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Home in the IHR library: inventories in the library collection


For the IHR Winter Conference on Home: New Histories of Living we are highlighting some relevant sources in the IHR library. Inventories of furniture and possessions are especially well represented in our large collection of primary printed material, a fascinating way into the domestic arrangements of particular houses and the day-to-day lives of the people who lived there.

Some of the inventories describe the rich and extraordinarily varied possessions of the grandest families in society, including Lorenzo de’ Medici at home : the inventory of the Palazzo Medici in 1492, Inventarios reales: Bienes muebles que pertenecieron a Felipe II and Noble households : eighteenth-century inventories of great English houses.

The focus here, though, is on the inventories of middling families in the towns and villages of pre-industrial England, typically probate inventories drawn up in connection with the legal validation of wills. Many are published in local and regional record series, either as general collections from a local probate court or as specialist compilations on particular subjects. For comparative research, the IHR library is a good place to access many editions in one place.

The inventory of Thomas Symonds of Birmingham, yeoman 1567 from Birmingham Wills and Inventories 1512-1603, Publications of the Dugdale Society 49, 2016, pp.198-202.

Inventories often give an idea of the sequence of rooms in a house, using phrases such as ‘the street parlour’ or ‘the chamber over the hall’. It is interesting to see the changes between early and later inventories. The will of William Robinson, linen weaver of Northallerton (1705), details the rooms and layout of his house as he divided it between existing occupants and allowed rights of access through other parts of the house. (Northallerton wills and inventories, 1666-1719, Surtees Society 220, 2016, p.xxxi and pp.146-8).

The probate inventory of Sarah De Morais, widow (1691), a French immigrant in London, lists the contents of ‘the Daughters Roome’ and ‘the widdows Roome’, both with multiple beds. Artisans usually worked from home, and the inventory of Thomas Grafforte, merchant tailor in St Giles Cripplegate, noted ‘4 weavers loomes, one warpe . . . 2 paire of Vices & a few Bobbins with other lumber’ in his ‘workeing roome’. (Probate inventories of French Immigrants in Early Modern London, 2014, pp.97-9 and 37-9)

Turning from towns to the countryside, Farm and Cottage Inventories of Mid-Essex brings together probate inventories from two rural parishes, accompanied by a useful introduction which discusses the sorts of furniture and other goods mentioned in the inventories.

The inventory of Theophilus Lingard of Writtle in 1744 has a detailed description of the furniture and items in his house, as well as his livestock, farm equipment (including cucumber frames), produce and crops. The total value was £247. Five rooms contained beds: the best room, the little room, the striped bed room, the garrett and the maid’s room.

The best room included

‘a sacking bottom bedstead with blue mohair curtains lined with India Persian, a feather bed, bolster, and two pillows, three blankets, one quilt, a chest of draws, a dressing table and glass, six cane chairs, one elbow ditto, a stove grate, shovel, tongs, poker and holders, a hearth brush, a pair of window curtains and rod, a looking glass, the paper hangings’.

The maid’s room had

‘a corded bedstead with old curtains, a set of yellow ditto not put up, a feather bed, bolster, one pillow, two blankets, one rug, two old hutches (cupboards), four old chairs, an old trunk, a brass kettle, one small ditto, two old water potts, a pair of garden sheers, a pair of cobirons’.

His house also had a best parlour, pantry (with sixteen pewter plates, fifty-five pieces of Delph and earthenware), hall, cellar, buttery and out cellar. (Farm and Cottage Inventories of Mid-Essex, 1635-1749, pp.269-70).

By contrast John Day the elder of Highwood in Writtle, carpenter (1726), lived in a much humbler dwelling, with goods worth only £15. His hall was simply furnished, though he owned a clock. Although he had four beds, one was ‘indeferant’, one ‘sorry’ and two ‘very mean’. (Farm and Cottage Inventories of Mid-Essex, 1635-1749, p.260).

Inventories are complemented by other types of household records, for example building accounts and household accounts. The Russells in Bloomsbury 1669-1771 is based on letters, accounts and household bills. Extraits des comptes du domaine de Bruxelles des XVe et XVIe siècles concernant les artistes de la cour details payments to artists and the type of work they were producing.

The library collection is also strong on guides to sources and bibliographies, and the following are examples that will help with finding and interpreting inventories:

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Home in the IHR library: a new architecture guide


The forthcoming IHR Winter Conference on Home: New Histories of Living has us thinking about the insides and outsides of buildings.

