In 2022, as part of a partial refurbishment, the Library acquired a dedicated archives room in the new silent study area on the second floor. The room provides a new home for the core of the Birkbeck College Archive, the David Bohm Papers, Sir Bernard Crick Archive and our collection of medieval books.
The Birkbeck College Archive comprises the surviving institutional records of Birkbeck, University of London, dating from its foundation as the London Mechanics’ Institution in 1823 to c. 2015. Much of the material derives from the central running of the university, being minutes of its governing bodies and their committees, financial records of its administration, prospectuses, calendars and annual reports. There are also programmes of events and texts of addresses and lectures given at the College, a full series of press cuttings and some photographs.
Tim Spring, Senior Library Assistant (Acquisitions and Metadata), writes:
Birkbeck Library has an amazing image collection and I’ve always been intrigued by the people and places in these photos. Within the ‘Birkbeck History’ collection there is a set of photos taken of the family mausoleum of George Birkbeck, located in Kensal Green Cemetery. I don’t live too far from there, so a few months ago I decided to go explore and see if I could find it myself.
the Birkbeck mausoleum
made me wonder how many other places in London have a link to the College. I started off with some
and very quickly found out that most of them have a blue plaque somewhere in
London. I also started to learn about the history of the College, and it turns out
that Birkbeck’s influence can be seen all over London.
This year Birkbeck is celebrating 100 years as a member of the University of London.
In the Library we
have a small group working on projects for this occasion and it was here that we came
up with the idea of creating walking tours of Birkbeck
history in London.
The first tour is an exploration of Birkbeck buildings, from the site the College was founded
at through to our current location. This walk takes you all over central
London, starting at the Strand, then heading towards the Barbican, and eventually ends up at the main Birkbeck
building on Torrington Square.
The other two walks will take you past the homes of notable Birkbeckians. Some of the more famous figures on these walks include Rosalind Franklin and T. S. Eliot, but there are many other interesting people that passed through Birkbeck’s door over the years, such as Professor Dame Helen Gwynne-Vaughan, pictured below. My hope is that these tours will get you to enjoy going for a walk in London whilst also discovering more about the history of Birkbeck. We are a unique institution with a rich past and I think a lot of people would be surprised by what they learn about the College and all the interesting people who have helped make it what it is.