Michael Townsend (collections librarian) and I went to visit the University depository library in Egham, to meet the staff there and see where the IHR offsite store books are now located. The library is in a really nice location, on the edge of the Royal Holloway campus. The staff at the depository, Katriona and Pete, have done a fantastic job getting used to the IHR’s (often unlabelled) collections. We’ve been really impressed by how efficient the delivery service has been - we sometimes send an order first thing in the morning and unpack them a couple of hours later when the daily van arrives. It is best to give us 1-2 days notice, and items can be ordered in person, by phone or email. (020 7862 8760 or firstname.lastname@example.org)
Kate Wilcox (Reader and Technical Services Librarian)
As pockets of space have become available, we have been able to bring some selected material back onto open access. These have been selected based on reader feedback, frequency of requests and availability of space in suitable locations. We’ve chosen not to include some material due to its availability online or locally within Senate House Library – please ask if you’d like advice on accessing anything that falls into these categories.
A selection of material from B.05 classmark (manuscript catalogues)
Papal Registers (folio shelving at one end of large reading room 314)
Gallia Christiana (folio shelving at one end of large reading room 314)
Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France (folio shelving at one end of large reading room 314)
Monumenta Germaniae Historica (library office corridor)
Some Record Commission British medieval history folios, e.g. Tower of London rolls, Valor Ecclesiasticus (in room 303)
List and Index Society (library office corridor)
English place name society (quick reference section, library office corridor)
Archives parlementaires de 1787 à 1860 Series 1 (folio shelving at one end of large reading room 314)
Elaine Walters, IHR Administrator discusses her thoughts and feelings about the IHR temporary relocation and its eventual return to the North Block of Senate House
Although we had actually been planning the IHR move for months, I don’t think I actually ever thought it would happen. But here we are in the south block!
I had the feeling that initially there was a lot of feet dragging, a kind of disbelief of that we would actually move at all and then suddenly I was sending round equipment logs for staff to fill in, and crawling around floors attempting to identify which particular socket a PC was attached to!
Moving the IHR was surprisingly emotional. Every book packed, every crate filled, every picture taken off the wall, and every locker opened seemed to tear a little bit more heart out of the place. And the planning required – every library book taken off its shelf and every crate labelled to correspond with a new home elsewhere, every door lock, every phone and PC socket identified, every piece of furniture to be labelled with a home, and decisions made about what to store and what not to store.
There were areas in the IHR which had clearly not been accessed for thirty years or more. We found old photographs, typewriters, desks with drawers containing blotting paper and ink (oh the good old days!). The most time – consuming part of the exercise was having to open every single unclaimed locker- and there were over hundred! Some clearly had not been opened for a decade. They contained newspapers from the early 90’s, record cards, spare shoes and enough books to open a book shop. Some of the most surprising items included net curtains, underwear, bedding, oceans of talcum powder and lipstick and in one locker 14 brand new toothbrushes! And from the lockers located in the women’s toilet- several unopened and several half drunk bottles of sherry!
Over the two weeks of the move things were very hectic but the library and mezzanine move, which were phases 1 and 2 went surprisingly smoothly. Hats off to the staff and to Pickford’s, who were flexible, professional, and good hearted throughout.
We experienced the inevitable problems- the photocopier was too big to get into the lift to move and had to be dismantled, some staff had over – estimated the amount of furniture which could be fitted into their new offices. One department (who shall remain nameless) had not completed their packing on the day of the move, some cupboards were so heavy that even with four Pickfords men we struggled to move them and so had to be unpacked, moved and re-packed.
Phase 3 – the move to Senate House 3rd floor, proved to be the most problematic. In terms of the amount to be moved it was much less than phases 1 and 2 but the furniture proved too large to get into the rooms due to the ‘extra’ architraving around the door frames. Desks had to be disassembled and re-assembled which doubled the amount of time the move should have taken. But we made it and in no time at all people were back at their desks, vases filled with flowers and shelves filled up with belongings.
The ‘old IHR’ now stands virtually empty- no books, no furniture and no people. The space actually echoes! I have taken many trips back in the days since the move-for me personally it is rather sad to see our corridors bereft of life. And goodness me the state of some of the space- the years of ‘north block neglect’ have taken their toll. It is not until a space is laid bare that the true extent of this is made clear. People keep stopping me and asking why we would ever want to move back after experiencing the south block. Well, even though the offices are superior, the sense of IHR community appears broken – hopefully only for a short time until everyone gets used to the new space but the loss of the common room at the heart of the Institute is severely felt.
