Way back in May 2012, commenting on the blog’s very first post, a reader asked “how about a picture of what the strongrooms look like today?” Perhaps rashly, we promised a peek.
One year on, at last we have some snaps for you – a glimpse into the subterranean vaults where the Society of Friends’ archives, manuscripts, rare books and museum objects are stored. They’re not pretty, but they are cool and solid with a stable temperature and humidity. Formerly four separate rooms, they have now been reorganised into three areas, joined by a long corridor, retaining only two of the original barred metal internal doors. The massive original main door is no longer in use, but is too heavy to remove: it remains as a splendid visual reminder of the value the Society of Friends sets on its historic collections. In recent years modern fire-proof security doors have been installed and the lift shaft from the earlier book hoist incorporated into the strongroom area.
We can’t bring you the real-life atmosphere of the strongrooms – cool, silent (though the rumble of a tube train is occasionally detected), with that unmistakable smell of paper and leather. And they are tricky to photograph since there’s not much space for the long shot. Here though is our offering – a gallery of images from underground.
Note: the gallery is best viewed on the website, so if you’re reading this post in an email, or on a phone, click on the title link at the top of the email to go to the full web version. To view an image at full size in a gallery, click on it; to close the gallery down again and go back to the blogpost, click the x in the top left hand corner.
We could have looked after the Crown Jewels from the size of that old door! Joan Huddleston
Thanks so much for posting these. I first came to the Library to work on my dissertation in 1973, when Malcolm Thomas and Jon North were still new to the staff. I have learned to recognize the sound of the book lift and have received deliveries from many of the shelves portrayed, but I enjoyed seeing the place where the lift and documents are coming from. With appreciation,
Greetings Judy! Glad you liked the photographs (snaps, really) of the strongrooms. As a regular visitor to the Library since your student days in 1973 you must have witnessed a few changes, including the remodelled reading room and the reconfiguration of the strongrooms. It’s reassuring for all of us that the basic strongroom environment has always been, and still is, good for storing books, archives and museum objects – cool, dry (but not too dry) and secure.