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.
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.
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.
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: