In November, a group of Archive Trainees visited the London School of Economics’ (LSE) library where we listened to a variety of talks about the library and archives collection, as well as an introduction to Archives and Records Management (ARM) courses.
Jenny Bunn (UCL) gave the first talk, providing valuable insight into the courses available at universities across the UK. She highlighted how different courses take slightly different approaches to the subject – something that should be considered by the applicant when deciding where to study. For example, if a course is in the History Department, it is likely to focus on historical documents; whereas a course in the Information Studies Department may emphasize information/data management.
The decision of whether to study full time, part time, modular, or by distance learning is something that Jenny highlighted as being vital in shaping our experience of the course. I agree this can be quite a decision to make as there as so many different aspects to all options! Jenny stressed the overall importance of considering all aspects when applying for the course, as the decision depends on personal preference and how each individual works best. I found her talk incredibly useful in deciding where and how to study.
Following the encouraging talk from Jenny Bunn, Anna Towlson, the Archives and Special Collections Manager at LSE, gave us an overview of their collections. The greatest number of their records relate to the history of the LSE as an institution. The rest primarily relate to history, social science and politics.
As someone who is very interested in political and social history, I could easily spend days in the library’s research room! Their main collections are the Women’s Library Collection, LGBT history collection including the Hall-Carpendter archives, pro-and anti-Europe pressure groups, and many other fascinating collections.
A collection I found particularly interesting was that of Charles Booth, which includes maps of London and notebooks containing the original data gathered by researchers during his enquiry into British society in the 1880s.
Anna’s colleague, Gillian, talked to us specifically about the Women’s Collection. This primarily covers Women’s Suffrage, equality and rights. The collection includes many photographs of icons such as Emily Davison and Lucy Stone, as well as a large number of banners used in the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies’ (NUWSS) 1908 procession to the Royal Albert Hall. Find out more about The Women’s Library collection at http://www.lse.ac.uk/library/collections/collection-highlights/the-womens-library.
The Archives and Special Collections team at LSE Library consists of three Curators, two Archivists, and Library Assistants, who provide access to the collections.
For researchers, a new reading room and Reader Services team was established in 2015, as well as a public exhibition room. This was primarily to accommodate the increased number of researchers that resulted from acquiring the new Women’s Collection. There are currently around 15 people on average using the Reading Room each day.
They have an emphasis on enhancing accessibility and use of the collections. Anna Towlson provided us with some really interesting statistics. There are over 750 collections in the archive, of which 56% have been catalogued online so far. Anna explained how they currently have two catalogues on CALM, one for the Women’s Collection, which was given upon acquisition, and one for the rest of their collections. They plan to merge these catalogues going forward.
They seem to be admirably forward-thinking, with a strategy of prioritising the sorting, indexing and online cataloguing of collections that most often require access and that attract the most interest. The aim is to increase their digital collection by 25% by 2020.
After hearing all about the library and archive, the group was able to explore the current exhibition, Journeys to Independence: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The exhibition theme coincides with the Seventieth Anniversary of the Partition of India in 1947. Items that particularly drew my attention were from Gandhi and Mother Teresa – items of great historic interest.
Running alongside the exhibition, the library team run public events such as lectures and workshops, as well as having a visitor book for feedback. The exhibition space is a great feature of the library and is invaluable in showcasing the interesting collections held in the archive. I will most definitely be visiting future exhibitions!
This visit has provided me with a wealth of information about the variety of options available for Masters courses as well as an insight into the running of the LSE archive and their collections.
To find out more about the LSE Library and Archive, visit http://www.lse.ac.uk/library
Danielle Boldero, Archives Trainee