This post, written by Claire Titley and Faridha Karim at the London Metropolitan Archives, describes the History Day event held in January 2015. There will be another event on Friday 27 November 2015 – keep an eye on the History collections blog for further information..
For the second year running, London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) was invited to participate in the Institute of Historical Research’s annual History Day, held at Senate House in January 2015. Aimed at students researching at post-graduate level, this day brings together a range of specialist libraries and archives so that students can get an idea of the resources available to them. Claire Titley and Faridha Karim who manned the LMA stall, describe a busy and rewarding day.
This year LMA joined colleagues from the British Library, The National Archives and a varied range of institutions from the London area such as Lambeth Palace Library, UCL Special Collections, the Weiner Library, Goldsmith’s University Library and the Women’s Library LSE.
As well as the chance to consult with staff and to ask questions about their research, students were also treated to a series of panel discussions.
We arrived armed with the LMA banner, as many postcards, leaflets, bookmarks, and pencils as we could carry, and set out our stall. With the help of some caffeine and the superbly efficient organisers we were quickly settled and ready for our public.
The day was a slightly breathless rush through our collections due to a wide range of enquiries. From practical discussions of our opening hours and access arrangements, to specific questions about individual collections and subject areas, we were kept very busy, at one point before lunch fielding a queue of eager students.
The day was very well attended by around 170 people, half of which were from the University of London. Seventy four percent of the students present were MA or PhD students, and it was pleasing to find that most of those we met knew of LMA, even if they hadn’t yet visited us.
The enquiries that we received were diverse and ranged from subjects such as domestic gardens in the setting of the LCC housing estates, eighteenth century horticulture, sources for tracing the history of underwear, Consistory Court depositions, guidance on tracing personal collections of textiles through probate records, Jewish education, and using the quarter sessions records to trace evidence of sexual crimes.
In the main, enquiries were productive (except where we had no relevant records at all) and several students were surprised that they could contact us with their research enquiries for advice. We encourage all users that have queries about our collections to telephone or email us for advice before a visit in order to ensure that we have records of interest and that they are accessible. For those interested in using our sources for a lengthy research project, we also offer a consultation service for researchers who might benefit from a face-to-face meeting with a member of staff and an introduction to the relevant records.
We were able to grab a quick lunch and catch our breath while the students were listening to the day’s panel discussions, which gave us a chance to have a look at the other stalls and meet people from other archives and libraries. It was most useful to have our colleagues from Guildhall Library only two stalls down – I think we passed researchers to each other all day!
The afternoon got busier again as the panels finished, and we were still fielding questions while trying to pack up at the end of the day. The day had flown by and it felt that we had helped a lot of people, which was really rewarding. The IHR put together a successful day in a supportive collegiate environment, and I hope that the students who attended learnt as much as we did.
Podcasts of the day’s panel discussions are available on the Institute of Historical Research website.