Sunday 26 July 2015

Collecting Cultures update

Avid readers of the Seven Stories Collections Blog may have noticed that so far this year little mention has been made of any new acquisitions to our Collection. This is by no means a reflection of our collecting activity this year. On the contrary, we’re very happy to say that we’ve been making and planning some very exciting new acquisitions under the first part of our HLF Collecting Cultures project.

Photograph by Damian Wootten for Seven Stories, National Centre for Children's Books

Some of you may be aware that towards the end of last year we were delighted to announce that Seven Stories had been awarded a grant of £341,500 as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund Collecting Cultures programme – designed to enable a range of museums across the country to enhance their collections through the purchase of new material. This substantial grant will help us to build on our already internationally significant Collection of archives and books (you can read our original announcement here:

Photograph by Damian Wootten for Seven Stories, National Centre for Children's Books

In the 1990s, when Seven Stories (then known as the Centre for the Children’s Book) began collecting the archives of children’s authors and illustrators, our mission was simple – to protect Britain’s heritage of children’s books for this and future generations. At this time, manuscripts and illustrations of some of Britain’s most influential authors and illustrators were being sold overseas – dispersed among various institutions and private collections. Nowhere was there a place where the rich history of British children’s books could be celebrated, shared and explored. To rectify this, Seven Stories co-founders Elizabeth Hammill and Mary Briggs, with the help of many authors, illustrators, publishers, teachers and librarians, set out to establish an archive of British children’s literature.

Since then the Collection at Seven Stories has grown immensely and now represents one of the richest resources for the study of children’s literature in the world. The archive represents the work of over 180 authors, illustrators, editors, and publishers. Our book collection includes over 35,000 volumes, including numerous rare and unique titles.

Photograph by Damian Wootten for Seven Stories, National Centre for Children's Books

As the Seven Stories Collection has grown we have found ourselves faced with questions of how to ensure our Collection tells fully the story of British children’s literature. How should we go about building a Collection that represents all of the different elements and facets of such a diverse topic as writing for children? How can we try to ensure that the work of the many writers, illustrators, publishers and editors who have shaped childhood reading habits can be celebrated and shared? How do we make sure that the experiences of child readers over almost a century can be explored and understood?

Our generous Collecting Cultures grant offers us the very unique opportunity to strategically address these questions, building and strengthening our already world-class Collection, enhancing its scope and breadth, and acquiring material by yet more world class illustrators and writers. Throughout the project we will develop three specific areas in our Collection: poetry, picture books and children’s fiction from 1930 – 2000. We will also collect work which reflects social and cultural diversity.

Photograph by Damian Wootten for Seven Stories, National Centre for Children's Books

So far the Collecting Cultures project has brought some fantastic new collections to the Seven Stories archive and we have many very exciting acquisitions on the horizon. We’ll be announcing these over the coming months so keep an eye on the Collections blog for the latest news.

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