Wednesday, 18 May 2016

The Guardian Archive

Last night we went on a Guardian Members tour of their own archive which is based at The Guardian HQ at 90,York Way near to Kings Cross. We were met in the lobby and taken to a conference room for refreshments and introductions to the people leading the tour and also told how the evening would proceed. There were about ten of us in total and we were then split into two groups as the archive and the reading room in particular are quite small spaces. Our group was led by Emma Golding, Archivist and assisted by Anna Chesters who organises Guardian Members events around the UK. 

Photography is not allowed in the basement archive rooms although we were allowed to take pictures in the Reading Room. Our first stop was the photo archive which has row upon row of boxes containing negatives and prints from the 1950's onwards. We were told that the early archives of The Manchester Guardian which changed its name to The Guardian in 1959 were held at the University of Manchester although many items are held here. We saw a few proof sheets from the considerable Jane Bown archive as well as a lovely album containing photographs of all Manchester Guardian employees in 1921. The album created was to celebrate the newspapers centenary but was a gift to C.P. Scott who had been editor of the newspaper for 50 years at this point. He eventually had the job for 57 years! There were some lovely group photographs from editors down to cleaning staff and stable hands.

The next room downstairs contained an item which we would have loved to have taken a picture of, the destroyed hard drives from The Guardian computers. This had to be done following Edward Snowden's NSA leaks to several newspapers around the world including The Guardian. The editors used power tools to destroy them and the various bits that were left are to be seen in the archive room. We also saw some work from various political cartoonists including a hastily changed post election one from 1970.

Back upstairs we were told more about the history of the archive itself and were able to see a first edition from Saturday May 5th 1821. There were other items out on display which we were able to look at and handle including the staff magazine called The Cross Street Journal which was published from 1949 until 1962 and showed pictures of weddings, retirements and outings enjoyed by staff members.

An item I almost missed in the edition published the day after President Kennedy was assassinated on November 23rd 1963 was an article about Denys Lasdun getting the job as architect for the National Theatre. The heading has a question...Completion 1968? Unfortunately the completion was not until 1976 and without the promised opera house.

The tour lasts for about 90 minutes and is well worth it if you can book onto this extremely fast selling event. Here is a link to the Guardian Members events page 

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