Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Visit: Special Collections at Royal Holloway

At the beginning of September I spent an afternoon on a visit organised by ALISS to Special Collections and Archives at Royal Holloway.

Founders Building at Royal Holloway

I know the university well, not only did I do my undergraduate degree there, but I also worked as a part-time library assistant in the three campus libraries whilst I was studying. But the Archives were quite hidden away whilst I was a student, and, despite working in the same building, I'd never ventured up the tower to the Archives reading room.

As we discovered during our visit, the Archivist, Annabel, explained that things are very different now, with Special Collections and Archives playing a role in teaching various groups of students, as well as featuring in students' research.

Archives & Special Collections reading room
Annabel talked us through the history of the college and the part it played in women's education. She showed how items from their collections relate to this. There is a fun feature on the BBC website showing Royal Holloway students' room in the 1890s and now. Annabel showed us various items from the archives, including the foundation deed, some photograph albums and the student register showing Emily Wilding.

We then discussed ways of publicising collections. Annabel does an item of the month on the college website (it isn't always her, the Curator writes some of them too) and tweets about them using the library's Twitter account (@RHUL_Library). Heritage Open Days are a good way of getting the local community in and raise awareness of what the archives holds, and leaflets are sent out to local heritage institutions, such as Egham Museum and Surrey History Centre. The annual garden party is a way of making connections with alumni. Archives Hub has also been crucial for getting collections known about online.

I really enjoyed my visit to Royal  Holloway. As usual with these visits, conversations were sparked off with other attendees sharing experiences and we had some good discussions about storage issues. Royal Holloway has big plans for a new library, which will feature purpose-built special collections storage area, exhibition space and reading room. I hope there will be opportunities for another visit once that's built.

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