About us

About the PET Archives

The PET Archives and Special Collections support The Mulberry Bush Organisation in its mission to provide services that meet the needs of emotionally troubled and traumatised children, young people, their families and communities.

We do this by:

  • Collecting preserving and disseminating the histories of therapeutic living and learning 
  • Meeting the needs of communities by promoting lifelong learning and reflection through the use of original resources and secondary sources 
  • Supporting therapeutic approaches to trauma by facilitating research and academic enquiry

Our active programme of collecting focuses on primary and secondary materials that record the achievements and memories of:

  • Therapeutic communities
  • Community living environments
  • Enabling environments
  • Planned environments

This includes, but is not limited to, collections from individuals, communities, trusts, associations and societies concerned with:

  • Childcare 
  • Education
  • Youth offending
  • Adult offending
  • Drug addiction treatment
  • Mental health
  • Social rehabilitation

Alongside our unique archive collections we maintain two distinct special collection libraries – the Planned Environment Therapy (PET) Library and the National Childcare Library (NCCL).

Our archive collections include original, unpublished records, documents, objects, photographs and audio-visual materials that preserve the history of the individuals, groups and organisations who have contributed to the development of therapeutic living and learning. 

The PET Library compliments the archives we hold adding social and historical context to the understanding of these histories. The Library includes hundreds of books, journals, newsletters, offprints and unpublished dissertations, some of which cannot be found in any other UK public library.  

The NCCL extensive resource of published materials recording the history of private and public childcare. The collection includes rare and out-of-print books, journals and pamphlets as well as information packs designed by NGOs and government.

We continue to actively collect contemporary archival and library materials, reflecting the current reality of therapeutic living and learning environments as well as preserving the history of the sector. You can read more about what we collect in our Collections Development Policy or find out how to add materials to our collections on our depositor page .  

The Archives and Special Collections are open to the public and completely free to access. To book your visit, or find out more about how our collections could support your research or interests, please contact the Archives team. 

Our History

The Planned Environment Therapy (PET) Archives and Special Collections were established by the Planned Environment Therapy Trust (PETT) in 1989 as the PETT Archive and Study Centre.

In 1981 the childcare pioneer David Wills passed away bequeathing his personal papers to PETT with whom he had had a long association dating back to the Trust’s foundation in 1966. The PETT Trustees decided to use Wills’ papers as the starting block for an exciting new initiative – a specialist archive repository dedicated to preserving the histories of therapeutic living and learning in the UK.

PETT was closely associated with New Barns School in Toddington, sharing both supporters and trustees making the New Barns site an obvious place for the new archive to be established. Following the closure of the school in 1992, the PETT building was renamed the Barns Conference Centre with the PETT Archive and Study Centre being a central focus of the premises.

Throughout the 1990s the archive service grew rapidly, attracting deposits from individuals, organisations and groups throughout the country and internationally. Alongside traditional archival materials and objects the team focused on capturing the voices and lived experience of those who had worked in the field. They conducted hundreds of oral history recordings with individuals as well as recording events and conferences. In 2010 PETT ran the award winning project ‘Therapeutic Living with Other People’s Children’ which set out to capture oral testimonies from the former pupils and staff from ten residential schools.

In 2018 the Planned Environment Therapy Trust closed and ownership of the Barns Conference Centre in Toddington and the PETT Archive and Study Centre was transferred to The Mulberry Bush Organisation. The site was renamed The Mulberry Bush Third Space and the PETT Archive and Study Centre became known as the PET Archives and Special Collections to reflect the diversity of materials held. A team of professional archivists were employed to work with the collections and bring the management and development of the service in-line with international standards of best practice.

Today the PET Archives and Special Collections continue to be a hub for the histories and experiences of those who have lived and worked in therapeutic communities.

You can find out more about our team of archivists, how we are developing the collections, and the collections we already hold, as well as contact us directly with your enquiry.

Our Team

The PET Archives and Special Collections team is based at the Mulberry Bush Third Space.

Debra Doggett

Job title - Archivist

Debra joined the Mulberry Bush team in 2019, having previously worked freelance at the Archives under the management of the Planned Environment Therapy Trust since 2017

Nicky Hilton

Job title - Senior Archivist

Nicky joined the PET Archives in 2019 bringing with her over ten years’ experience in the archives sector.

Annie Lord

Job title - Project Archivist

Annie joined the PET Archives in 2020 as the lead Archivist on the Wellcome Trust funded project ‘Rediscovering Harold Bridger: his life, work and legacy’.