Vision for East End's Bancroft Road local history library unveiled
by Julia Gregory CAMPAIGNERS who fought to keep East End archives at their home in the local history library in Bancroft Road were under no illusions about the size of
CAMPAIGNERS who fought to keep East End archives at their home in the local history library in Bancroft Road were under no illusions about the size of the challenge.
The much-loved building in Mile End has suffered from neglect for many years with researchers cramped into one small reading room, whilst the former library reading room and children's library sit empty.
But it also gave Tower Hamlets council a golden opportunity to bring the building into the twenty-first century.
Tamsin Bookey is the new heritage manager at the archives, appointed after the council decided not to sell Bancroft Road to neighbouring Queen Mary College.
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She is very involved in working with the steering committee of history enthusiasts and professionals to improve the building at what is already a well respected archives.
Already the job has seen her clambering on the roof of the listed building to inspect where it has sprung a leak.
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The ceiling in the current reading room is one of the jewels of the listed building and painstaking work is due on the roof.
It is estimated that it will cost �5 million to do all that's needed at Bancroft Road with exhibition areas, better entrance hall, new reading rooms, IT access, improved disabled access, better public toilets and space for local history groups to use as well as somewhere to get a coffee.
Ms Bookey said: "It is an amazing collection of history of the East End in the most fascinating borough in London."
Archive users will be delighted to learn that Ms Bookey hopes to see an increase in staffing levels to six or seven to complement the highly respected team at Bancroft Road.
Precious archives will also be digitalised and the strong room space will be extended.
It was filled to capacity in 2003 and needs space for at least 30 years growth, all in conditions designed to control temperature and humidity and protect from fire.
The large reading room upstairs which has currently been mothballed could accommodate up to 300 people for events, Ms Bookey said.
"This room has so much potential. It lends itself to exhibitions, talks, drama."
The East London Advertiser won the campaign of the year award in this year's UK Press Gazette Regional Press Awards for the campaign it ran to save Bancroft Road.