We have received an email from Annabelle May that brings news of an imminent decision to vacate Lilla Husset and store the archives elsewhere, as yet unspecified.
Members will know that the FHHS is not at all poitical or even a campaigning society but you will all know that the font of knowledge about the borough is the LBHF Archive. Although some records are now at the London Metropolitan Archives or The National Archive the bulk of our history and much of its cultural depth is contained in the Archive. There is of course the local history and ready access archives of books, photos and some maps in the recently created archives space above Hammersmith Library. The real gems and source material are contained in the purpose built archive storage at Lilla Husset. This was a planning gain when its parent building was authorised; the lease has now run out and rent is being charged.
The archive storage is a vital resource for historians and local residents but also provides an important function for many professionals. Drainage plans and old maps are regularly accessed by architects and planning consultants, residents wishing to make alterations can research their building and the rich history of their immediate location, although not available instantly it can be accessed through the archivist. Just imagine the rigmarole if this storage is held remotely and even worse if its contents were to be managed and controlled by another organisation. Even LBHF councillors would find this difficult and may find charges for holding the archives and for accessing them could outweigh the current rent. See the Local Government Acts for their responsibilities. This was an issue under the Conservatives but now recurs under Labour so all politicians appear to be uncaring where their, and our, archives are concerned.
By now, you will be aware of plans made to move the Archives out of the Borough.
These plans were never officially communicated to the Archives Group or any other part of the community, and have not been consulted on.
Nevertheless a notice has now appeared on the council website under Forthcoming Decisions with the heading Archives Relocation. This states ‘first published 5/01/21’ and then says ‘for determination 2/02/21’. They do not convey their intention to move outside the borough, but this is what is now on the table.
These proposals seem to have emerged from the finance and property departments, who have decided not to renew the lease of the purpose-built Lilla Huset building. Sadly, they demonstrate their total ignorance of the crucial role of archives and of the council’s legal obligations. They are also clearly unaware of the huge upheaval across the borough six years ago, when the previous administration attempted to close the Archives altogether, resulting in the much diminished service we now experience. No background papers for these proposals have been published.
I intend to write to the Leader Steve Cowan to inform him about this situation and to express our opposition. In the LBHF Report for 2020-21 he pledges to find permanent gallery space for the Cecil French collection. But keeping the Archives in the Borough is far more important to the whole community.
Meanwhile please inform your local groups, and write to your local councillors to object and to insist that if this move is to go ahead new premises must be found in the borough. Surely some of the many developers on the scene could contribute? (The Cabinet Member listed on the website is Cllr Max Schmid – he is Finance – no mention of Education, Arts and Culture, Planning etc etc …)