Unlocking the Treasures in the Hull Local Studies Library

Despite facing the challenges that Covid presented, the Unlocking the Treasures project finished at the end of March 2022. Starting in early 2019, the aim of this initial two-and-a-half-year project was to catalogue the backlog of books and archive collections within the Hull Local Studies Library at the Hull History Centre.

To date, over 86 percent of the Local Studies book stock has been catalogued. This equates to 615 metres - that’s almost the length of six football pitches - of books, many of which have never been discoverable using our online catalogue. As well as allowing public access, the project also provided an opportunity for the team to assess any preservation needs, ensuring the books are available for future generations.

Previously unseen archive collections have also been made available. Deposited with the Local Studies Library over the last fifty years, these archive collections had largely remained unseen. To date, we have made over 145 metres of archive collections available - this is higher than Hull’s tallest structure, the Reckitt’s Chimney on Bankside, which stands at 140 metres!

Much of the material is unique to Hull and the surrounding area, and unlikely to be available elsewhere. These include records relating to the Mackmans Bakery (ref L DBMM) and the papers of local historian Arthur Bromley Wilson-Barkworth (ref L DLAB), as well as items that were formerly held in the safes in the Local Studies Library which are now under the title of Special Collections (ref L SP). With cataloguing now complete, these collections will shortly be available to search using our online catalogue.

The Unlocking the Treasures team blogged their experiences and discoveries which can be read through the History Centre blog. Some of these discoveries have also been presented through our Stories from the Strongrooms series and our collaboration with Google Arts & Culture allowing us to reach out to a wider audience. We believe this to be a new and enjoyable way of discovering more about the Local Studies holdings, and what they have to offer along with the History Centre overall. 

We’ve made some exciting changes to the library area, allowing you to discover more of what interests you in new and innovative ways. This includes our new interactive touch screen where you can scroll through images of some of our collections brought together in topics and themes. Our Discovery Boxes provide the opportunity to discover more about our collections through a range of local subjects. Whether you are just starting out or want to discover something new, these Discovery Boxes will help you take the first steps on your journey, in our new, bright, and vibrant library space.

The culmination of the project was the Unlocking the Treasures exhibition held at the History Centre between August and September 2022. It provided the team an opportunity to showcase some of the discoveries and holdings in Hull’s Local Studies Library. One of the real gems within the Local Studies holdings is the Health Department photographs (ref L THP). It was using this series of images that a Hull street scene was created, revealing what life was like in Hull from the late Victorian era through to the 1930s. Although now finished, elements from this exhibition have been incorporated into the library area, while the Health Department photographs are available to view in the History Centre searchroom.

You can keep up to date with all the latest news and discoveries by following us on Twitter and Facebook. What will you discover?