Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Politics and papers: our visit to the Churchill Archives Centre

The most recent Cambridge Library Group event was to the Churchill Archives Centre.  This visit had a greater significance for me, as the general election is not far away.

After refreshments the group were taken to the Centre’s search room and shown by the archivists, samples of the papers and artefacts from the various collections the Centre houses.
The Churchill Archives Centre housed in Churchill College opened in 1973, founded by donations from US citizens and later assistance from the National Lottery.
The Centre holds papers and artefacts relating to over 600 individuals.  Notable collections include:

The ‘average’ collection has 800 pieces of paper per box, with the amount estimated for the Winston Churchill collection being over 1 million pieces.  The Churchill collection is still growing.

In addition to Churchill’s school reports – “… Rebellious character unwilling to conform to school discipline (St. Georges School – Ascot – Berkshire – aged 9 ½), the collection includes his first ever letter to his son Randolph (who was 4 years old at the time).  The letter was written from the Western Front.  There are numerous artefacts – a bronze cast of Churchill’s right hand, cigar cutter and butts, and unusually, a whole cigar from a collector in America.  The story behind this item being that as a young child he took the train from New York to the harbour to see Churchill when he was visiting.  It was raining heavily and he didn’t get to see Churchill.  He tried again the next day but was still unlucky.  A member of Churchill’s staff felt sorry for the boy and gave him a cigar as a memento.
Non Churchill items which made a real impression on me are, photos from Neil Kinnocks pop video “My Guy” with Tracy Ullman (1984).  In an anecdote one of the archivists mentioned that Neil Kinnock had helped her to pack up his memoirs (this probably does not happen very often).
The collection also includes a volume from a German encyclopaedia set kept by Hitler in his bunker in the grounds of the Reich Chancellery Berlin.
Amongst the Thatcher memorabilia is one of the handbags with the contents.  Apparently Mrs T liked Clinique and Estée Lauder makeup.  An early election pamphlet, Stanley, a black toy cat who ‘guarded’ the front door of the No. 10 Downing Street flat throughput the Falklands Campaign (2nd April – 14th June 1982), a black and white photo of Thatcher in trousers and with smiling miners and analysis of polling research on the public image of Thatcher and Kinnock are in the archive.
Letters, memos and press cutting from and relating to Enid Russell Smith (civil servant – who participated in the formation of the NHS) form part of the collection.
Apparently Enoch Powell’s archives were covered in sawdust when they arrived as he was having his roof repaired.
Obviously some of the collections are bound by the “20 year rule”.  Presumably the future collection will also include digital memorabilia – emails etc.
The group were also allowed into one of the strong rooms – which has a constant temperature of 170  C.  A new wing was opened in 2002 by Margaret Thatcher.
The knowledge, anecdotes and thoughtful presentation by the archivists made this a really interesting, informative and unusual visit.  I am sure members of the group all had a favourite item.  I know I did!  When I asked the archivists, one replied that it changed weekly!
The Churchill Archives Centre is open to all.  However please contact the team in advance to make an appointment.  Contact details:
Telephone: (01223) 336087 / Email: archives@chu.cam.ac.uk
I would recommend a visit to this fascinating collection to anyone, whatever your political views and thoughts on some of the people whose collections have been preserved for us all.
- This post was contributed by our chair, Jo Milton. Read more on Jo's blog: www.librarianbetweenthelines.wordpress.com

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Forthcoming visit to Churchill Archives Centre - 4th May

Join us on Thursday 4th May for an exclusive visit to the Churchill Archive Centre!

Photo courtesy of Churchill Archives Centre

Located in Churchill College, this purpose built centre houses Sir Winston Churchill's paperssome 3000 boxes of letters and documents ranging from his childhood letters, great war-time speeches, to the writings which earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature.

In addition the Centre holds the papers of almost 600 important figures and the number is still growing. Contemporaries of Winston Churchill, including friends and family, sit alongside major political, military and scientific figures like Margaret Thatcher, Ernest Bevin, John Major, Neil Kinnock, Admiral Ramsay, Field Marshal Slim, Frank Whittle and Rosalind Franklin.   As well as papers the collections includes artefacts such as Lady Thatcher’s handbag and Churchill’s cigars.

Numbers are strictly limited to 20. 

