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What's in the AA GB Archive?

The Alcoholics Anonymous Great Britain Archive spans the history of the Fellowship in Britain, dating back to the first contact with America in the 1940s through to the present day. In addition to the earliest editions of the Big Book, the oldest records held in the archive are correspondence from the first members of the British Fellowship, these include letters with Bill Wilson himself, American members, AA staff in New York (then known as the ‘Alcoholic Foundation’) and other individuals involved in the beginnings of AA in Great Britain. All parts of the service structure are represented in the archive, with material relating to activities at group, intergroup, and region. These records provide unparalleled insight into the workings, decision making processes, and governance at the foundation levels of the Fellowship. The archive holds a comprehensive set of reports and administrative records relating to the General Service Conference, dating right back to the first conference held at the Midland Hotel in Manchester in 1966.

The General Service Board is well represented in the archive, and there is a full complement of minutes from the GSB’s historical predecessors, such as the Group Representatives Committee and Central Sub-Committee, the Pre-Foundation Committee, and more. The archive holds key governance records central to the foundation and management of AA GB as a registered charity in service of helping suffering alcoholics. This includes the organisation’s Memorandum and Articles of Association, and the Alcoholics Anonymous Dispositions Act passed by Parliament in 1986. Additionally the various activities of AA GB’s twelve service disciplines and the work of their associated committees are documented in the archive.

There is a wealth of material related to the various conferences, conventions and events organised and hosted by the British Fellowship at a local, national, and international level. This includes a full set of reports from both the European and World Service Meetings. Additionally there are pamphlets, programmes, promotional material, and administrative paperwork from AA GB events held in England, Scotland, Wales, and continental Europe. The archive also contains historical material from AA GB’s Silver Jubilee in 1972 and 50th Anniversary celebration in 1997.

The archive holds the vast majority of official Fellowship newsletters and magazines, dating back to the first the Monthly Newsletter in 1949. It also has comprehensive sets of the AA Newsletter, Box 514, SHARE, Roundabout, and AA News. This includes editorial paperwork and documentation related to the making, publication and distribution of the aforementioned publications. Moreover, there are a considerable amount of ‘unofficial’ newsletters or ‘zines’ put out by AA hospital and prison groups.

Since its inception, AA GB has been making and publishing its own literature to address a wide variety of issues caused or experienced by suffering alcoholics, and to spread the message of AA. The AA GB Archive holds all of the literature, including pamphlets, information sheets, cards, posters, and signage, published over the course of 75 years. Additionally the archive holds a full set of ‘Where to Find’ directories, invaluable publications which have helped in need alcoholics locate groups in their area dating back to the 1950s. As it is the core text of AA, there are a considerable number of editions of the Big Book held in the archives. These include historically significant copies signed by Bill W, and first editions printed in Great Britain since 1955. In addition to the Big Book, there are sets of Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, AA Comes of Age, and other prominent AA publications.

Audio-visual material forms a significant part of the archive, and there are a notable number of films and audio-recordings produced by the British Fellowship held within. These range from official productions, such as promotional films and advertisements through members’ personal recordings of events and meetings. Given the central importance of anonymity in the Fellowship, there is no photographic material from gatherings or events where members could be identified. There are historical photographs of prominent members who individually gave up their anonymity in service of AA, and there are images of historically significant locations, such as the various GSO premises.

Alongside the paper, photographic, and audio-visual, there is a small selection of objects, such as framed pictures, paintings, and sculptures created by members of AA across the world and gifted to the British Fellowship.