PLANS BY Croydon council’s ruling Conservative group to shut the borough’s history archives have been slammed by the Norwood Society.
In a stinging attack on the proposals Norwood Society chairman Richard Lines says: “To understand the present it is necessary to have access to and to understand the past.
“The past of the London borough of Croydon lies stored and meticulously catalogued in the above public archive. “Its contents have been deposited there by individuals and local societies in the knowledge that they would thus be best preserved for the use of future generations.”
The suggestion to close the archives is buried in a paper presented to Croydon council’s cabinet on December 10th*. It merely states: “Reduce council’s role in facilitation of culture – including reducing the archive service to a statutory minimum” with the loss of three full-time employees.
But there are only three staff, including borough archivist Chris Bennett, still working there.
Mr Lines comments come in a letter to council deputy leader Tim Pollard. Expressing the “serious concern” of the Society, which was founded more than 50 years ago, at the proposed reduction in the local studies and archive service to the minimum legal requirement thus saving £105 000 a year, Mr Lines adds: “The Norwood Society www.norwoodsociety.co.uk is one such society that publishes accounts and images from the past and finds the support of the local studies and archive service invaluable.
“Many of the articles written over the years are now available online and our records show that there is considerable interest in local history both in the UK and abroad.
“Are those who propose this significant cut in its services aware of its wide-ranging repercussions?” he asks.
THE MOVE has also been attacked by Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society. In its latest newsletter the CNHSS says the proposal would mean the loss of its staff and “effective denial of public access” to the local studies library.
“As it looks as if they propose reducing the number of posts by three, it can hardly mean anything less than the closure of the local studies & archives.
“Personally, our access to the archives is less important than the provision of an archivist as guardian of those records. “If we lose Chris Bennett we lose a great deal of knowledge and experience.
“The loss of access to the local history records will be a great loss for all. “This is one of the best local studies libraries in the country, it is well used and has such a diverse collection. “It is important to all who are interested in Croydon’s history, even if you do not use it yourself. “The research for many of our talks has been undertaken there. “We will all be poorer if they are lost to us.
“Without an archive service, who monitors what is deposited or what should be deposited? “This may be pertinent regarding the council’s own records: patently, what is online is only a fraction of what should be preserved.
“The exceptionally brief consultation period ends on Tuesday (January 15th) and responses should be made to Cllr Tim Pollard. “Please circulate as widely as possible. “We have very little time.”
The society’s newsletter then highlights its own version of “a very small selection of what is available.”:
ITEMS RELATING to the Crystal Palace area in the archives include concert programmes; the 1951 Crystal Palace district festival handbook; notes for performers taking part in the Festival of Empire; the Crystal Palace district gas bill 1893; scripts of pantomimes performed in the Crystal Palace theatre (which stood inside the Palace) the official guide to the Imperial War Museum at the Crystal Palace etc etc.
A statement from an ad hoc committee chaired by Norwood historian John Hickman which has been set up to fight the plans is also expected.
*Details of the proposed cuts can be found under item eight of the cabinet meeting on the very end of the report. (If using the internet, try croydon.gov cabinet meeting December 10 2012.)