HE OED Archive contains papers related to the history of the Dictionary from its inception in 1857 until the present day.

The largest part of the collection contains what are known as the dictionary slips - 6"x4" pieces of paper which provided the basis of the Dictionary. These slips contain definitions, etymologies and quotations for words, some written out by volunteer readers and contributors, others by editors and staff (see below for a definition of affirm by editor James Murray). The archive contains a near complete set of these slips for the First Edition and the later Supplements of the Dictionary.

In addition to the slips are the working papers for editing the Dictionary. These include administrative papers, correspondence files, papers of the reading programmes, papers of the editing process, publicity material and proof pages. There are also several photographs featuring staff, contributors, dictionary offices and the Dictionary itself.

The collection also contains a selection of material relating to other Oxford dictionaries. These include the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, the Pocket Oxford English Dictionary and the Little Oxford English Dictionary.