Twenty years ago, we first opened our research library to the public. This anniversary seemed an appropriate time for me to see what I could uncover about the development of the library from its origins as a staff research collection to its status today – an integral part of The National Archives’ public service.
Our library was established in 1836 and has supported the work of staff ever since. Until 1997, very few members of the public were permitted to use this resource, although staff have always found it invaluable. In fact, it was considered so important that efforts to relocate library materials away from London during the Second World War – to prevent possible damage – met with quite a lot of resistance, as demonstrated in this memo from Cyril Flower to Hilary Jenkinson (PRO 1/629).
I knew that the library didn’t have its own public reading room until 1997. However, I hadn’t appreciated just how restricted access to the books was for members of the public until I read some of the files in our collection. Continue reading »