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Should local history remain LOCAL?

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Should local history remain LOCAL?

Postby PennyD » Tue Nov 12, 2013 1:43 pm

Councillors for the London Borough of Bexley are proposing to close our Local Studies and Archive Centre and transfer the collection to the neighbouring Borough of Bromley as a cost-saving exercise (the projected saving is £41,000). The council suggests that digitisation increasingly allows for research to be carried out online.

There is a groundswell of opposition to this. Bexley has an active group of volunteers to carry out cataloguing, indexing and labelling who will not be able to travel to Bromley as regularly, if at all. Bexley Local Studies has been heavily engaged in a number of community projects with local groups and future projects would be much less successful without a LOCAL studies centre. The move would have a profound effect on local school children who would simply not be able to attend local history sessions at the centre as they do now. People embarking on family or local history for the first time need to be greeted by dedicated staff with LOCAL knowledge. Digitised records account for only a tiny proportion of the material; the cost and practicalities of digitising a vast collection is out of the question (and it is volunteers who play a large role in this anyway). Many items have been donated to the collection by local residents and organisations who wanted them to stay in the borough. With local connections lost, donations would be less likely in the future leading to a shrinking of the archive.

So Bexley Council’s proposal has implications for all sorts of people in all different ways. What does their proposal suggest for the future of family and local history? Should a local authority recognise the wider benefits of pride in a district’s heritage to the well-being of its residents (education, community involvement) and to attract new residents, visitors and businesses to the area in the future?

Does anyone know if a similar proposal has been made elsewhere in the country?
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Re: Should local history remain LOCAL?

Postby Editor » Wed Nov 13, 2013 10:46 am

Has anyone else lost their local studies library? Did it have a detrimental effect? Or are we better off centralising records to save money? We would love to know what readers feel about this issue.

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Re: Should local history remain LOCAL?

Postby Sylcec » Mon Nov 18, 2013 3:20 am

Penny - I am horrified to read your message. 5 years ago when last in England I took a B&B in the locality and spent considerable time at the Local Studies section of Bexley library looking through very old (early 1800s) parish council rates and minutes in tiny notebooks - these certainly were not digitised and showed no signs of becoming so. Regret that I had to rely on my own transcripts, was not allowed to photograph the pages. However, the Bexley local studies was/is a great resource, I certainly hope they do not move it.
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Re: Should local history remain LOCAL?

Postby junkers » Mon Nov 18, 2013 3:06 pm

Unfortunately under guidance that has previously been issued this is viewed as being acceptable (http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov. ... nceproper/)

There is a move towards amalgamating services in both the archives and library services, the example of the Portsmouth Record Office is an example where the excellent service has now been transferred to the Central Library in Portsmouth and I understand that the archivists subsequently were replaced. With the best will in the world archivists and librarians are not the same. Whilst Bexley and Bromley might be adjacent that doesn't take away the fact that these services are provided for by Council Tax and this varies from borough to borough. The experiences in Surrey where the Council wanted volunteers to run the libraries or else close them down has partially been averted. It is a fact that this move started after The National Archives started closing one day a week (excluding Sundays, of course) and other archives started following suit.

I can't see how costs could be saved at least in the first year as that would imply staff being lost and that costs money and I would really doubt whether saving £41,000 a year is worth the effort, are things that bad?. I repeat what I have said before about digitisation in that you can't digitise whole collections (either they are too fragile or physically unsuitable) and that the digiitisation would end up closing archives offices, it is after all our heritage!.
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Re: Should local history remain LOCAL?

Postby Victor Nutt » Tue Nov 19, 2013 2:10 pm

There comes a time when money should not be the driving force for all things local. Continually adding to any archive relies on the interest and good will of local residents and this will dwindle as accessibility to those archives becomes more problematic.

For those of you out there who do not know the locality, Bromley is frequently a nightmare for car parking. Public transport, ie. bus, there is no direct train link, could take considerably more than an hour each way, depending on where in Bexley you live. My latest project required ten visits to the Archive Centre in two weeks. Bromley is not a solution, it is a problem.

Has anyone asked Bromley how much they are going to charge Bexley for the privilege of storing Bexley's Archives? If they have, what's the answer, no-one is saying. How much does someone think this flawed scheme will save/cost in subsequent years? Again, the silence is deafening. Who will be the Bromley "local experts" you would consult when wanting local information/advice concerning Bexley? Just how accessible will OUR archives be in THEIR library? Note that there is talk of siting them in the library, not an Archive Centre.

Libraries and Archives are most definitely not the same thing. To a degree, libraries could be considered similar wherever you are, Archives are place specific. Did anyone consider moving the Bexley Central Library to Bromley? Of course not, the uproar would have been enormous, but to move place specific material would seem to be acceptable and, they hope, the public reaction containable.

The residents of Bexley are not being given all the information to make an informed decision and as such are probably justified in believing they are having the wool pulled over their eyes by Bexley Councillors anxious to save forty pieces of silver! They may find that come the next local elections they may regret their short-sighted decision.

The displacement of Bexley Archives will not just affect a small minority of "anoraks", it will be to the detriment of all local residents, now and for years to come, probably forever.
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Re: Should local history remain LOCAL?

Postby Victor Nutt » Wed Dec 04, 2013 6:10 pm

Thanks everyone for viewing this post. It would be really good if you would all leave a message, you must have been interested in the subject matter. I'm really intrigued to know why you have viewed this, for whatever reason, but then not commented. To be fair, this applies to every posting I suppose.
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Re: Should local history remain LOCAL?

Postby Victor Nutt » Fri Feb 28, 2014 9:14 am

WELL DONE PENNY!

After a brilliant campaign lead by Penny Duggan against the removal of Bexley's archives to another borough, the result has recently come in and amongst other efforts, people power, ie. a petition of more than 3300 Bexley residents, has won the day.

OUR Archive and Local Studies Centre stays in Bexley!

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Re: Should local history remain LOCAL?

Postby junkers » Tue Mar 04, 2014 10:18 pm

Great!.
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Re: Should local history remain LOCAL?

Postby coopernicola » Tue Mar 04, 2014 10:56 pm

Rather belatedly I'd also like to say that keeping local archives, and indeed libraries, is really important. In the Yorkshire & Lincolnshire area budgets for local councils are being squeezed and they are currently planning to reduce library services. It's only a matter of time before the archives are targeted. Both services are staffed by great people who are experts in their fields. We need to ensure we support them, and visit them, as much as possible. I for one don't know how I would manage without my local library or archive.

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