date with what was happening at the Record Office – something which eventually morphed into this blog.

Margaret also oversaw the introduction of new technology to manage and access the archive collections when in 2000 we moved into the era of electronic cataloguing, with the purchase of our collections database. A couple of years later, the Record Office began to offer computers with internet access to customers.

Margaret was instrumental in bringing in several important collections, which are well used to day. She successfully applied for the archive of the Harpur Crewe family of Calke Abbey to be transferred to Derbyshire Record Office under the ‘Acceptance in Lieu’ scheme. The largest archives for the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, the Strutt of Belper business and estate collections, both came in under Margaret’s tenure, as did the archive of Derby Cathedral. Margaret also gained a substantial grant to preserve, digitise and catalogue the archive of Derby cartoonist George Woodward.

D5459/3/11 A Mistake at New-Market, or Sport and Piety, George M. Woodward & Thomas Rowlandson, [1807]

Margaret retired in 2010 after dedicating over 20 years to Derbyshire, despite living over the border in Staffordshire and commuting long distance every day. In retirement she retained her interest in history, being an active member of the British Association for Local History and even writing a historical novel. Our condolences go to her husband, John.

6 thoughts on “Dr Margaret O’Sullivan 1945-2021

  1. I was very sorry to hear about the passing of Margaret who I worked with from 2002-2007. She was incredibly supportive of me in my early career as an archivist at Derbyshire Record Office and I learnt a great deal from her. She remained incredibly active in heritage circles long into retirement and always kept in touch. She helped to make Derbyshire Record Office one of the very best county archive services with rich and substantial collections. Rest in peace Margaret.

  2. I’m so sorry to hear this, and my condolences to her family. Margaret recruited me to work on the Woodward Archive. It was an amazing opportunity and I’m so grateful to her for the trust she put in me I look back really happily in my time at the DRO working with her.

  3. I’m sure that all the staff who worked with Margaret during her many years at D.R.O. will always remember her, as will the service users.
    My condolences to her family and friends.

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