Libraries Week: Derby’s history at the Local Studies Library

As we draw Storge Libraries Week to a close we’re taking a look at a different sort of public library in the city – the Local Studies Library.

Acting as the city’s memory bank Derby Local Studies Library holds one of the UK’s largest collections of printed and manuscript material relating to the city and county.

As well as historical information about the city the library actively works to collate more recent and current material to build a collection for the future. This includes specialist projects – such as the current one asking for contributions to a new archive of material about the city’s music scene in the 1980s. While this may seem like a niche collection it is through oral archives of people around at the time, plus ephemera of the day – leaflets, flyers, ticket stubs – as well as more formal documents that a picture of the city environment can be built but perhaps more vitally a record of culture, fashion, and attitudes too.

The original Local Studies Library was formed from two private collections and now includes books, manuscripts, audio, video, newspaper cuttings, leaflets, posters, photographs engravings, and research by local people. Items can also be donated to the library by local people who have written or captured something about the area which they wish to be preserved.

Some of the pieces in the library by local people include drawings by former commercial artist Ernest George Redfern, who was born in Derby’s West End in 1930. After he retired, he produced the drawings and paintings with the intention of producing a guide book for the use of tourists visiting Derby and Derbyshire. The guide book was never produced, but the publication in the library contains Redfern’s watercolour, oil and pend and ink drawings together with a brief history of the subject of each, some locations which have since been demolished or changed beyond recognition.

Of the research completed by individuals and groups there are papers as varied as an introduction to the social history of the former shopping centre Eagle Centre and central area redevelopment which led to it opening in 1975, to an overview of hospitals and medical care in Derby from early times to the beginning of the 21st century.

At a time where popular nostalgia in the city is based on the flawed notion of the ‘good old days’ and perpetuates the notion of a city in perpetual decline Derby’s Local Studies Library contains an objective record, covering all facets of local life, and perhaps not just a fascinating view of where we’ve come from but a living record of a living city too.

Read more from Libraries Week:

Find Derby City Library plans on their website here. More information for groups and organisations interested in volunteering to run a library is here.

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