Camden archive cuts branded ‘act of vandalism’ by historian

West Hampstead historian Dick Weindling says Camden Council should properly respect the expertise of

West Hampstead historian Dick Weindling says Camden Council should properly respect the expertise of archivists - Credit: Archant

A historian from West Hampstead has warned that Camden Council holds the future of local history in the palm of its hands with its present proposals to reduce the number of archivists in the borough.

Dick Weindling has written several books on Camden, and said that doing historical research is heavily reliant upon the expertise of archivists, and believes plans to consolidate staff between the library and archive will hamper the work of both amateur and professional historians.

He said: “I’ve used the Camden archives for about 40 years, since my student and teacher training days. It’s a really wonderful and substantial archive.

“The staff have built up their knowledge over many years, and if you just have ordinary library staff, they cannot acquire the expertise of an archivist overnight.

“Brent Council did exactly the same thing that Camden is proposing up in Willesden. They rebuilt it, got rid of both the archivists and got new staff in, who are very nice people, but they don’t even know what they have in their archive.”

The council plans to digitise more of the archives, so that customers can “self-serve” without the help of staff.

But Mr Weindling warned: “In Camden, they haven’t got that far with microfilming. They have an enormous amount still to do, and it would be very costly for them.”

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The proposals were approved at a cabinet meeting late last year and will go before the full council later this month.

At the cabinet meeting, Gillian Tindall of the Camden Historical Society expressed her belief that the proposed changes would amount to “an irreparable act of vandalism”.

Libraries chief, Cllr Abdul Hai, said the council recognised the value of the archives.

He said: “Any consolidated functions between the two areas will be undertaken in a way to ensure that the archived collections continue to be protected with an aim to improve access to the archives through wider digitisation.”