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Relocation blog

Further update on relocation plans: August closure dates


SHentranceTo facilitate the IHR’s return to the Senate House north block, it has now been confirmed that the library will close from Saturday 16th August to Saturday 30th August inclusive. Room bookings during this time will be unaffected.

We plan to reopen in the north block on Monday 1st September but please check the IHR website and blog for updates nearer the time.

We apologise for any disruption caused during the move, but look forward to welcoming you to the refurbished IHR. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to staff in the library enquiry office in the first instance, or contact us on or 020 7862 8760.

IHR move back to refurbished north block: August 2014


P1160305The refurbishment is going to schedule and we are expecting the move back to the Senate House north block to take place in late August, to coincide with the period when the Institute of Classical Studies closes (16th - 30th August). There will be some disruption to services during this time, and we expect the library to be closed for a minimum of 5 days while the books are moved. You are advised to avoid planning visits during this period. We look forward to welcoming you to the refurbished Institute by early September.

Further details will be announced shortly, but if you have any questions or concerns, please talk to staff in the library enquiry office in the first instance, or contact us on or 020 7862 8760

Collection locations in the refurbished IHR library


booksFurther to our previous post about the IHR library refurbishment plans, we can now give a bit more detail about our initial plans for the library collection locations. About two thirds of the collection can be kept on open access. The remainder will be closed, and we would like to store as much as possible onsite within Senate House.

We have drafted some initial plans based on

  • frequency of use
  • reader feedback
  • ease with which volumes can be identified and requested
  • ease of fetching and availability of appropriate shelving for oversized items
  • availability of material in nearby libraries and online
  • collections fitting logically into particular areas of the library

There are some general principles which we have adopted, given the space limitations. These are:

  • All except current volumes of periodicals will remain in closed access. This is disappointing as we know how much the open-access back runs have been valued for browsing purposes. We will be looking at widening access to electronic journals where possible and hope to work with Senate House Library colleagues to improve the user interface.
  • With the exception of the British history collection, much of the bibliography/archive guide sections will go on closed access. Although we appreciate that these sections can be useful as a starting point for research, they include much material that is now online or out of date, and they have had relatively low usage. We do plan to check these sections carefully with subject specialists and aim to bring the most useful material into a quick-reference section.

It is difficult to prioritise some sections over others and we’ll have to make some hard decisions, but we hope we can make the library as usable as possible. We’ll continue to do more to promote the collections and improve their discoverability. The closed-access fetch service is flexible, and we are happy to bring out long runs of material and keep it available for as long as it is being used.

Our draft plans divide the collections into broad areas: British, Irish and Ecclesiastical History on the first floor, Military and International Relations collections in the basement and European, Colonial and North American collections on the second floor. More details about individual collections can be found in the attached list. These plans are all subject to discussion. We will be asking subject specialists in different areas to discuss particular collections in detail. We welcome your feedback or input into this, please visit us in the IHR library enquiry office, or contact us on or 020 7862 8760.

See full list of plans for individual collections.

Plans for the refurbished IHR library


As described previously, work on the IHR refurbishment is well underway, and we expect to be returning to the Senate House North block in August or September this year.


First Floor Axonometric view. Illustrations courtesy of BDP. For illustrative purposes only.

The library will have a smaller footprint than before, but the layout has been carefully planned to maximise shelving and reader desk spaces. The two main floors (first and second) have been reconfigured to create a more open layout with fixed and rolling stack shelving. Four seminar rooms, three on the second floor and one on the first, will double-up as library rooms to take full advantage of the space.

To the west of the staircase on the first floor will be a room housing most of the library’s folio and map collection, with a larger desk to facilitate use of oversized material. As before, the library will have a current periodicals reading room next to the common room on the ground floor. There will also be shelving and reader spaces in the basement. The rest of the basement and the third floor will house conference and training facilities for the IHR’s rich programme of events.


General view looking through library. Illustrations courtesy of BDP. For illustrative purposes only.

A dedicated reprographics room on the second floor will house new photocopier and scanning equipment. New microform scanning facilities will also be provided. Bespoke reader desks have been designed to incorporate power and data points and lighting. Metal shelving with glass and timber end panels is being supplied by Ecospace, in a similar style to our current shelving. A lot of care has gone into the design of the space to accentuate and complement the architecture of Senate House, and the lighting schemes are both functional and visually appealing.