But enough of this melancholy; the move provides an important opportunity for the IHR to shift itself into the 21st century. Planning for our new space is afoot and we are excited about the prospects ahead. Preliminary plans reveal that our space can be used more flexibly and to greater effect. The IHR remains committed to providing a space that is fit for purpose- that purpose being the facilitation of historical research for the generation s of historians to come, as well as those who are still with us.
Thank you to all the staff who engaged so fully with the moves, to the library staff who worked tirelessly to get the library open to the public on time, to estates staff who came good, despite my pleading, nagging and begging for things to be done, and to the members of the IHR for coming back to us. Stay with us- it’s going to be a bumpy, but worthwhile ride.
Being based now in the lower mezzanine, our office gets a regular flow of visitors asking, “Is this the IHR?” It is the IHR, but only part of it.
When you come out of the lifts on the third floor, if you go through the barrier you will find the IHR library (pictured below). Keep going through the library and you will come to some of our colleagues’ offices: the Director, the administrative team, the Development office and, of course, the library office.
To get to the mezzanine you don’t go through the barrier, but turn right and go through the door by the lockers. The mezzanine houses the IHR research centres. On the upper level you can find the Centre for Metropolitan History and the Victoria County History, as well as our postgraduate study area. On the lower mezzanine you’ll find Digital Publications and the Research Training office.
If in doubt you can always ask Beresford or Glen, our ever-helpful reception staff.
The IHR Publications team (now including IHR Digital) has never been located in one place. At our most dispersed we were divided over four floors, from the old IHR basement to the third floor. For all but the most health conscious this involved considerable use of the lift! More importantly, it meant that it wasn’t easy just to drop in on colleagues to ask them a quick question, or even for a chat.
With the relocation, however, the whole team is finally co-located in the lower mezzanine, between the north and south blocks of Senate House. The space is different to that elsewhere in the building, as it was originally intended for book storage rather than office use. Consequently the ceilings are quite low (in striking contrast to the rooms in the north block) and some of the larger offices have weight-bearing pillars rather awkwardly in the middle of the room. But we do have lovely views of Russell Square on the one side, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University sunken garden on the other.
For some members of the team it has also meant coming home. Until as recently as two years ago what was then called the e-publications office was based in the lower mezzanine. Over the past 24 months it has been refurbished and rewired, and four people have returned to exactly the same office as before – but with a new coat of paint, better carpet and, vitally for our digital projects, robust wiring.
Most people, even those who work in Senate House, don’t know that the mezzanine exists, and it’s involved quite a bit of explanation every time we have visitors. But new signage will be going up soon, and you can find us just to the right of the new IHR reception desk on the third floor of south block.
The 2011-2012 IHR research seminars are just around the corner. Last month I updated this site with a list of seminar groups who had already posted their new programme online and new locations due to the relocation of the IHR. It looks to be a fantastic and diverse programme yet again. So here is a quick update for the other seminar groups that have now released information about their 2011-2012 series:
The IHR is now relocated into its temporary space on 2nd and 3rd floors of the South Block of Senate House. The library can be found on floor 3 sharing a site with the Institute of Classical Studies Library. The Director, development office and administrative staff can also be found here. The Publications, IHR Digital and two research centres CMH and VCH are located across the upper and lower mezzanine areas which are accessible from the 3rd floor of Senate House.
We are currently setting up a new postgraduate area in the mezzanine.
The 'new' IHR library
For members with lockers these can be found in the basement of Senate House. Take the stairs or elevator to Senate House basement and turn right. The lockers are located along the corridors.
We are still waiting for our signage to be delivered. For the time being we have temporary signs posted.
We are very happy to receive comments on our new surroundings. Please let us know how we might improve them further.
Directions to the IHR: Enter the South Block of Senate House and take either the stairs or lifts to the third floor (to your left opposite the Senate House main reception). When you reach the third floor the IHR reception is directly in front of you as you exit the lifts.
The library is directly behind the reception desk. Please ask our receptionist for further directions if required.
We are rapidly approaching the start of a new academic year and therefore a new season for our research seminar programmes. Most of the seminars for the next year will still run in the Senate House building in which the IHR is located but will likely have a room change due to the temporary relocation.
Below are a list of seminar groups that have released details of their new programme and venue location.