From the grandest public school to the smallest rural primary, the Institute of Education's collection of school histories covers the rich diversity of England's education landscape.
Now, with the award of a major development grant, the 3,000-book collection, based in London, will be made fully accessible to pupils, teachers, students and researchers.
Left to gather dust for decades, the project will include cataloguing the collection - which ranges from books about Eton to long-forgotten secondary moderns - and the development of an outreach project designed to open it out to schools, academics and the general public.
The Heritage Lottery Fund last week agreed to contribute more than #163;41,000 to the scheme, which will allow the full restoration of the books. It follows the decision by the Department for Children, Schools and Families to donate its own collection - estimated at more than 1,000 books - to the institute, which is part of the University of London.
Gwyneth Price, a collection development services librarian, said the hoard already proved useful for the researchers, but would now be open to a much wider audience.
Current research being undertaken using the collection includes a major project exploring the impact of war on schools.
"It's really very exciting to have won this grant," Ms Price said. "We expect the outreach aspects of the project to include workshops with teachers and children and to produce packs for classroom use as well as online resources.
"There is all sorts of other potential as well. I think members of the public will find it useful for researching family histories."
A range of activities are being planned for the project. These include education packs for primary and secondary school students and teachers tying in with the national curriculum and suggesting creative ways to study history archives.
Schools will also be encouraged to build histories of their own institutions which can be carried on in the future.
Sue Bowers, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund London, said: "Collecting this wealth of information and making it widely available creates a unique resource about people, places, communities and events, all of which can be used for academic research, tracing family histories, or investigating local heritage."
The project is expected to begin later this month.
FOR THE RECORD
Schools with histories in the collection
Some recent additions
- A Brilliant Foundation for Life: a portrait of Wells Cathedral School by Val Horsler
- King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare's School: history and alumni by Richard Pearson
- Handsworth Revolution: the odyssey of a school by David Winkley.