The IHR library collections support a range of study on the subject of architecture, and the new collection guide highlights some of the areas to explore. As well as the obvious parts of the collection, it draws attention to some more hidden sources of information.

We have many secondary works on individual buildings, building types and localities. There is much on studying and understanding buildings as well as their conservation, public interpretation and display, for example in works on using material culture and digital technologies. An 1897 piece in the journal The Antiquary outlines a lecture given at the Society of Antiquaries on legislation in different countries for the preservation of ancient buildings. The Foreign Office had collated the information following the ‘disastrous’ rebuilding of the west front of Peterborough cathedral. (The Antiquary Vol. 33, 1897)

The library has strong holdings of primary sources across the subject. Travel writing and antiquarian histories include contemporary descriptions and impressions of the built environment. Celia Fiennes, for example, wrote about Ambleside in 1698:

“villages of sad little huts made up of drye walls, only stones piled together and the roofs of same slatt; there seemed to be little or noe tunnells for their chimneys and have no morter or plaister within or without; for the most part I tooke them at first sight for a sort of houses or barns to fodder cattle in. not thinking them to be dwelling houses” (Morris, C., The Journeys of Celia Fiennes, 1949, p.196)

Landowners, tenants, architects, policy makers and commentators are all represented in biographies, prosopographies and personal narratives.

Household and trade records give insights into the building trade. For example in the Household Books of John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, we learn of the steps taken to dismantle his Colchester house in 1481, store the timbers in a barn and move it to Stoke by Nayland where Richard Tornour, carpenter, “schal rere it and sett yt up there” (Crawford, A., The household books of John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, 1462-1471, 1481-1483, 1992, Household Book II, p.121).

Records of government highlight social concerns and the resulting legislation. In an appendix to a parliamentary paper of 1864 we find a description of the history and current state of rural housing in a Report by Dr. Henry Julian Hunter on the House-Accommodation had by Rural Laborers in the different parts of England. He wrote:

“One house, called Richardson’s, could hardly be matched in England for original meanness and present badness of condition. Its plaster walls leaned and bulged very like a lady’s dress in a curtsey. One gable end was convex, the other concave, and on this last unfortunately stood the chimney, which was a curved tube of clay and wood resembling an elephant’s trunk. A long stick served as a prop to prevent the chimney from falling. The doorway and window were rhomboidal.”
(Seventh Report of the Medical Officer of the Privy Council, with Appendix, 1864, 19th Century House of Lords Sessional Papers, 1865: section on Bedfordshire, p.148. From Proquest’s UK Parliamentary Papers).

Alongside the written material there is much accompanying visual material in the form of illustrations and plans. As well as illustrations in mainly textual sources such as government reports and antiquarian histories there are editions of illustrations ranging from monastic plans in The Plan of St Gall, various editions of plans and illustrations of individual architects and places, to The photography of Bedford Lemere & Co.

Find out more by visiting the guide to the History of Architecture in the IHR library.

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Pollard the 3D Penguin in the IHR Library


To tie in with this year’s Being Human Festival theme of ‘Lost and Found’, the IHR Library recently installed a new exhibition focused on the four points of the compass and the library’s resources for each geographical area. I was tasked with ‘south’ – creating a display around the library’s resources on Antarctica.

The library’s resources and works on the history of Antarctica relate mainly to the expeditions to the continent and the race for the South Pole. Notable works include Sir Clements Markham’s narrative on the British National Antarctic Expedition of 1901-1904, the expedition diaries of Scott and Amundsen, and the journals of Sir Ernest Shackleton during his last expedition to Antarctica from 1914 to 1917. Whilst reading through the library’s volumes, I discovered in The Antarctic Journals of Reginald Skelton, that Skelton’s journal records the first colony of emperor penguins ever to be seen by humans in October 1902.

As a result, to add something a little different to the display I recruited the help of the IHR’s Digital team to create a 3D model of an emperor penguin using the IHR/ICS Digital 3D Printing Lab. As Jonathan Blaney, IHR Digital Projects Manager and Editor of British History Online, explains, “When the IHR Library asked us to 3D-print a penguin for them we were delighted. The idea of the SAS 3D Centre is not that we think of what should be printed, but that we understand what could be printed and then advise (and train) people who come to us with their ideas. We’re not quite at that stage yet, because we are still learning ourselves, but the penguin was an easy request and the Library even sent a link to the file on Thingiverse.

