When Prince Charles first caught sight of Birmingham Central Library during a visit 30 years ago, he’s purported to have spluttered: “It looks more like a place for burning books than keeping them.”
For slightly over a year now, I’ve been working for the history journal Past & Present as their Digital Engagement Assistant. It’s one of those fabled jobs we hear much about and tell students they have to prepare for, a position that would have barely existed five years ago, and been inconceivable going back ten. In practice it means that I spend the equivalent of roughly an afternoon a week, maintaining the journal’s website, managing their social media accounts and editing their blog.
It’s every historian’s dream to track down an untouched archive. That is exactly what Kieran Connell – a researcher at the University of Birmingham – experienced in 2014 when, after months of searching, he received an email from a photographer: ‘I would love it if you could take over the collection of all my images about Balsall Heath’.