New archive access project marks the 50th Anniversary of SOAS Library

By Special Collections|30th April 2023|Behind the scenes, Collections & Research|0 comments

Autumn 2023 marks 50 years since the completion, and official opening, of the new SOAS Library on the Bloomsbury site. The building, designed by Denys Lasdun  and Grade II Listed since 2011 – as well as being the home of the SOAS National Research Library and a space beloved of SOAS alum and staff of several decades – is a notable later example of the Brutalist design that Lasdun made his own and would go on to develop further in his statement National Theatre design of 1976 – both buildings making extensive use of the distinctive ‘strata’ or layering style that had already become typical of the Lasdun style.

Original plan and model of Woburn Square. Reference SOAS/SPA/1/99. © SOAS

SOAS Corporate Archive holds an extensive collection of material, including correspondence, meeting minutes, notes, reports, schedules and press cuttings which track the major milestones of the design, build and funding of the Philips Library, along with the successes and challenges encountered along the way. 

A major goal of the project will be the professional cataloguing of this material to international standards and the publication of the description on the SOAS Archive Catalogue, from where internal and external users will be able to order material to view in the Reading Room. We will also be identifying material for digitisation so that it can be accessible offsite via SOAS Digital Collections.

To deliver this project, we are delighted to welcome to SOAS as Project Archivist experienced architectural archivist and cataloguer Josie Sommer, who comes to us from RIBA. She is currently working through the extensive (and at times not especially tidy!) collection of material, teasing out the different iterations of the planning and build to better understand the material and how it can be made accessible, as well as better preserved so that we can provide access to the records into the future to support research into the history of the building, and also ensure that the School can more easily preserve and maintain the building itself for the next 50 years and beyond.

Project Archivist, Josie, art work

We will also be taking the opportunity to plan some community engagement themed around the anniversary of our beloved Library, and sharing our progress and key finds online and via our onsite exhibition spaces – so do keep an eye on our blog, Twitter and Instagram!

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