Final volunteers research session

It was fantastic to see more new faces at the volunteer session on Saturday, hosted by Southwark Local History Library & Archive (tucked at the back of the John Harvard Library on Borough High Street).  It’s my favourite of these places. It manages to pack a real concentration of material into a pretty modest space, but always feels welcoming and inclusive.

It  seems there’s a good strong volunteer team on board Zeppelin 1917 now – a nice mix of experts, history fans, & folk who are just plain interested or fancied getting involved out of curiosity. That should help make the October activities all the richer.

Dr Patricia Dark introducing the archives

Dr Patricia Dark introducing the archives

Archivist Dr Patricia Dark gave us a great orientation, pointing out what was where, and what wasn’t (eg. county level stuff like hospitals and schools, held at LMA). Sometimes it’s handy knowing what not to look for. So a great steer on how to make the best of the place. We appreciated the pointers targeting our particular era and subjects too. I’m now intrigued by what “the Pat Brown Papers” may hold – apparently a Peckham walker/writer/photographer whose work was donated to SLHLA.

Lots of Zeppelin discussions and sharing of knowledge going on.  And on the wider social history side, strong interest in the suffragettes (and mention of fearless suffragist Miss Muriel Matters – leafletting the House of Commons in a “VOTES FOR WOMEN” emblazoned airship, pre-WW1). I’m delighted someone’s covering Music Halls & pop culture too.

The photo collection at SLHLA’s undigitised, but meticulously hand captioned, mounted & referenced. Quite a labour of love, and I understand the late and much missed Stephen Humphries was instrumental in its creation. For me, it’s old-fashioned quirkiness is what makes it enjoyable to use. You look up one photo and 5 other connections or ideas jump out at you. It really does feel like unravelling a detective case, and almost every image is haunting or evocative.

Examining a World War 1 poster from the collection

Examining a World War 1 poster from the collection

The microfilm newspaper archive scares me slightly though – I’m definitely going to need to get better at speed-scanning! Came across some bygone local paper titles that I’m hoping may give us a slightly different take on the events of October 1917. Remember Southwark & Bermondsey Recorder, anyone?

There’s drop-in sessions on Saturdays in September. The idea is they’re informal, a chance to meet up over a coffee and/or share research, or help each other out with writing. Everyone’s chosen their topics, so now just remains to get cracking with the actual research…  Happy hunting everyone.

Posted by Jon Pickup

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