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STUDENT TRIP TO LSE LIBRARY ARCHIVE, March 2008

Part of the UK Heritage Lottery Funded project
'CELEBRATING SYLVIA PANKHURST'

Sixth form students from Trinity Catholic High School, Woodford, and Woodford County High School visited the Library Archive of the London School of Economics & Political Science on 19 March 2008. They took part in a primary sources workshop led by Archivist Sue Donnelly before fulfilling their task of finding copies of the Ethiopia Observer from 1960 and 1961. They were then treated to a tour of the historic collections held in the Archive strong room, again by Sue Donnelly.

Student trip to the LSE Library Archive to look at Sylvia Pankhurst materialStudent trip to the LSE Library Archive to look at Sylvia Pankhurst materialStudent trip to the LSE Library Archive to look at Sylvia Pankhurst material

Student trip to the LSE Library Archive to look at Sylvia Pankhurst material

Top: LSE Archivist Sue Donnelly examines some original letters by Sylvia Pankhurst with sixth form students Amy Nerkowski and Diana Kurakina
Above: The archives strong room, and the impressive LSE Library

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WHAT THEY LOOKED AT

Items in the LSE collections include correspondence and published material relating to Sylvia Pankhurst (deposited there by her son Dr Richard Pankhurst); and another set of material relating to Sylvia Pankhurst’s friend the social campaigner, journalist and politician George Lansbury.

The Sylvia Pankhurst archive contains some personal letters connected with key points in her life and the whole set of journals, the Ethiopia Observer (from the 1950s), founded and published by Sylvia Pankhurst and later taken over by Dr Richard Pankhurst.

The students found Sue Donnelly’s talk and tour of the Archives at LSE absolutely fascinating and felt they had learned a great deal from it.

KEY LEARNING EXPERIENCES AS IDENTIFIED BY THE STUDENTS

  • Reading original letters from Sylvia Pankhurst, and from her friends Zelie Emerson and Keir Hardie, brought history to life in a way that they had not experienced from books or other sources
  • The descriptions in the letters of Sylvia Pankhurst's time in Holloway Prison, written to Keir Hardie by Sylvia herself and by Zelie Emerson quite shocked them. The brutality of the force feeding, for example, came across more vividly from her own handwriting
  • The extent of the archive collections and the general content surprised them… especially seeing sources dating back to the 1400's, plus later items by literary figures such as Mark Twain, John Buchan and TS Eliot (correspondence relating to matters of state).
  • Hearing about storage and conservation issues affecting archive material
  • Realising the wealth of material available in a specialist university library, and being impressed that this might be available to scholars from outside LSE as well as its own students and staff
WHAT THE STUDENTS MOST ENJOYED
  • The presentation and tour… they particularly mentioned how pleasant, and how impressive Sue Donnelly herself was! They felt very welcome; they loved the way the material was introduced to them and hearing what the Sue herself felt was important about it – and the fact that she was communicable and interested in their impressions of the material
  • Both students felt that (apart from the constantly chilly 18ºc in the strong room) they would enjoy working in the Archives department at LSE… that this must be a very interesting job.
  • The internal architecture of the building, with its circular ramp-like staircase and glass-walled lift
  • Both students felt that LSE would be a very pleasant environment in which to study, and might consider postgraduate study there in future

WHAT WAS MOST USEFUL TO THE STUDENTS

  • Learning that such a wide range of material existed in archives, and that this could be accessible from outside the institution
  • Being introduced to a specialist university library… which in extent and content far exceeded their expectations

COMMENT FROM ARCHIVIST SUE DONNELLY AFTERWARDS

‘I certainly enjoyed finding out about some new (to me!) archive material and seeing other people's reactions to them. I do believe that engaging with the materials of research and history can be one of the real sparks of inspiration to encourage people to dig a little bit deeper.
I'd love to do more of this.’