LETTER: What Future for Cambridgeshire’s Past?

Cambridge Free Public Library has collected material on Cambridgeshire for 160 years.

From studies of Edwardian poverty to magazines produced by wounded troops during the Great War or the latest planning report on Northstowe it has amassed a unique resource of books and printed material relating to contemporary issues.

Then there are maps from the 1500s, illustrations from the 1600s, newspapers from the 1700s, cuttings files on 800 topics from the 1960s, tape recordings and much, much more.

​This unique treasure house of Cambridgeshire material is securely housed in Lion Yard Library where it has been used and appreciated by thousands of people. We have acknowledged its help in hundreds of books and thousands of projects and added our own materials to its files.

But now the last full-time member of staff is being axed. The excellent small team of part-timers will continue to retrieve and refile each postcard or pamphlet from the store. But it will be some time before they have the opportunity to appreciate the full extent of the resources to which they hold the key. So how can we find out what there is?

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Meanwhile at Shire Hall the archives service is continuing its preparations to move its unique manuscript resources from the mouldy basement to a new Archive Centre behind the Tesco petrol station on the outskirts of Ely.

Already much material is inaccessible and the already limited hours it can be made available to researchers will be further reduced. It will be many months before the service is fully functioning. At the same time the magnificent resources of the Norris Library and Museum at St Ives are in store whilst major refurbishment takes place there.

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Other museums and community websites throughout the county collect and display material relating to their own areas. But how do you track them down?

How in this period of cuts can we ‘ordinary’ Cambridgeshire men and women continue to pursue our interest in our family’s past or home community?


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