Today I also took the opportunity to visit the Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre, which I was surprised to learn was in Charles Dickens country. The Charles Dickens Museum is located not far around the corner. Walking to the Archives Centre, I spotted this wall plaque.
The Local Studies section was created in 1974 and in 1995 moved to a new centre on the 2nd floor of Holborn Library. An out-store behind Holborn Library houses most of the archives and the conservation Unit.
I met with Mr Tudor Allan, Senior Officer and Manager of the Archives. The non-circulating collection consists of over 200,000 items describing the history of the London borough. These including collections assembled by the former Boroughs of Hampstead, Holborn and St Pancreas. Local studies materials include books, pamphlets, London and local directories, electoral registers, London, parish, estate and Ordnance Survey maps, illustrations including photographs, prints, paintings, drawings and slides, local newspapers and cuttings, leaflets from local organisations and other ephemera, theartre programmes and playbills, microfilms, tapes, films and videos.
Collections include charity archives, business archives, archives of leisure societies, school archives, local authority, archives of community associations as well as a number of special collections are held, for example the Heal Collection on St Pancreas and the Kate Greenaway collection.
A number of guides are available for researchers which provide advice on topics such as tracing the history of a building, newspaper research, rate book and valuation lists, family history and genealogy, electoral registers, directories, monumental inscriptions, cemeteries, burial grounds and crematoria
The centre needs to produce some income so operates a small bookshop selling local history publications and postcards. Funds are also generated from charges for photocopying, computer printouts, microfilm/fiche printouts, use of camera fees and digital scanning fees.
The centre includes a small meeting room and a separate microfilm room and exhibition space used to display material from the collection. Last year a Charles Dickens exhibition co-incided with the 200th anniversary of Dickens birthday. The current exhibition relates to the history of the local Italian community. Mr Allen also produced a book on this topic recently.
On the far side of the reading room area there currently is a photographic exhibition on local religious buildings of the area.
The archives, along with public libraries in the UK are struggling due to funding cuts which impacts on services such as the maintenance and access to collections. Despite reduced opening hours to the public, the Archives Centre remains a busy place for researchers, They simply adjust their own schedules in order to attend in the hours that the centre is open. The archives receives visitors from all over the world, both in person and online via research queries. Where staff cannot satisfy a query in a reasonable amount of time, email requests are referred to a list of professional researchers.
The Centre manages a number of volunteers, some quite long term who assist with tasks such as cataloguing.
The Archives outreach activities include a good relationship with the active Camden History Society group, who sometimes hold their meetings at the Archives Centre.
Last Year the BBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are” profiled the actress Samantha Janus/Womack. Some of her story was filmed at Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre.