Petition update

Library & Explore History saved - but petition remains open

Andy Bye
Prospect, United Kingdom

Feb 7, 2015 — On National Libraries Day, we can announce that the IWM has declared that its library collection will be saved and the library and the Explore History facility in London will remain open. This comes on top of our earlier victory (see the “Education battle won …” update below) in securing IWM’s formal education services.

While Prospect still has concerns over some of the details, we would like to offer a huge thank you to everyone who has supported our campaign to maintain the IWM as an international centre for study, research and education.

More than 20,000 people have signed our petition; the issue has been covered in the press, on TV and in Parliament and unprecedented support has been given by @SaveIWMLibrary on Twitter. Our members wish to give their sincere thanks to everyone who has supported the campaign or helped us.

When we launched the petition we also asked the public to consider making a donation to IWM. Again, a big thank you to everyone who did this. We understand that this raised more than £900 and that IWM will add this money to the library acquisitions budget.

We continue to press IWM to do everything possible to encourage donations from the public in order to ease the difficulties created by government funding cuts.

On-going financial pressures mean that plans are now being developed to reduce the opening hours of the Research Room in London; introduce charges for its use and review the enquiry services that will be available to the public in the future.

There will also be redundancies among staff who, collectively, have more than 220 years of experience of helping visitors and working with the library collection. Clearly, we have concerns over these developments.

Like many people, Prospect is fundamentally opposed to charging for access to museum collections that are held on behalf of the nation. We are concerned that reduced opening hours for the Research Room will present problems for visitors and provide only minimal savings in staff time. We also wish to ensure that the library collection continues to grow.

Unfortunately, we understand that the additional funding of £8m over the next four years promised by George Osborne in early December 2014 (see the “Education battle won …” update below) has not yet been formally confirmed.

We believe that part of this additional funding should be used to ensure that the library and Explore History are protected and maintained. Therefore, until such formal confirmation is received, we will keep our petition open – IWM as we know it cannot survive further cuts in the funding it receives from government.

Again, a big thank you to everyone who has supported our campaign.

We will leave the final word with Sir Martin Conway, the first Director-General of the IWM who said this in Parliament in the early 1920s:

“You can make the Museum what you please. You can make it a mere storehouse of souvenirs and trophies and guns, but those are the matters of smallest importance in the Museum.

“It is in the records, the maps actually used by the Generals in the field, the enormous collection of photographs, all the air photographs that were taken, the record of all the work of women throughout the length and breadth of the country during the war in manufacture and substitution, the library, the map room – it is in all those smaller and less striking objects that the main value and importance of the Museum to the historian will consist.”

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