Lambeth asked to re-think future of its Archives service

Friends of Lambeth Libraries is asking Lambeth Council to re-consider its proposals for the future of the service in its comments on the Council’s culture consultation which closes on 24 April.

FOLL states:

The culture2020 proposals for archives are strongly opposed by all 24 member groups in the Lambeth Local History Forum.

This is also FOLL’s position.

Lambeth has an outstanding archives service, which is a real asset to LBL as a place to live and a place to visit.

Some holdings are of contemporary use to planners and developers, others fulfil LBL’s statutory duty to maintain records.

The heart of the archives, however, are the unique cultural and historical collections.

These are exploited with considerable ingenuity – on a shoestring budget – by the excellent staff, who provide exhibitions, a programme of walks and talks, a month-long Heritage Festival co-produced with local groups at almost no cost to LBL, and the unique digitised Landmark picture resource. With better facilities, they could do even more.

The archives are essential to the activities of the borough’s community and local history groups – themselves a rich resource that LBL should appreciate and foster.

The future of the archives, therefore, should be planned with care – and realistic funding.

Some of the most obvious objections to the current plans are:

The timescale for the suggested move is completely inadequate for relocating an archive, even were a suitable location available.

The suggested location – Brixton Library – is full at all times and cannot possibly accommodate another service without suffering severe damage.

It is hard to imagine any way this listed building could be expanded, and certainly not in time for the move envisaged.

There is no possibility of co-working with the Black Cultural Archives, which are a national service, differently funded and with a completely different remit.

There is no estimate of the cost. Providing British Standard storage conditions for archives is expensive, and must be properly planned – not in haste.

We note that the fall-back position (quoted in the ‘risk summary’ paper) is ‘out of borough storage and front of house provision’. This is completely unacceptable, and must be deleted immediately. The collection must be kept together. It is used in multiple ways and must be fully accessible.

We note, with relief, that the risk summary also says: ‘Options appraisal will be completed which investigates the feasibility of multiple sites. Feasibility will also review investment required and where this could come from.’

A process of this kind was begun as recently as 18 December 2014, setting out criteria for an archives site that were approved by the Local History Forum.

This process seems to have been torpedoed by the culture2020 proposals. FOLL recommends that this process now be re-started, and done properly.

The Chair of FOLL is Laura Swaffield, who also runs the national Save our Libraries Campaign.

Laura can be contacted at lswaffield1@gmail.com

Comments can be sent to Culture2020@lambeth.gov.uk

A number of cultural activists in Lambeth have commented on Lambeth’s culture proposals, including on the Archives. See

http://www.brixtonblog.com/local-artists-and-cultural-leaders-respond-to-lambeths-culture-cuts/29711

My comments

As someone who used the Archives and deposited material there, and taken part in its Open Archives Day, I am also sending  in comments.I am very concerned about the uncertainty as to the future of Lambeth Archives and whether the latter will be provided with adequate facilities if it is moved from the Minet Library. I am also concerned about the threat to the closure of three libraries in North Lambeth.

Given the historic importance of Lambeth in the history of:

  • the abolition of the slave trade and slavery in the British Empire
  • the struggles for Parliamentary reform and the extension of voting rights
  • London’s industrial and transport systems
  • London’s entertainment industries
  • the struggles for improved working conditions and pay
  • the settlement of West Indians in Britain after the War

it would be disastrous if the service provided by Lambeth Archives was reduced in  the future, and its long term viability under threat.

The history of Lambeth is also the history of the Clapham and Streatham areas of Wandsworth up to the creation of the present London Boroughs. One of the most important collections relating to Wandsworth is the Artizans and General Labourers papers because of the company’s building and running of the Shaftesbury Park Estate off Lavender Hill. The future of the Archives collection is therefore important to the history of Wandsworth and to Wandsworth historians. If Wandsworth Council and the Heritage Wandsworth Partnership have not been consulted about the future of Lambeth Archives I urge Councillors to insist that such consultation be undertaken.

Many people including myself have deposited material with the Archives. I have not been officially approached as a depositor for my comments on what might happen to that material as a result of changes to the service provided. I urge Councillors to insist that where depositors can be contacted their views be sought.

I appeal to Councillors to ensure that Lambeth Archives not only has a sustainable future financially by either keeping it at Minet Library or providing it with a modernised facility, so that it can improve its service to researchers, to supporting community led history projects, and to increase its support to schools with the new history curriculum.

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About seancreighton1947

Since moving to Norbury in July 2011 I have been active on local economy issues with Croydon TUC and Croydon Assembly, and am a member of the latter's Environment Forum. I am a member of the 5 Norbury Residents Associations Joint Planning Committee, and a Governor of Norbury Manor Primary School. I write for Croydon Citizen at http://thecroydoncitizen.com. I co-ordinate the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Croydon Radical History Networks and advise the North East People's History Project.. I give history talks and lead history walks. I retired in 2012 having worked in the community/voluntary sector and on heritage projects. My history interests include labour movement, mutuality, Black British, slavery & abolition, Edwardian roller skating and the social and political use of music and song. I have a particular interest in the histories of Battersea and Wandsworth, Croydon and Lambeth. I have a publishing imprint History & Social Action Publications.
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One Response to Lambeth asked to re-think future of its Archives service

  1. Pingback: Are Lambeth’s decimation of Library Service open to challenge? | History & Social Action News and Events

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