Engaging with students at London Metropolitan Archives

London Metropolitan Archives open day posterHere at London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) the collections are vast and like so many other archives, can be of great use to so many different types of people.

Family historians can find vital and sometimes surprising information about their relatives; local historians can map changes in street names; those with an interest in fashion, media or military history, to list but a few, can all find records to get excited about.

It’s very true that the inhabitants and events of the past are never far from the noise, hustle and bustle of the present.

Academics and university students also find records of great importance for their studies and often make use of quite obscure collections.

In my short time at LMA, I have seen how a tiny detail nestled in a vast architectural plan or buried in pages of committee minutes can create great excitement for students.

The staff at LMA are always working to give a fantastic service to university students. We welcome groups of undergraduates here for work experience and introductory sessions, helping them get to grips with our catalogue and find some intriguing stories in our collections.

However, statistics have shown that we have fewer undergraduate students using our collections than other students such as postgraduates. With a new Open Day for Students, we’re aiming to open the archives up to new student visitors.

Experience LMA on Friday 28 February aims to introduce students to the collections and catalogue and also introduce career discussions through a number of free bookable sessions.

Our Research Support sessions will provide tips on the best way to navigate around our catalogue.

With the right keywords, there is a wealth of information to discover – social history can be seen in community records such as those relating to the Black Caribbean community[1] while the Foundling Hospital billet books provide further evidence of the lives and experiences of some 18th century people. The billet books not only highlight stories of tragedy and the children who were given up but remain one of the few textile resources for the study of what people, including poor people were wearing in the 18th century. These books contain tokens or small clothing remnants, which acted as the only link between mother and baby and allowed for identification if the mother came back for her child at a later date.[2]

No visit to an archive would be complete without viewing some original documents. We’ll make sure attendees can see how to get the most out of material with practical experience.

Attendees can also book onto one of two Behind the Scenes Tours, in which we will give students a more detailed insight into the workings of a modern archive.

For those interested in going into the archive sector, sometimes the best way to find out more is to tour and chat!

Archives have so many considerations, from the most modern conservation techniques to providing an excellent service to whoever walks in the door. In my (albeit limited) experience, the major consideration is finding a balance between the two; preserving documents and getting the records’ stories out there, to stimulate the curiosity of the public as they begin finding out about their heritage and history.

And because of this, there are a myriad of roles we want students to see. Finding our way around the labyrinth that is LMA, we’ll see staff working with documents as they arrive with us and staff working to digitise records and maintain an accessible online presence.

For those wanting to chat and gain an insight into careers and the archive sector, we have two free, bookable discussion panels, called “How do I?…”. Experts from across LMA departments and representatives from the Archives Record Association will discuss the ins and outs of “what I do” and “how I got here.”

Our aim for all these free, bookable sessions is for students to go away excited about LMA, curious about the collections we have here and with a few more ideas about the possibilities they could explore when getting started in a career after university.

We hope to create more events and activities after Experience LMA to further cement students’ relationship with our archives and to see more and more curious students populating our Reading Room!

To book one or more of the free sessions on Experience LMA, call 020 7332 3851 or search our Experience LMA sessions on Eventbrite

www.lmaresearch.eventbrite.co.uk Research Workshops

www.lmatour.eventbrite.co.uk  Behind the Scenes Tours

www.lmahowdoi.eventbrite.co.uk  How Do I?…careers panel discussion.



[1] Some records relating to the Black Caribbean Community: Huntley Collection LMA/4462; LMA/4463; Black Experience Archive Trust LMA/4536;  Slave Trade records, The Cooper Family ACC/0775

[2] The Foundling Hospital Billet Books: A/FH/A/9/001/001-203

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