‘Pollard’ being printed in the IHR/ICS Digital 3D Printing Lab

All we had to do was download the file and convert it to the format (called gcode) that our printer uses. We decided to print the penguin using white filament, so that it could more easily be painted later. We set our Ultimaker 3 printing and 30 minutes later … some feet had appeared. It’s a slow process. Although the penguin is only a few inches tall it took about six hours to print the whole thing. While it was printing we put some photos of the lower half on Twitter and asked people to guess what we were printing. A Moomin, a hobbit and Paddington Bear were some of the suggestions.

By the end of the day we handed the white penguin to Siobhan in the IHR Library for painting.”

The painting begins…

The finished model

And so I began the job of painting the model using a combination of acrylic paint, a fine liner paint pen and a highlighter pen. The finished article was then christened ‘Pollard’ by the IHR’s Librarian in homage to the Institute’s founder A. F. Pollard and subsequently installed in the display case situated in the third floor reading room.

More information on resources documenting the discovery and exploration of Antarctica can be found in the library’s Travel Writing collection guide. There are also multiple holdings at the classmark CLE.92.

The exhibition is on display in the third floor reading room until the New Year and is open to all.

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Library Closure for Foundation Day 21st November 2017


The Institute of Historical Research Library will be closed on 21st November 2017. 

The University of London is having its Foundation Day which is the annual celebration of the grant by William IV of the University’s first charter in 1836.

The University presented its first honorary degrees in June 1903. Among the recipients were the Prince of Wales (LLD) and the Princess of Wales (DMus), later King George V and Queen Mary.

Since then, this accolade has been bestowed on a wide range of distinguished individuals from both the academic and non-academic worlds. Their names are recorded in the Register of Honorary Degrees and recipients have included Judi Dench, T S Eliot, Margot Fonteyn and Henry Moore. A video newsreel film (1948) of Sir Winston Churchill being awarded a Doctor of Literature honoris causa at the University of London, Senate House can be watched here .

More information can be found here: Foundation Day

Foundation Day 2015


We will reopen on Wednesday 22nd November as usual at 9am – 8.45pm!

We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause. Thank you from The Library Team 

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New e-resource trial: Secret Files from World Wars to Cold War



Now trialling: Secret Files from World Wars to Cold War
Ends: Friday 8th December 2017.

This e-resource is available through library PCs only.

Secret Files from World Wars to Cold War: Intelligence, Strategy and Diplomacy provides access to government secret intelligence and foreign policy files from 1873 – 1953.

Provides 144,000 pages of British government secret intelligence and foreign policy files sourced from The National Archives U.K. Content which is only available elsewhere by visiting the National Archives in London.

Contains nine file series which span four major Twentieth-Century conflicts – the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War, the early years of the Cold War and the Korean War. Includes multiple search and filter options and a series of essays written by the resource Editorial Board of academic experts that contextualize the material and highlights key themes.

At the heart of this resource are the files from the Permanent Undersecretary’s Department (PUSD), which was the liaison between the Foreign Office and the British intelligence establishment. These files provide new insights into key moments of the twentieth century.

Another highlight are the original intelligence reports that were intercepted and decoded by the British Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park. These files include reports coming from high-grade cyphers such as ENIGMA. These reports were delivered to Churchill and in a lot of instances include Churchill’s own handwritten annotations in red ink.

Taken together, the nine series included in Secret Files from World Wars to Cold War provide a chance to study the in-depth history of the Second World War – its causes, course and consequences and the early Cold War, from a high level government and secret intelligence perspective.

Secret intelligence has long been regarded as the ‘missing dimension’ of international relations. However, thanks to the Secret Files from World Wars to Cold War project, Britain’s spies, security agents, codebreakers and deceptioneers are no longer missing in action. Denis Smyth, University of Toronto, Canada

Please note: The My Archive and the Document and Citation Download functions are not available on this trial edition of Secret Files from World Wars to Cold War. Documents can be viewed using the image viewer function.

If you have any feedback, please let us know through twitter @IHR_Library, email:, or come and see us in the Library Enquiries Office on Floor 1.

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Libraries Week: Friday


Life writing in the US collection. Women writing during the American Civil War.

Inspired by my recent reading of Sebastian Barry’s Days without End (borrowed from my local public library) I wanted to check out our holdings for the American Civil War 1861-1865 especially from the point of view of the women that stayed at home. I knew we had some diaries and collection of letters -I should know – being the librarian in charge of that collection but still – I was quite surprised to find out we had that many. I have got about 15 works of diaries and letters on my desk right now and that is not all of them.

