We think that the last few weeks have probably been the longest the Library has ever been physically closed since it opened the doors of its fifteenth-century buildings to the public in August 1655. It’s somewhere visitors and readers like to come to, for items in the collections, for the antiquity of the surroundings, even for the oft-mentioned smell of oak and book dust. While we’re all socially distancing and staying in, there’s not much we can offer to the sense of smell; but we don’t have to give up enjoying the collections and the look of the place, even if we have to make do with pictures for now.
Like so many others, Library staff are working from home (you can contact us by email), and among a lot of ‘behind the scenes’ work we’re catching up on, we’re also creating new online material, and bringing you reminders of what you can see of the country’s oldest public library without leaving your screen.
We’re not sure what founder Humphrey Chetham (1580-1653) would have made of all this – he hasn’t posted much on social media recently – but we hope you’ll enjoy some of what’s here.
This mighty tome, a personal creation by Francis Egerton, 1st Earl of Ellesmere, was presented to the Library in 1838. It’s full of rarities, both hand-drawn and print, and centres on Manchester and region. An example is the ‘House of Correction’ image at the top of this page. The scrapbook is a unique collection and gives you the real flavour of industrialising nineteenth-century Manchester and of a pre-industrial past already vanishing. So you don’t have to search through social media posts, we’ll be adding each posted item to a new page dedicated to the Scrapbook – please take a look!
If you’ve ever met the staff, you’ll know it’s not all about being grown up at the Library. Looking for something fun but educational to do as a family each week? Well look no further! Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org and you’ll receive a Library Learners activity pack every Monday! See the Library Learners flier here.
In preparation as the lockdown was instituted was our project to give visitors the chance to handle and turn the pages of facsimiles of some of our rarest items, too delicate to bring out frequently, but too good to miss. The physical items will have to wait a while now, but we’ll showcase some of the images taken in preparation.
The virtual visitor and reader has had ways to explore slices of the collections for a while, and we’ve been able to add more resources in several projects over time, thanks to help and partnerships from fine organisations such as Salford’s Booth Charities, the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, Arts Council England and the DCMS/Wolfson Foundation.
Why not beguile a little of your time, or plan your next reading visit with some of these?
101 Treasures : to get an idea of the breadth of the collections in print and in manuscript that the Library has built up over the centuries, start with our 101 Treasures.
Bonus question and staff numeracy test – are there really 101?
Visit bygone Belle Vue : There are two ways to get there (for those who remember Dinnerladies, neither involves Urmston), our Virtual Belle Vue exhibition for those who’d like to browse; and for those who’d rather attack the collection with specific searches, the records on our Archives and Manuscripts catalogue. Try something like ‘bears’, or ‘boxing’.
IN Salford : Working with the Booth Charities of Salford, another seventeenth-century charitable foundation, we’ve put many thousands of images of the city and its environs online, with many more to come – browse them from here, then break out into your own searches.
Please enjoy these, do let us know what you think, stay well, and we’ll look forward to seeing you when you can visit us!