This post was written by David Luck, Senior Archivist at the London Metropolitan Archives. It forms part of a series of blog posts on the theme of Hope and Fear in library and archive collections, as part of the Being Human festival.
Throwing ‘Fear’ into our revamped Collage image database (at http://collage.cityoflondon.gov.uk/ ) returns this rather wonderful image from the Chris Schwarz Collection of photographs.
Featuring over a quarter of a million digital images Collage is one of the most important digital resources about London history. Ranging from the 1500s to the modern day it incorporates everything from maps of the City, photographs of blitz damage, alternate plans for Tower Bridge, and many other startling historical images from the collections held at London Metropolitan Archives. The material on Collage ranges from prints and drawings to maps and photographs. All parts of London (not just the City) are included, as are the adjoining counties.
The new version of the Collage website presents a fascinating glimpse of nearly 600 years of life in the capital. Among the new features of the site, The London Picture Map provides a unique way to access images of buildings and places which no longer exist, presenting a searchable vision of a lost London which allows visitors to view pictures of their neighbourhood from bygone days.
Two of the most important collections at LMA are the records of the London County Council and the Greater London Council, the institutions that ran the county of London then Greater London from 1889 to 1986. These powerful Councils were responsible for many of the large scale housing projects in London during this time, and may well have originally built the wall shown in the photograph. Their building projects are heavily featured in their photographic collections, which have provided thousands of the images on the Collage website.
However, if we hold the ‘official’ records of London governance and control, we have also been active in collecting records of communities that were affected by the decisions made by these bodies, not least in the collection of the photographer of this image. Chris Schwarz was an artist and photographer who made his name working with communities south of the river during the 1970s and 80s. His collection illustrates the changes these areas went through in these tumultuous decades in a way official Council minutes simply can’t capture, and we have made over 900 of his photographs available on Collage under his collection page (see http://collage.cityoflondon.gov.uk/collection?i=322292&WINID=1473255960551 ).
In addition to Chris’ collection, we also hold the records of a wide variety of community groups active in London at this time, ranging from LGBTI+ groups, such as the Rukus! Federation, to Afro-Caribbean activists like the Huntley Family, which present a broader picture of London in the twentieth century. To square the circle of history and archives, many London community groups received funding from the GLC, and the grants files we hold can also offer a glimpse into the diverse London of the 1980s.
For more information on our collections, or if you’d like to visit us for free on our open days, please have a look at our website – www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/lma . Alternatively, feel free to approach me on the IHR History Day where I’ll be running a stall with my colleagues from Guildhall Library.