As usual much has been happening in the archive and library during July. I'm very lucky to have a keen group of volunteers helping to care for the collections. One project which the volunteers have recently started is making covers for books in the library's growing modern reference collection from conservation grade UV filtration film. There are many hundreds of books to be covered so this is obviously an ongoing project - there is no hurry but gradually these books are becoming better protected and looking smarter!
The ongoing effects of sunlight on our rare books collection is also a concern. I have been recording which shelves and therefore books are affected by the direct sunlight during the course of a day by recording where the sun falls in the room on an hourly basis. Using this information I will next be working with a conservator to decide how to protect those books affected. The traditional response to this problem would be to install window blinds but to do so would dramatically alter the aesthetics of this medieval room and would of course require permission to affix onto the stonework. Instead we are approaching this problem more creatively and assessing at each window individually and looking to use a variety of strategies to make improvements - books not yet catalogued and therefore traditionally not stored on a particular shelf we may move, for books which are less 'moveable' we can create individual boxes.
A recent discovery in one of the vestry cupboards has been of 46 slim volumes called ‘The Sarum Almanack and Diocesan Kalendar’ dating from 1865 to 1967 which have now been transferred to the archive. These were the vestry’s own copies and in many the vergers have recorded the times of services and names of preachers. Occasionally a little more detail has been recorded allowing us a glimpse into the Cathedral’s life at that time. The most striking example of this is at the very beginning of January 1915 – when there were severe floods around and inside the Cathedral. On 4 January ‘Great Flood. The nave & great transept under water, also the Cloister and Chapter House’ is recorded. For Evensong on the 4 January ‘A platform put up the N Aisle enabled people to enter’ is shared and by the 7 January ‘the water almost disappeared from the nave but very damp and cold’ is also recorded. You can see these Almanacks in the gallery here.
Another recent and very welcome addition to the archive collection has been a number of recordings of the choir at Evensong in the 1970s and 1980s including other items of interest such as a recording of the 1966 'Son et Luminere' at the Cathedral. We are very grateful to Peter Smith for donating these to the archive which will form the start of a collection of recordings of the choir.
My colleague Helen Sumping (also an archivist but with much better Latin skills that I!) has been wrestling with the challenges of cataloguing the records relating to the Cathedral’s prebends – she will shortly be writing her own blog post about this and I hope to be able to add soon the initial catalogue of these records to the other archive catalogues already on the main archive webpage.
Also in July we opened up the Library to new Cathedral Friends for an afternoon and displayed a selection of archive documents at the Friends’ ‘Tea & Talk’ on Thursday 28 July. At the beginning of the month on Saturday 2 July I focused my latest ‘Spotlight Talk’ broadly on music related documents – the organ and the choir. It is always lovely to meet so many people interested in the Cathedral’s history and our collections at these events and I was particularly glad to meet many members of the Salisbury Cathedral School Association. The next Library and Archive Spotlight Talk will be on Friday 16 September in the North Transept. I will be talking about one of our precious 12 century manuscripts written by the scribes at the Cathedral’s original site at Old Sarum outside modern Salisbury and ‘The Golden Legend’ a very early English printed book. Do please come along to this free event you would be very welcome.
Emily Naish, Cathedral Archivist