Please contact Jo Milton directly –jm908@medschl.cam.ac.uk  if you are interested in attending.

Refreshments will be served in the Jock Colville Hall 5:30 – 6:00, followed by a tour at 6pm which should take half an hour.

Parking :- The Archives Centre is signposted from the Porter's Lodge. There is a large visitor's car park at the top of Churchill Road, but you can also park in any of the spaces along the right-hand side of the road (if you can get one of these it's a lot less walking!)

Friday, 28 October 2016

Christmas with the CLG

Join us to celebrate a fantastic year of library love!
We're hosting a Christmas meal at the Old Bicycle Shop on 7th December at 7pm.
Sign up here: http://tinyurl.com/zaqzg3x

Deadline: 1st November 2016

Plenty of wine, lovely food and lovely Librarians!

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

CLG highlights 2016: talks

This CLG year has boasted a bumper crop of exciting talks in a variety of lovely Cambridge locations.

For our AGM this year we ventured to Addenbrooke's for a fascinating talk by Anna Martin (@AnnaLMartin) about the process of publishing her book on the trail-blazing 19th-century science writer Dionysius Lardner. A fascinating tour of the Cambridge Medical Library followed, with the lovely Librarian Jo Milton filling us in on the dynamic service provided for both medical students and NHS staff.

We were lucky enough to spend an evening in the magical setting of the Heffer's Children's bookshop in the equally magical company of children's writer Helen Moss in February.  Helen gave a wonderful insight into the spirit of adventure that defines her popular Adventure Island and Secrets of the Tombs series and how her passion for travel, mystery, science (and seacumbers...) informs her work. All this whilst sipping complimentary wine and nibbles - perfect!

We ventured to the University Library in April and May for further wine and great talks from poet and crime writer Sophie Hannah and Senior Research Scientist at the Hamilton Kerr Institute, Dr Spike Bucklow. Despite her professed fear of university libraries, Sophie delivered a very funny and passionate talk about crime fiction interspersed with some hugely entertaining readings. A real treat for manuscript enthusiasts, Spike Bucklow offered a very exciting preview of a major forthcoming exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum, COLOUR: the Art and Science of Illuminated Manuscripts, focusing on his work on a fourteenth century manuscript featured in the display.

A huge thank you to all our speakers and all those who attended. Rest assured there's plenty more where these came from!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Librarians in Norwich: a visit to Norwich Cathedral Library

Arriving at the Cathedral, a striking mixture of old and new.

On a fine sunny Friday 25th September 2015  a group of CLG members set off for Norwich, and met Emily Downes from the Cambridge Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Norwich resident, at the visitors' entrance to Norwich Cathedral. We followed her through the Cloisters, up the stairs and into the library, to be met by the librarian Dr Gudrun Warren. We sat in the reading room to have an outline of the long history of book collection at the Cathedral, from its pre-Reformation years as a Priory, subsequent re-location, rising and falling of buildings, to the present day when the recent extension to the Cathedral made spaces for the growing collections. The library houses not only the Cathedral collections, but also the stock of the defunct Lincoln Theological College on long term loan, and the various collections from Parish Churches in the Diocese. To say nothing of individual bequests from musicians and clergy and bell-ringers over the years.  Gudrun is rather attached to the portion of medieval wall which interrupts the library office, as seen in the group photo of CLG members. We noted odd pieces of wall, arch and door in various places around the rabbit-warren of rooms, all cleverly incorporated into the new structure. There is a small staff, and many volunteers who make the collections available to people living in the Diocese as well as researchers from further afield.

The Norwich group gathered by sections of the original medieval wall.
CLG members examining a rather large book...
Gudrun described the small book shelves which used to be set into the walls of the cloisters, with lockable doors - although the door is missing, as are the books.  After our tour we enjoyed lunch in the refectory, a beautiful new extension to the ancient building, and some were able to go on a guided tour of the Cathedral itself.  There is inevitably a Cambridge connection: the current exhibition at the UL, 'His Royal Favour' describes and shows some of the enormous collection of John Moore, Bishop of Norwich 1691-1707, which was later given to King George I and given by him to Cambridge University. A great loss to Norwich Cathedral.

It was a most interesting day out, reminding us that there are treasures and ancient cities within easy reach of Cambridge, and well worth visiting. Thank you to Emily for organising the visit and to Dr Warren for her generous welcome.

