One of the perks of being a trainee here at the Albert Sloman is the chance we are given to become familiar with the library secrets and stories that most users are unaware of. We are then able to share this knowledge with visitors during tours on open days and library events. As part of the Albert Sloman’s 50th anniversary, a gathering for alumni was held on the 7th December where former students were able to meet, discuss their memories and take a look at collections and areas that are not normally on display. Because an entirely new section of the library was officially opened a few years ago, there have undoubtedly been changes since many of our alumni last set foot in the building. A brand new library reading room with 24 hour access has been opened this academic year, and there is a new wing from 2015 which has a great view of the surrounding parkland.
After a talk from our Director of Library Services, Catherine Walsh and our 50 in 50 blog co-ordinator, Adam Cowlin, we started off with a tour of the basement. Located beneath the building itself, this consists of a series of connected rooms which store all manner of resources from audiotapes to PhD theses. These latter items are usually locked behind a wall-length cage and retrieved by staff when requested. Ordinarily, members of the public and students are not permitted to see this area for themselves so I think the alumni appreciated the chance to take a look at where items are stored behind the scenes.
Next we were able to show some of our rarer items. The Albert Sloman is home to a wide collection of historically and culturally important objects. A large collection of correspondence to and from Sigmund Freud was donated by his literary agent who was based in nearby Wivenhoe. An impressive artefact also kept here is an edition of a treaty composed by the fourteenth century theologian Hervaeus Natalis which is concluded to have been held in the personal collection of King Henry VIII. This is displayed in a glass case on the first floor alongside an album of letters collected by T.E. Lawrence which was donated by the founder of Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, H.S.Ede. Ede was a significant contributor to the library, and we also hold the portrait ‘Woman with Fox’ painted by Christopher Wood. A picture of the sitter’s brother in a similar style and posture, entitled ‘Boy with Cat’, is on display at Kettle’s Yard, and the painting can be seen on their website. More information about the special collections held here at the library can be found here.