Now is last chance to save Bancroft Archive before July 30 crunch

PUBLISHED: 17:17 16 July 2008 | UPDATED: 13:27 05 October 2010

YOU may have heard or read about the forthcoming sale of the Bancroft Library building to Queen Mary, University of London, which is keen for the Wiener Library Holocaust archive occupy the ground floor which contains Tower Hamlets archives. Tower Hamlets council’s cabinet finally decides on July, but the contract for the sale has already been drawn up. Now is the last and only opportunity to make yourr views known to the Town hall before July 30

Open letter from East End local historian Tom Ridge:

YOU may have heard or read in the East London Advertiser about the forthcoming sale of the Bancroft Library building to Queen Mary, University of London. The college is keen for the Wiener Library (the Holocaust archive) to occupy the ground floor, which contains Tower Hamlets' purpose-built archive store.

We are concerned about what is going to happen to the Archives and Local History Library, should Tower Hamlets council's cabinet finally decide on July 30 to sell the building.

The contract for the sale has already been drawn up and there are even rumours about Queen Mary college having the pick of the archives.

There is a slight possibility that the local history collection of books, maps, photos, microfilms, etc, may go to the Museum in Docklands on the Isle of Dogs, when or sometime after the building is vacated in December. But there are, as yet, no arrangements for the unique documents in the environmentally-controlled secure archive store at Bancroft.

It is bad enough that the Local History Library will be separated from the archives, even worse that there is only vague talk from the council about the collections being 'reunited' in about three years time in some place yet to be built.

We all know that, should this happen, there will be very little left to 'reunite'.

The Library & Archives are a precious educational resource for present and future generations and the Town Hall has a duty of care for all that has been handed on by previous generations.

It is beyond belief that the council can even contemplate putting this precious resource at risk, simply to obtain a paltry £1.2 million for one of the East End's most historic public buildings (Mile End's former municipal Vestry Hall).

It is even more scandalous that Tower Hamlets, as an education authority, has failed to consult the teachers in its schools.

Had they done so, teachers would have pointed out that national curriculum at primary and secondary stages require pupils to study their local history and geography.

Also, that there is an increasing emphasis in secondary-level history for pupils to study and interpret historical documents and artefacts.

These may be facsimiles or online images, but the originals must be safely stored for all the same reasons that the Wiener archive must be safely stored.

Teachers from many schools across East London already use Bancroft for local research projects and, in some cases, the archivist has even visited schools.

With outreach workers, a gallery and a schools' room at the Bancroft, much more could be done for the education of East London pupils now, rather than at some dim and distant point in the future when half the unique documents, books, maps and photos have either been lost or rotted away.

Now is the last and only opportunity to make yourr views known to the Town hall before its cabinet decision July 30.

I urge people to write as soon as possible to Cllr Rofique Uddin Ahmed, to Children's Services Director Kevan Collins and to Children's Services Lead council member Clair Hawkins.

The address is:

Tower Hamlets Town Hall,

Mulberry Place,

5 Clove Crescent, Blackwall,

London, E14 2BG, UK.

And email the Campaign to Save Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives at Bancroft:

Save the Bancroft

Our petition welcomes the Wiener Library to Tower Hamlets, but proposes another building, one that's vacant, in good condition and near Poplar DLR station and the A13, is sold instead to Queen Mary college for the Wiener Library, and for the money to be used for repairs to the Bancroft building and improving existing services, especially for teachers and students.

Tom Ridge, local historian

(former secondary school teacher in Poplar and Stepney)

on behalf of the

Campaign to Save Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives at Bancroft

Welwyn-street, Bethnal Green

Save the Bancroft

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