20 August 2010

UK: Manchester archive in temporary space

A major Jewish archive in a British city has been temporarily moved as its permanent home is under a three-year renovation closure.

The Jewish Chronicle story adds that the material was in Manchester's Central Library which will be closed for the project. The Manchester City Council averted a serious problem for Jewish studies students and researchers.

Archives documenting the history of Manchester's Jewish community have been moved from the library as part of a four-month transfer of one million books, cleared from over 20 miles of shelves. The process, completed last Friday, included the moving of 300 metres of shelves of Jewish documents, which contain burial records dating back to 1798, and records from four Jewish schools and the Great Synagogue dating from the 1850s.
To maintain open access for academics and to Jewish genealogists, the archive will be housed temporarily in the Greater Manchester County Record Office.

When at the Central Library, material requests were filled in 30 minutes. In the temporary location, requests may take two days or two weeks, in some cases.

The website of Manchester Council has a special section on Jewish records, with a 35-page Jewish archival catalogue for download.

According to the Central Library's archivist, Kevin Bolton:
"We made an effort not to send the Jewish archive collections off-site. This is because they are some of the most important collections we hold and they are well used. Both the Jewish Museum and Bill Williams (the major historian of Manchester Jewry) were kept informed of our decisions."
The cooperation of the Manchester City Council - in providing continued access for researchers and Jewish genealogists to these important materials - is to be commended.

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