This week we have received the final library shelving plans and can now complete the collection layout plans. We expect to have around twice as much open-access shelving as we do now. The rest of the collection will continue to be available through a fetch service. Further information on these arrangements will follow, but if you have any questions or comments or would like to view the plans, please visit us in the IHR library enquiry office, or contact us on or 020 7862 8760

IHR to return to its North Block ‘home’


DSCN0281After three years the IHR will be returning to its ‘home’ in the north block following completion of its £8m refurbishment.  Everything is on track with the contractors ISG, ably managed by BDP, for the finishing of the works by mid- July 2014 which will allow the library, staff and other resources to move back during August and early September.

Most of the noisy works have now been completed including the shaft for a new lift for Senate House Library and structural works to the floors.  Specialist lime plastering continues and will be finished by the end of January.

Designs  for the library shelving and furniture and toilets are virtually complete and agreed.

BDP are working with ISG to set up a sample room on the third floor which will include completed ceilings, walls, decorations, floors, electric heater and lighting.  We will include a picture of this in our next bulletin.

Fitting out of the space will commence around March/April.  Site visits will be made regularly from that point on by IHR senior management.

Readers who are also members of SHL will be pleased to know that access between the 2 libraries will be available via the 4th floor, creating a united history collection for the first time.

Further postings will contain details of the approximate dates for library moves during the summer.

IHR refurbishment project gets underway


SH frontISG Construction Ltd has been awarded the contract for the rewiring and refurbishment of the IHR wing of the Senate House north block.  They are carrying out some preliminary inspections and surveys at the moment but during the week commencing Monday 24th June they will be setting up their site compound.  This will be in the corner of the Russell Square car park, between the tower and the IHR wing.  The movement of materials and waste to and from the site compound will be governed by a traffic management plan which has been designed to make the process as safe as possible.

The Russell Square car park will be closed to all but service and delivery vehicles from Monday 24th June, but the Malet Street car park will be reopened and may be used from that date.  There will be occasions when the Malet Street car park has to be closed, but advance notice will be given and space will be made available elsewhere for disabled drivers.  Cyclists and pedestrians will still be able to use the Russell Square car park and safe access routes will be marked out.

The refurbishment will last until July next year and although the noisiest of the work has been scheduled to take place out of the University’s working hours, there will inevitably be some disturbance from time to time.  We will keep this to a minimum but it will generally not be possible to stop the work in response to complaints about noise.  Your understanding and patience is requested.

The completion of this project will allow IHR to return to fully refurbished library, seminar and office space in the north block in time for the start of the autumn term next year.  The rest of the empty space in the north block has been leased to SOAS and they are working on their own refurbishment plans.  We will give updates on the progress of the IHR and SOAS refurbishments from time to time but in the meantime, please direct any questions to the Estates projects office on extension 8224.

Supporting the IHR in its re-development


Last year the IHR celebrated its 90th anniversary.  For much of that time, the IHR has occupied the North wing of Senate House without much in the way of renovation.  Those of you who have visited us over the last decade or so will have noticed how marvellous the South block of Senate House looks after its refurbishment.  Those of you who live too far away to visit us in person will be able to find glimpses of the South block in blockbuster films such as the upcoming Batman movie. 

Many of the costs associated with the refurbishment of the IHR have already been met or agreed upon within the University of London budgets but there is so much more that we would like to achieve.  To that end we have created a short video where our director, Professor Miles Taylor, explains a little of what we do and what we would like to achieve.  If you would like to help out please take a look at our ‘support us’ pages on the main IHR website


Video Text

Hello, my name is Miles Taylor and I am the Director of the Institute of Historical Research here in the heart of the University of London, in Bloomsbury. The Institute – or ‘IHR’ as everyone knows it – is a remarkable place. It was founded in 1921, arriving before the rest of the University and quickly becoming a key part of history in the UK. Nowadays, our library of printed primary sources has grown to almost 200,000 volumes. We host over 60 research seminars per fortnight. We provide a huge range of listings, guides, teaching and training materials and services for historians across the UK. Our junior fellowship programme is the largest in the country, and we are home to a number of research centres. The highlight of our year, the Anglo-American conference, draws together hundreds of scholars from around the world to debate and discuss the main historical topics of our time. In recent years we have become a digital operation as well. The principal collections of our Library have been digitised as British History Online, all our listings services are now on the web, and we run an innovative virtual programme of podcast and live-streamed events.

