The Old Etonian display is one of the most popular exhibits in the Museum of Eton Life. It captivates our visitors, stimulates discussion and broadens understanding of the breadth and impact of old Etonian activities across centuries. In 2018 the physical display was refurbished, with one important part of the exhibit to follow: findoes.etoncollege.com, a digital database of Old Etonians (OEs).
The previous display listed names on a printed panel, grouped by category. Although quite effective at giving a sense of the quantity of OEs, it was a wall of text that could be difficult to read and depended on prior knowledge – you had to recognise the names to understand why they are included on the wall. Additionally, this format was hard to update which meant that it was not possible to add new OEs or bring focus on figures not included in the former lists.
In order to be able to pull together a list of OEs which can be regularly updated and to also tell the stories of an OEs school days, life and career, we decided to go digital. Hosting on a website platform enables us to provide interactive access to the lists and biographies from portals in the museum, and virtual access online.
The aim for the database is to continue the work of the redeveloped display and demonstrate that Eton’s alumni have contributed to activities from the arts and sciences to charities and humanities. This aim is twofold: to inform but also to inspire. We are creating biographies to give context to famous names or to share the work of lesser-known ones, and doing so by adding galleries of artwork and archives from the Eton College Collections. A secondary purpose of this new site is to dip into and share the extensive resources of the College Collections. As we grow this material, the hope is that any new boy starting at the school is encouraged by those who went before him to pursue his interests in any field.
The database can be searched in a number of ways. If you are interested in Etonian sportsmen, you can search by the Sports category; if you are researching prominent figures from a particular era you can search by century. Alternatively, browse alphabetically and see which names you recognise!
You can search the OE lists and biographies at https://findoes.etoncollege.com/
This database is a work in progress and we will continually be adding in more OEs, more biographies, and showcasing more material from the Collections.