On Friday I went to my local library in Thetford, to attend the local history group that meets monthly. This month we explored materials from the special collections. Thetford library has three collections, two named for notable historical figures connected to Thetford, which contain items pertinent to family and local history: Thomas Paine, Duleep Singh and Norfolk Studies.
Special collections are where libraries and archives meet. Libraries typically contain published materials like books, journals, newspapers, DVDs etc. that are not unique items. Archives typically contain unique original manuscripts and artifacts. Special collections may contain original materials, rare publications and other materials that inform the study of the collection’s topic. The Thetford special collections are kept in a separate room with controlled access.
Aerial photographs, newspaper cuttings and photographs came out of the archival boxes. One box contained a collection of photographs from the Jolly family of Thetford, which has not yet been catalogued. I judged them to be from the late 1800s and early 20th century. The photographer’s marks locate photographs in Hemel Hempstead, Luton, Reigate and other places. What a treat!
Thetford Library runs regular events which are publicised on their Facebook page @ThetfordLibrary and notice board. This week Thetford Library hosts its own exhibition and events in partnership with The British Library’s, Harry Potter: A History of Magic.
The exhibition focuses on the subjects taught at Hogwarts with examples of manuscripts from the British Library collections. I particularly like this 12th century herbal, written in Latin, which recommends two plants of the Centauria genus as snake bite remedies. Spot the centaur and the snake? The library holds modern books on the similar subjects.
Libraries, museums and archives are essential components of the information infrastructure. In the current climate of austerity, funding is under threat. The latest threat is to Northamptonshire libraries, where the Northamptonshire County Council proposes to close or out-source the management of 21 of its smaller libraries to community volunteers as a means of making £10 million cuts. This is the county council that caused uproar a few months ago with the proposal to charge £31.50 per hour to use Northamptonshire Archives. The Guardian draws the stark conclusion that the UK no longer has a national public library system.
Thankfully, Thetford Library is still funded with professional staff. Libraries need our support to demonstrate their value. Do pop in and explore your local library.
© Sue Adams 2017