Section A, Biographical, includes obituaries, curricula vitae and Powell's autobiographical drafts principally relating to his family background and school and university education. Also included here are examples of his short stories and other fiction.
Section B, Oxford, documents Powell's own education at Oxford University, the Laboratory of Chemical Crystallography, which Powell headed from 1944, and his university teaching. There are Powell's undergraduate notebooks and his notes on the lectures of F. Soddy, C.N. Hinshelwood, J.W.J. Taylor and D.L. Chapman, 1925, 1926. Chemical Crystallography material is not extensive but includes a small number of papers from or relating to Dorothy Hodgkin and Powell's historical notes on the development of chemical crystallography at Oxford. Powell's lecture notes were found in considerable disorder but cover an extended period from 1928 and such topics as crystal chemistry and molecular compounds.
Section C, Research, is of interest for its presentation of laboratory notebooks covering the early part of Powell's research career from 1928 to about 1940. Included here is a notebook with lecture notes made during a visit by Powell to the Mineralogy Institute of the University of Leipzig in 1930. There are also later notes and drafts of 1950s work on inert gases, tri-o-thymotide etc.
Section D, Lectures, publications, film, is the largest in the collection. It includes drafts of some of Powell's invitation and publication lectures 1953-1968 and of his scientific papers 1942-1966. Included here are drafts and correspondence relating to his 1960 paper on Japanese chemical writing and his 1966 spoof paper on colour in chemistry. There are also biographical accounts of colleagues in crystallography and chemistry including early recollections of Dorothy Hodgkin at Oxford and drafts for texts by Powell of a general or popular scientific nature. A film on crystal structure made by the Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) Film Unit in collaboration with Powell is documented by scripts, drafts and correspondence.
Section E, Visits and conferences, covers the period 1948-1974. Particularly well documented is his 1962 visit to China as a member of a Royal Society delegation to the Academia Sinica, Peking. There are also papers relating to visits to Roumania in 1964 and Russia in 1966 and 1969. Also included is a little documentation relating to Powell's retirement symposium held in Oxford in 1974.
Section F. Language, documents Powell's linguistic interests. His work on language representation is particularly well documented by notes and drafts. There are also drafts for a course on learning Russian prepared with the scientific student in mind.
Section G, Scientific correspondence, is not extensive. There is an alphabetical sequence of principal correspondents including scientific colleagues such as W. Baker, F.G. Mann and R.S. Nyholm and industrial concerns interested in the applications of Powell's work such as the British Oxygen Company, Imperial Chemical Industries and Johnson, Matthey & Company. Correspondence with the Ministry of Supply relates to research during the Second World War. There is a chronological sequence of shorter correspondence, 1935-1979.