They are normally located in the North American room on the second floor. It is a great feeling to just go to the room and browse the shelves to be able do a bit of shelf-cruising as Simon Schama calls it ( check out the Libraries week: Monday Blog ) I did just browse the shelves and found what I wanted but as it turns out all the items have same the class mark – as they should. Thank you to my colleague Michael Townsend for our in-house classification scheme. The class mark is UF.5175 Non-combatant Individual narratives.

And it is surely the individual speaking through these printed sources making them some of my favourite items in the library. Obviously the writers here the women are not all brilliant at conveying their experiences onto paper so if you are looking to be entertained it might not be the case. But the sheer amount of different kind of information these works can provide is staggering. Hidden within the details of for example meals, family illnesses, social gatherings and money worries there is a load of information. For a researcher patience and time are required depending on which issues are being studied. However all the works include indexes and in studying this material something might pop up which turns out to be quite essential for the research and to be exactly what was being looked for.

Not all of them stayed at home we have got memoirs of women working as spies, doctors, nurses and teachers. Women from the north living in the south for example “A Northern woman in Plantation south”, women from the south living in the north. Women travelling. Women writing a diary for themselves, for their children, writing letters to friends, lovers, mothers, brothers and fathers. Come and look for yourself.

Interested in other sources for US history check out the collection guide here.

Finally have a very lovely Library weekend and hope you enjoyed Libraries week!

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Libraries Week: Thursday


This post was written by Kate Wilcox (IHR) and Jordan Landes (Senate House Library) during Libraries week 2017.

We are excited that the fifth History Day event will be held on 31 October. The event began in 2014 as a way to bring  libraries and archives together in promoting collections and enabling researchers to discover more about them. Information professionals regularly direct researchers to sources in other places, so it seemed a natural progression to bring displays about those collections and the people involved together in one location.

The day includes a history fair where libraries, archives, historical organisations and publishers have stands, a one-stop celebration of history collections. Researchers can browse the materials, chat to staff members and discover more about sources for their research. Librarians and archivists can meet users and colleagues and refresh their knowledge of other collections.

The first History Day was held in conjunction with the Committee of London Research Libraries in History, a group of history librarians from around London, and the number of stands has grown steadily from 22 in 2014 to around 50 this year. Organisations range from the large to the small, and cover both general and specific subjects areas as well as networks of libraries and archives such as the Feminist and Women’s Libraries and Archives Network and the Engineering Institutions’ Librarians Group.

The organisations attending have expanded beyond London. This year, Gladstone’s Library, Historic England Archive & Library, St Peter’s House Library of the University of Brighton, US History collections at the Bodleian Libraries and the University of Cambridge Museums (UCM) Archive Collections are all coming for the first time. Other types of organisations include the History of Parliament and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and we will be welcoming our first European organization, Archives Portal Europe. A full list of participating organisations can be found on the History Day 2017 event page.

Alongside the history fair there will be panel sessions on topics useful and interesting to postgraduate and early career researchers. This year’s sessions are on the themes of Public History, Discovery in Libraries and Archives, and Digital History.

Throughout the year we share blog posts on a range of subjects on the related History Collections website. A special theme this year, given the date of History Day, is ‘Magic and the Supernatural’. Recent posts have covered the Harry Price Library of Magical Literature in Senate House Library, records of witchcraft at the London Metropolitan Archives, and vampires at the UCL School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies.

Free registration is open to everyone. You can also follow and post about the event on twitter using #histday17 and we will be sharing podcasts after the event.

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Libraries Week – Wednesday


Book Stacks, Book Lifts…and Daleks ?!?: the London Libraries Graduate Trainee Programme

Tomorrow marks the start of another year of the London Libraries Graduate Trainee Programme. As in previous years the day will be marked by an informal gathering of library trainees from the institutes of the School of Advanced Studies (the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, the Institute of Classical Studies, the Institute of Historical Research and the Warburg Institute) as well as those from other London-based libraries and information centres such as the Courtauld Institute, Kew Gardens and the Inns of Court. During this initial session the trainees will get a chance to meet each other over tea, coffee and cake (there’s always cake!) and meet those on the trainee committee (myself included) where we will tell them about such things as CILIP membership, events organised by CPD25 (including the a useful open day, Applying to Library School), the trainee blog as well as what typically happens throughout the programme.

