On Monday 14th December, a group of the trainees were fortunate enough to visit the headquarters of the Guardian Media Group and meet with both the library and archive teams.
The Manchester Guardian was founded in 1821 by John Edward Taylor and gained national and international acclaim under the editorship of C P Scott who held the post of editor from 1857 to 1914. In addition, Scott bought the paper in 1907 following the death of Taylor’s son and as we learned during the course of our visit, the Scott Trust still maintains ownership of the paper today. The paper moved to its current building in King’s Place near to King’s Cross station in 2008, with the glass-fronted, open plan office space and modern design marking a significant shift for the newspaper.
Upon arrival we were met by Philippa Mole, Acting Head of Archive, who led us on a tour of the building, including the exhibition space, reading room and the photographic and print archive stores. During the tour of the archive, we were able to view a selection of the incredibly eclectic objects kept within the stores. These ranged from negatives of the Beatles, notebooks of renowned Guardian cartoonists, an early example of a ‘laptop’ (the Tandy portable computer from 1983), Betamax film rolls and photographs of an array of famous historical figures. The archive also contains, somewhat surprisingly and initially rather alarmingly, an array of miniature coffins used to mark significant moments over the course of the paper’s history (for example, Philippa explained that a mock funeral was held in 1987 to mark the end of hot metal printing at the newspaper. Crowds of staff turned out for the event, with the pallbearers even donning top hats!)
In addition, Philippa also took time to explain the day-to-day tasks involved with the running of the archive service. The archive holds official records of both the Guardian and the Observer newspapers, as well as acquiring material from people who have been associated with the papers. As Philippa explained however, the archive does not actually contain the newspapers themselves. She noted that the archive deals with a broad swathe of inquiries both internally and externally from private researchers and students. Additionally, the role of the archive team includes creating web resources, writing blog posts, organising tours of the archive for staff and arranging outreach activities.
The archive’s trainee Helen and Information Manager Richard Nelsson, also took time to speak with us and explained their respective roles within the archive and library teams. Richard provided a fascinating insight into the role of the library department, explaining how the team conducts background research for interviews, collates reports for publication departments, produces content for both the print newspaper and online edition, create timelines, attach corrections to articles in the newspaper’s internal database, and compile the daily birthdays column.
Al three kindly answered several questions from the trainees, with topics ranging from if there was a need to justify the existence of a library team within a news media organisation, to electronic data subscription services and the number of research enquiries the team receive. Philippa noted that we were welcome to contact her with any further queries we might have and kindly provided us all with a free copy of the day’s newspaper!
Many thanks once again to Philippa, Richard and Helen for devoting so much of their time to helping us get to know both a fascinating archival collection and understanding the role of libraries and archives within the media sector. The insight we gained was truly invaluable and will be of great assistance as we all begin to embark on our careers into the sector.
For further information about the Guardian Archive and the work of the Library Team see: