Launched just ten weeks ago and already having welcomed half a million visitors, the Library of Birmingham is rightly proud of its services. Much popular attention has focused on the distinctive architecture, the visitor experience offered by the terraces, Shakespeare Memorial Room and the ‘added value’ services: Gallery, Mediatheque and much, much more.
The Library (LoB) is also providing access to its world class collections for research. Such research can take many forms and is available to our entire range of visitors, from first time users of all ages to experienced investigators following structured academic or professional research programmes. I could highlight any number of collections which may be consulted, but taking my cue from LoB’s ‘Rings of Steel’, I will concentrate on our industrial collections.The ‘Rings of Steel’ on the Library’s façade provide an iconic brand for LoB. They derive from and represent Birmingham’s proud industrial heritage, which literally underpins the Library: it is built on the site of Winfield’s Brass-works, which was powered by a Boulton & Watt steam engine. Today, the Library holds the records of the Winfield Company and Boulton & Watt, as well as very many other manufacturing concerns associated with Birmingham. A selected list is provided below and this very rich resource supports diverse research agendas. Historians of technology and economic, social and business historians find such resources invaluable, as do family and local historians. Researchers of the ‘here and now’ also find inspiration in these collections for art, design and other creative subjects. The nature of the records contained in these collections is as diverse as the products represented in them. Minute books, engineering drawings, photographs, financial records and publicity material ensure that many research needs can be met. As with all archives however, these industrial collections can pose challenges for researchers. Format or physical condition may restrict access to particular records and the sheer size of some collections may impose practical limitations on certain research agendas. However, please don’t be deterred from checking them out, as many can be easily accessed. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
Please remember that the very richness of these industrial collections fuels the power house of research that is the Library of Birmingham.
Jim Ranahan, Archivist
A Selected List of Industrial Collections at the Library of Birmingham
Archives of Soho: Engines & an insight to the Industrial Revolution – MS 3147 Boulton & Watt; MS 3782 Boulton Family Papers; MS 3219 Watt Family Papers;
MS 1724 Albright & Wilson: Chemicals MS 1708 Bellis & Morcom: Engines etc MS 1623 Birmingham Mint: Coins etc MS 321 Birmingham Small Arms: Arms, motor cycles etc MS 466 Cadbury Collection: Confectionery MS 1422 I.M.I. (and Kynoch): Metals, munitions etc MS 99 Metro-Cammell: Rail and road vehicles MS 1350 Taylor & Challen: Engines, presses etc MS 2680 Webster & Horsfall Ltd: Wire etc MS 1441 Wilmott Breeden: Motor Accessories etc MS 322 Winfield Rolling Mills : Brass etc