09 February, 2013

Minet Library - life beyond life

Libraries are very dangerous places, especially on National Libraries Day. Heavens there are steps, trailing cables and well, people might even... get ideas! They might even get ideas that give them 'life beyond life'. Perhaps we are on safer grounds with archives, after my solo tour with the Lambeth Borough Archivist. Lambeth has an archive rather than a local history library and this is housed in the Minet Library which is a surprisingly huge building on the Lambeth Minet estate. The original developer of the estate gave the library which was octagonal in shape until it was bombed in the second world war. The new building has vestiges of the original octagon visible and is built as a basilica with two wings. Mr Minet was a keen amateur historian and his collection makes up part of the Archive, but of course there is much more material than that. I was shown all kinds of records from air-raid message slips that had somehow survived from our darkest hours, and, in contrast song books from Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, some of which were a bit risque! There were runs of newspapers, housing brochures, family photographs that had been abandoned when a photographer in Brixton retired from business showing people looking very proud in their bus conductors uniforms, suits and best dresses. There are also items institutions have deposited in the archive for safekeeping and to ensure public access. The British Home for Incurables has deposited its early records there. I imagine that the records were in some sort of order in the home then put into boxes for shipping o the archive, and then the poor archivist has to make some sort of sense of them, and catalogue so that they are retrievable. That must be a job and a half. Who'd have thought that drainage plans could deliver social history, well Lambeth Archives has an enquiry obout drains from 1904 by Fred Karno's Commedians! Social history of the music hall. Play bills for theatres, church history (although not the Church of England) Local Government (but not hospitals) I even saw an ice skate in the museum collection. Wow. So many thanks for this tour through the wonders of the Lambeth Archives. After lunch in the Park Cafe I went back to the library to see a film show - the Name of the Rose, The best film ever to be set in a library, although poisoned books and the library eventually burning down is perhaps not for this library. As this post is a bit picture light I have posted some other 'library pictures'

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