A Report on our Visit to the Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre
On 6th February 2014, 12 Members braved the tube strike and even turned up on time - except the leader! It wasn't the Tube that delayed him but the usual unpredictability of Greater Anglia trains.
A very useful and informative visit, hosted by their Senior Officer, Tudor Allen (what a delight-ful name for an archivist!), who not only gave an extensive account of the 200,000 items in the collection but also retrieved some of their ‘treasures’ for us to see. In addition to the usual ‘run of the mill’ items that one would normally find in a local authority archive they also hold a num-ber of special collections relating to local business, private estates and local organisations (How about the “Association for Promoting the Repeal of Taxes on Knowledge” which expired in the mid 19th century!). The Poor Law & workhouse documents are mostly minutes and correspond-ence but they do hold the Highgate Cemetery registers 1839-1984 to satisfy the family historian’s quest for names.
The modern Borough of Camden was formed in 1965 from the historic boroughs of Holborn, Hampstead and St Pancras, stretching from Highgate and Hampstead Heath in the North, down to Covent Garden and Lincoln’s Inn in the south. The Library has an interesting and unusual collection of historic records in addition to being the official depository for the Council's records. Whilst many of the records are original, there is also an extensive range of microfilm and micro-fiche obtained from the Church of Latter Day Saints covering local Rate Books, Electoral Regis-ters and Directories. The library also holds a large number of maps, photographs and paintings, the latter collected for their historical interest but many also possessing artistic qualities. Some paintings have been digitised and are on line.
Like most local authorities, Camden is short of money which is reflected in the resources availa-ble to the library. There is a comprehensive card index, which is extensively cross referenced and is slowly being digitised and placed on line, but is far from complete. There is also a large back-log of items awaiting cataloguing, so the extensive knowledge of the staff is key to researchers. A tour of the premises revealed the less than satisfactory storage conditions but a new building is proposed in the near future. That will certainly lead to relocation and if our experience of other archives is anything to go by the records may be wholly inaccessible for many months - so if you are needing to research this area then don’t waste any time.
The library can be found at 32-38 Theobalds Road, London, WC1X 8PA, telephone 020 7974 6342 and their website is: www.camden.gov.uk/localstudies
They welcome e-mail enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org