Taken during a visit to Cambridge University Library, 30th June 2016

Designed to supplement the trainees’ work and training at their home institutions, the trainee programme has been run from SAS since 2008 and originally included trainees from the four main SAS institutions but, as already shown, it has expanded since to include a number of diverse institutions across London. The main part of the programme consists of a number of visits throughout the year to a wide variety of libraries and information centres based in London and beyond. Indeed, one of the primary aims of the programme is to give the trainees an insight into how varied the Library and Information sector can be. Given that many of the trainees come from academic libraries with excellent, world-renowned collections, this sector is fully explored through visits to the libraries of the Courtauld Institute, the Warburg Institute, Senate House Library, the Wellcome Institute and the Institute of Classical Studies (to name just a few!). Other sectors, however, are also touched upon during visits throughout the year; many of the trainees currently taking part in the programme are based in legal libraries and information centres (the Inns of Court, the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and the legal firm Slaughter & May) so insights are gained into law librarianship. Other libraries visited in recent years include those based at the Natural History Museum, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the Globe Theatre Library and Archive, the BBC Archives Centre, the Guardian Newspaper as well as the Ministry of Justice.

The trainees loved the idea of the book lift at the London Library – 15th December 2016

Besides show-casing the diversity of the profession, the programme also aims to provide a number of practical training sessions throughout the year. In previous years, for example, the library of the Victoria and Albert Museum gave the trainees an introduction to art librarianship while Senate House Library’s senior conservator, Angela Craft, kindly gave the trainees a session on preservation and conservation. Other practical sessions have included introductions to library services for readers with disabilities, held at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Web 2.0 for Librarians given by Colin Homiski at Senate House Library and an introduction to school librarianship held at King Alfred’s School. During the trainees’ visit to my own library, the IHR, our trainee gives them a brief tour, explaining the type of material we collect while I hold a brief session on RDA and MARC21 cataloguing (depending on your feelings towards cataloguing this is either a cruel form of punishment or quite handy…obviously I hope for the latter).

Informally we also hope the programme allows the trainees to just regularly meet up together socially and either discuss their trainee experience, anything else library related or indeed any subject of their choice (I think that’s allowed!). Also by working together the trainees, over recent years, have increasingly taken the lead in organising the visits and training sessions, making the programme each year truly their own.

The trainees during a visit to the BBC Archives Centre in May 2012 – looks like some of the staff can be quite strict there!

If you would like to find out more about the London Library Trainee Programme check out their blog here.

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Libraries Week: Tuesday


Happy Libraries Week! 

“Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future” – Ray Bradbury

Hello I’m Ceri, I have recently joined the Institute of Historical Research Library as a Graduate Trainee Library Assistant. Before joining the IHR, I was a residential library intern at Gladstone’s Library. As a history graduate, the chance to be surrounded by history and to work in a historical building is a dream come true. The building is a grade II listed building in a beautiful Art Deco design, something that still takes my breath away every time I come to work and look up.

It is a constant amazement to me that I am surrounded by books every day. The IHR is similar to Gladstone’s in that they are both reference only libraries. The IHR has a vast collection of published primary resource material which can be anything from, to name just a few examples, poll books, diaries to seventeenth century military training exercise books, as well as historiography, bibliographies and guides and catalogues of other libraries and archives. This collection has been obtained through either donations or acquisitions and is one of national importance, which supports the study of history and historical writing. The collection is not only in English, we also strive to add primary sources that are in their original language.

A library to me is something to be celebrated – one of the reasons I wanted to become a librarian is not just because of my love of books but also my love of helping people. In Gladstone’s there was an enquiry desk where we interacted in whispers with people every day (as it is a silent library) – in the IHR there is an office, where we welcome people who need any help. If for example, they have a problem with the photocopier, they need help finding a book or perhaps they just want to see a friendly face – we welcome everyone to our office. So don’t forget to pop to our office on Floor 1 if you ever need any help!

Electronic resources are also available here at the library – we have two microform machines, computers for your use and also a book scanner. The book scanner to me is a fantastic resource and a source of wonder. You can hold the book with your thumbs and the scanner will automatically colour them out. The scanner allows you to scan without causing the same strain to the book as a photocopier. It even has a pedal similar to a sewing machine – I may be the only person who gets excited about that. You can save paper and the environment by saving your scans to a USB stick. It is certainly a useful resource available to members of our library.

The library itself stretches over seven floors – four of these floors consist of our books on open access and reading rooms, while three floors are our onsite store in the tower – accessible only by staff in a lift. In the tower, our collection is found on the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth floors – as well as housing absolutely stunning books, there is also a wonderful view from the tower across London. Each floor of the library usually houses a different collection – so the basement houses the military and the international relations collection, the first floor is the British collection and the religious studies collection, the second floor is the European collection, and American collection and the third floor is our exhibition space with reading rooms. Coming from a library consisting of three rooms, the IHR library has been slightly intimidating but I like to think I am getting to know my way around. One of my favourite features of the library is the rolling stacks. We have modern rolling stacks where you can prevent yourself from being squashed by a lift of the handle – you can move the stacks by just twisting a wheel. Whereas in Gladstone’s, I would have to pull a stack individually now I can move them all at once – without fear of squashing anyone – I feel I should I add that no one has ever been squashed in Gladstone’s library stacks! In the IHR, we have our stacks dotted throughout the library.

In both the IHR library and Gladstone’s library, you could find antiquarian books housed with modern books. At Gladstone’s library, I would love to wander around the shelves and look at the different books housed there. I have a similar love here – one of my responsibilities is ensuring books left on the desks get to go back to their own shelf. I like seeing what people have been reading, but also getting to explore the collections by looking at the shelves. When I was in university I loved using the library to research and also browsing the shelves so I could find similar books that might be of use to my research. So getting to browse and tidy the shelves for my job is my idea of heaven.

Another aspect of my job is library promotion. This could involve anything from this blog for example or adding social media posts. This can be another chance to explore the collections – finding for example an inscription from H. G. Wells or discovering other treasures in the collections. It can be rewarding to provide a fresh perspective on the library. To encourage people to join and for readers to be able discover the treasure trove of resources we hold here at the library.

To join the library is very simple: you just have to come to reception! Postgraduates and academics just need to bring their university ID and proof of address. Undergraduates are welcome too and just need a letter from their tutor.  You can also be a private researcher and pay to join – either at a yearly or daily rate.

My favourite aspect of the job apart from being surrounded by books – is that no one day is the same – I can be rebinding, reclassifying, cataloguing, helping someone with their photocopying, finding information they need or having a book adventure in the tower. I also get to buy books for the library – at the moment this is supervised and is testing my German language strength but eventually they will trust me to choose books for the collection – I will get to leave my own mark on the library! Remember that for you a library is an excellent source of information, this is the same for a librarian (or a wannabe librarian) but we also have to find the information which can be an excellent adventure all on its own. Never be afraid to ask for help from your librarian – we love to help everybody. So come and discover the library and our fantastic resources for yourself!

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Libraries Week: Monday


Libraries Week 9 to 14 October 2017

“If you have a great library like Columbia, an open stacks library, I mean that’s fantastic, because so often it’s the book next to the one you’re hunting for that suddenly wags, crooks the fingers and says: ‘Come hither, I’m what you’re actually looking for.’”… “shelf-cruising”, he calls it.

Saturday’s Guardian carried this titbit in Jonathan Freedland’s interview with the historian and television presenter, Simon Schama.  If you’re interested, there is more in the piece about the perils and pleasures of looking after your own personal library, but here it starts a series of blog posts that will run from Monday to Friday as part of our contribution to Libraries Week, 9–14 October 21017.

We start close to home. The Institute of Historical Research Wohl Library has always been a central part of the IHR’s mission to be a ‘laboratory for history’, with seminars taking place within rooms surrounded by books and journals offering some of the raw materials for historical research, inquiry and argument, as well as training in historical methods. The library makes some 200,000 books available over four floors, shelved according to place and topic, with the aim of serendipitous ‘shelf cruising’ by our readers.  Today, of course, these paper tomes are also supplemented by digital material, such as the IHR’s own British History Online and the numerous resources from commercial or research organisations, such as the Churchill Archive or Connected Histories, all, we hope, whispering ‘come hither’ in their own way.

We also offer links to other libraries, not just through our collections of bibliographies (from Chartism to football history and beyond), catalogues and guides to archives and libraries, but also through History Online’s directory of London history collections. Let us know if you know of a library that should be listed there.

Over the next week, colleagues from the library team will be posting some of their favourite and curious items from the library, as well as details of our 31 October History Day event organised in collaboration with Senate House Library. Libraries Week will be all over social media, discoverable via the hashtag #librariesweek, and revealing such gems as the British Library’s account of medieval lending libraries (and their pious sanctions).

But the main thing is to visit your local library, renew or sign up for your library pass, and borrow a book, DVD, do some 3D printing, participate in an event, catch up with local news, do some writing, research on the internet, and add your visit to the 250 million visits made to public libraries each year. Of all the disciplines, historians have a particularly intimate relationship with libraries. It’s our duty, as well as pleasure, to support them.

You can find your local library here.

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