Contributed by Jillian Wilkinson, Divinity Faculty Library.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Welcome to all our new and returning members!

A very big 'hello' to those of you who have joined as members this year.  We are delighted to announce a truly jam-packed programme of visits, talks and events for the coming year.  Our first event of the season, a guided tour of Norwich Cathedral Library in September, was resounding success - more details to follow on the blog shortly! Other highlights this year include a tour of St John's College Archive Centre (opened recently by Prince William no less!), our traditional Twelfth Night Party in the CUP bookshop and a special visit to London in June for a guided tour of the Royal College of Physicians' Library and John Dee exhibition. 

We look forward to seeing you all soon for a glass of wine and chat about all things library-related. Please do join us for our AGM on Thursday 22nd October, when we will be joined by Anna Martin to talk about her new book, 'Villain of Steam: a life of Dionysius Lardner'. There will also be plenty refreshments and a chance for enthusiasts to witness the workings of the committee (and join us if interested!). 6pm, School of Clinical Medicine

Monday, 13 July 2015

Cycling for Libraries: a fascinating talk about library advocacy on wheels

The Cycling for Libraries project is a library unconference on the move, which visits academic, public and special libraries,  discussing library issues and advocating libraries. 

Our last event in May saw a select group of CLG enthusiasts gather at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit (thanks to our secretary Kevin for the very comfortable venue!) to hear Phil Segall of Kingston University, London, talk about his own experience of the Cycling for Libraries unconference. A two-time veteran of the tour, Phil was drawn to the project by his interest in international librarianship, and his talk gave us a great taste of what it was like to take part.

Team spirit – participants on tour. Photo by kind permission of Phil Segall.

In Phil’s first tour in 2013, participants pedalled from Holland to Belgium, braving North Sea cross winds and cycling up to 100 km in a day. We enjoy a snippet of video from day 1 (visit the Cycling for Libraries website to see more videos- they’re great) – there’s something very inspiring about seeing a flood of over 100 librarians and/or library enthusiasts sailing through the streets of Amsterdam. Passion for libraries doesn’t get much more high-vis than this! Stop offs included major university libraries , like the Technische Universiteit Delft and the Ghent Book Tower (Universiteitsbibliotheek Boekentoren Gent), as well as more unusual libraries, such as Affligen Monastery Library, and the Haarlem Stationbibliotheek, one of a developing network of libraries based in railway stations around Holland. Participants were able to make a real push for support for public libraries when they met with Dutch MEPs at the Hague, and members of the European parliament in Brussels, with 214 signing their written declaration calling for recognition of the essential services provided by public libraries. 

Library advocacy – participants at the European Parliament. Photo by kind permission of Phil Segall.

 Phil’s second tour in 2014, organised by Cyclo-Biblio, again put the importance of public library advocacy at the head of its agenda. From Montpellier the participants followed the Rhone to Lyon, ending up at the bilingual World Library and Information Conference in August. In a tour that embraced both rural and urban visits, visits included the Mediatheque Centrale Emile Zola, the University Library at Lyon and (in a side-step from libraries, but one very relevant to the participants) a vineyard and bicycle museum.

One of Phil’s many great tour photos shows a participant collapsed in (triumphant) exhaustion, but it’s clear the physical challenge is offset by the fun of seeing so many and so varied a collection of libraries, from mobile libraries to museum libraries, and by the brilliant learning opportunities provided along the way. It’s fascinating to see how in Holland (where many public libraries are not free of charge for adults) libraries are pushing their services through bold advertising – if only UK libraries had such a great billboard presence – and trying to bring books to the public by setting up libraries where there’s a ready audience – not only in train stations but even at Amsterdam airport. Seeing how different libraries use their data and manage their services is a great source of inspiration.

 Where can a chicken find out about her eggs…? Eye-catching library advertising from Holland. Photo by kind permission of Phil Segall.

 As Phil has shown us, an unconference on wheels - simultaneously an advocacy drive, a learning experience and a leisure trip – might have its fair share of challenges (the video of the intrepid cyclists crossing a main junction in France is, frankly, a little daunting – luckily road captains are on hand to halt the traffic!), but from what we saw in this great presentation, the rewards are more than worth the effort.

Contributed by Emily Downes, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Library.

Visit the project's website here: http://www.cyclingforlibraries.org/