Today will be the last time that I step into my 3rdfloor office in its current form. Soon I will be in new digs along with the
rest of the Institute elsewhere in Senate House. As I look at all the crates filled with IHR materials that currentlysurround me, the empty desks, and the echo of empty halls now that the library books have gone, I can’t help but feel a little sad. Yes, in two years time we will be returning to a brand new IHR (which is an exciting thought) but there are so many memories of the old (which I suppose it now is) that makes leaving a little difficult.
Personally, I’ve only worked at the IHR since 2010 but my relationship with the Institute begins some five or six years earlier. My introduction to the IHR occurred during a research training trip to London as part of my History MA course at the University of Hull. I clearly remember being led through the sliding glass doors at the Reception and walking up the marble staircase to the third floor. It was in the corridor behind
a locked door that we were given a brief introduction to the IHR and VCH (Victoria County History). The same location where I currently sit, writing this post. Since then I have made extensive use of the England room and have enjoyed the occasional meal in the common room. The various seminars and conferences that I have attended have often been made all the better by being surrounded by shelves full of library books. Somehow it feels right that a seminar should take place in such a location.
Whilst the Institute has modernised and re-invented itself over the years it has also maintained its core purposes which are also reflected in the rooms and corridors in which it has lived and thrived. The reference library as a place for silent and serious study; the common room for relaxed discussion; the seminar rooms for presentations and more serious questioning all continue to this day. The temporary relocation will of course provide a challenge for us to maintain these characteristics that make the IHR what it is. I believe (and hope) that together we will rise to that challenge and when the IHR returns in two years time it will be even better prepared to carry out its mission. In the meantime I look forward to getting used to my new digs and rediscovering the IHR all over again.