Library and Archive Update: December 2016 | Salisbury Cathedral

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Library and Archive Update: December 2016

Posted By : Emily Naish Thursday 24th November 2016

As I write this I am sitting in the Library listening to the soothing regular tick of the Library clock which has recently been serviced and started once more.  A label inside the case contains the following inscription: SARUM CATHEDRAL LIBRARY English Dial Clock with Crown Wheel Escapement 1789. Given by Canon Quirk, Librarian, on 13 v. 1942 the day of the recapture of TOBRUK by the VIII Army. Considering it is nearly 230 years old it is keeping good time, only occasionally gaining a few minutes.


We have made good progress with initiatives mentioned in my July update blog.  In particular a solution to the pressing problem of protecting the library books from the sun is now well in hand.  A programme is to start shortly to apply UV film to all the Library windows.  There are 11 windows altogether in the Library - all leaded.  For each diagonal pane a separate piece of film needs to be cut out and applied– several thousand in total.  As you can imagine this is likely to take a little while but will be completed by March next year.  The film not only has a special UV filter built in but also excludes over 50% of solar heat and will significantly reduce not only the fading but also the drying and cracking of the book bindings.  Once applied the film is hardly noticeable unless you look very closely – we have had some samples professionally applied to assess the overall effect.   In conjunction with the UV film a number of important bibles and prayer books at risk have been individually measured for protective boxes.  Another solution is a cardboard ‘shelf shield’.  This is an archival quality cardboard sleeve which will slot in front of the books on the shelf but also has a photograph of the books on the shelf attached to the front – this ‘dummy shelf’ technique will protect the books in direct sunlight which are in the public area of the Library – it this way the visual appearance of these bookshelves isn’t affected.  See if you can spot the one shelf with the photograph in the picture above.


‘Spire and Spitfires’ is a new project just started with a group of keen research volunteers and oral history interviewers.  In order to take part with the Cathedral’s 2017 theme of ‘Memory and Identity’ we wanted to try out a way in which we ourselves can actively discover more about our own history rather than relying on external academics (although of course they are still very welcome!).  So two small groups of researchers are looking through our collections to see what they can discover about the Spire in the 20th century and also the two World Wars.  Alongside this we are carrying out oral history interviews with people with memories of the Cathedral and Close during the WW2, of work on the Spire or fundraising for the Save Our Spire Appeal in the 1980s – if you would like to be interviewed and have your own memories to share please get in touch.


Readers may be interested to know that in recent years a Library and Archive Advisory Panel has been established to help advise us on the best management and care of the collections.  The Panel meets twice yearly and consists of external experts from, amongst others, the British Library and Trinity College Cambridge – also represented are the University of Southampton and the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre – their advice and support is extraordinarily helpful.  The latest Panel meeting was at the beginning of November.  Another very helpful source of advice are other librarians and archivists working at other cathedrals.  You may, or may not, be surprised to learn that we have our own society – the Cathedral Librarians and Archivists Association or CLAA for short.  I was very lucky to attend a most enjoyable few days at the CLAA’s annual conference in Worcester in September and came back with many ideas and renewed enthusiasm!


In September we started offering monthly public library tours followed by a cream tea in the refectory.  So far these have proved to be very popular and can be booked online.  We are currently treating these as a pilot exercise and are monitoring the feedback from every tour.  Please also look out on the website for the ‘Library and Archive Spotlight Talks’ held every few months.  These talks are free and are an opportunity for us to sahre with you individual items in the collection and to have the original documents and books on display to all to see ‘in the flesh’ afterwards.  Recent talks have included: a contemporary copy of the 1217 papal bull from Pope Honorious III giving the Cathedral permission to relocate from modern day Old Sarum to the Cathedral’s present location and an account of King Edward IV’s visit to the Cathedral in May 1470 during which he knelt on a cloth of gold in the Chapter House to be received into the ‘Confraternity’ of Salisbury Cathedral.  Dates for future talks are: 11am 8th February 2017, 2.30pm 9th March (a special talk on maps and plans), and 2.30 24th April.  Please do come along – it would be lovely to see you.