Matt Houlbrook: mobile historian; beard growing, head shaving; occasional cycling.
I once worked part-time in the archives service at Birmingham’s old Central Library. That experience taught me that archives services do far more than help with a bit of post-Christmas family history research. They give people an interest in a place, and sense of pride in a place, and they are an effective marketing tool for a city to the wider world.
Even if you’ve never set foot in an archive you might well know that they contain exciting things. TV historians wearing white gloves – usually unnecessarily – often manage to find something precious in them.
Yet the importance of the documents themselves, and the stores in which they sit, is far greater than this simple image suggests; archives aren’t for special occasions and their value goes beyond being historical eye candy. That said, Birmingham was recently voted one of the top ten cities in the world
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