Founded in 1963, the club grew into one of the best-known student exchange programmes, giving students on both sides of the Atlantic the opportunity to spend time working overseas.
However, the economics of running the club became increasingly challenging, and two years ago it sold its brand name to STA Travel – a travel agent that continues to offer overseas programmes to students under the Bunac name.
The original not-for-profit organisation is now in the process of closing, but its records and archives remain, complete with papers tracing the change in society on both sides of the Atlantic back to the year President Kennedy was assassinated.
With the club shutting up shop, these archives found themselves left in a London garage, while remaining members tried to find them a home.
“As a life member of the club, I made direct approaches to a number of university departments, offering them the 30-plus archive boxes,” said David Heathcote, who was a member of the organisation’s general council for 20 years.
“Either they didn’t reply or they weren’t interested. The papers seemed destined for the shredder, which I thought was tragic - a betrayal of the institution that had made America possible for me, and given me some of the best summer vacations of my life. Then I had the brainwave of contacting THE.”
After running a news article about the archive, three universities made enquiries about taking custody of the club’s records.
“The strongest approach came from the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. Last month I signed the papers confirming transfer of the archives to Oxford University, and they are due to be delivered to the library in the next few days,” added Mr Heathcote.
“Thanks to the article, we’ve found suitable storage for records charting the life of the club. There must be a thesis or two in those boxes for researchers - that would be a fitting conclusion to a student operation that has changed the lives of so many young people.”