The Institute is now embarking on an exciting £3m modernisation of our Senate House headquarters. In the autumn of 2013 we shall move back into a refurbished building, equipped with new conference and research training suites, enhanced library and research facilities, and an expansion of room for our fellows and postgraduate students. It’s an exciting project. It preserves the original ethos and layout of the Institute, whilst expanding our capacity to deliver more events, training and teaching. Our new layout will be welcome news for the traditional library-user. A unique single-site history library will be created, with the University history borrowing collection housed at the top of the building.

The University expects the Institute to match their commitment to our future with some fundraising of our own. We are required to pay for the bespoke fitting out of the building. We need £0.5m for our new training and conference facilities, and for library fittings and furniture. But I want the IHR to go further than this. In addition to helping refurbish the building, I have set ourselves a target of c. £4m to reinvigorate and add to our range of academic activities: expanding our international fellowship and events programmes, establishing a new Chair in the History of London, and making a digital library of our unique holdings in colonial American history.  

I realise this is an ambitious shopping list. However, it is spending to grow and it is spending to achieve financial sustainability. And there is no better time for us to raise money, for we have been set a challenge grant target by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. If we can reach $1m then the Foundation will match that with $1m of their own.

Please help us transform the Institute for the 21st century and put us on the road to financial self-reliance. Our Development Office staff can advise you on how to help if you want to take the next step.

With thanks to BDP for images and plans

The new IHR (basement): The Exhibition Space


Did you see our exhibition on 90 years of the IHR at last year’s Anglo-American conference?  If not never fear as a ‘virtual’ version of that exhibition is still available on the IHR website.  It is well worth a look and makes for a fascinating read; however, that is not the central purpose of today’s post. What we would like to draw to your attention is the re-design of the IHR basement to incorporate a dedicated exhibition space. 



The ability to host a revolving exhibition is something that we are very excited about, with lots of plans in the works for what it might contain and naming opportunities for potential sponsors.



Although the 3D rendering above does not really do justice to the space we envisage it as a place members and visitors can wander around during their break from study in the library or, alternatively as a gathering area during conferences and other events held in our adjoining conference suite (see last week’s post). 

As you might have noticed the exhibition space in the corridor linking the main stairwell and lift to the conference suite is an innovative use of space and we think an improvement for a space formerly occupied by little more than ancient photocopiers and lacklustre tables and chairs.    

With thanks to BDP for images and plans

The new IHR (basement): Conference and Lecture Theatres


The IHR has always prided itself on running events both large and small.  Our annual events programme includes conferences covering various historical topics and our premier event, the Anglo-American conference which continues to grow and improve every year.  However, with the old Wolfson and Pollard rooms being our largest space (able to hold 100 people) we were always forced to hold larger events elsewhere in Senate House which meant lots of walking to and fro or that the event was hosted outside of the IHR space itself.  An integrated conference space became one of the highest priorities for the re-development of the IHR.



So here is the proposed conference suite.  As you can see there are two rooms (one with a capacity for about 90 and the other for about  40).  However, just like the old Wolfson and Pollard rooms, these can be joined together to form one larger suite (see images below).  Of course, this poses difficulties of design to make sure that everyone can see the speaker and large screen projected image.  Much thought, therefore has been put into that issue to avoid any problems.  The suite will also be fitted with entirely new state-of-the-art AV (audio-visual) equipment including plasma screens, projectors, speakers and microphones.  We have several design drawings for the conference rooms which can be looked at below:


Next time we shall stay in the basement but move next door from the conference suite to another brand new addition to the IHR – a dedicated exhibition space.  

With thanks to BDP for images and plans

IHR re-development update (May 2012)


 It’s been a while since our last post here but finally we have some exciting news to share concerning the renovation of the Institute of Historical Research.  The Senate House Phase 4 renovation is proceeding at pace and the designs and plans have now been developed and approved for the new IHR.  As the plan below shows we will be returning to an area covering the basement and the first three levels of the North Block.  Overall, the space envelope remains the same but the space use will be quite different and we will of course be modernised  whilst also maintaining the kind of atmosphere that you value.


Over the coming months we will look in-depth at various elements of the new IHR design including the new conference suite; research training room; common room and library layout.  This week we shall begin with the basement which, in its previous life, was the gloomy underbelly of the IHR holding some portions of the library and a line of rather ancient photocopiers, members’ lockers, and storage.

The image below shows the design layout for the new basement featuring a state of the art conference suite, exhibition space, and three rooms retained for the library.  Of all the re-design elements it is here that we are making some of the most significant improvements.


With thanks to BDP for images and plans

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