The Ghosts of Senate House is one part of a creative research project led by Sarah Sparkes. It serves as an archive for uncanny, apocryphal stories emanating from Senate House. These stories formed part of "a Magical library for the 21st Century" an archive of writings, recordings, artwork, artefacts, and other contributions, which was first shown at the University of London as part of The Bloomsbury Festival October 2011.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Tom Ruffles remembers the old HPL

Tom Ruffles has posted a fascinating and informative account on his blog detailing his memories of the Harry Price Library when it was still possible to access the contents of this unique archive together in one location. Tom was a regular visitor to the Harry Price Library (HPL) in the late 1980s and early 1990s when he was undertaking a part-time psychology degree at Birkbeck. 

Here are some extracts from Tom's reminiscences:

"The space occupied by the HPL had a cosy feeling (or perhaps that is nostalgia giving it a glow). The wind used to whistle round, which was atmospheric. There was a good view but there was never time to spare for looking out of windows. Sometimes there would be other people working at the small tables and I seem to remember there was only space for three people at any one time. The rest of the floor was very quiet, seemingly unvisited. I remember going for a walk around the deserted stacks, finding it creepy and unnerving in the semi-darkness"
The Old Harry Price Library
Photograph by Tom Ruffles

"The librarian in charge of the HPL, Alan Wesencraft, was extremely welcoming and helpful Alan, or Wesey as he was generally known, had actually retired in 1977 and worked only part-time as the HPL’s Honorary Curator, so eventually I, like other regulars, was given a card that enabled me to ask for the key if he was not there and travel up to the HPL where I would work unsupervised and often alone"
Another view of the old HPL -
Photograph by Tom Ruffles
"Despite the cramped environment everything was well organised. There was always a huge feeling of serendipity when browsing the shelves, not knowing what might turn up. You felt like a small child in a toyshop, wanting to see everything as quickly as possible, unable to decide what to look at first, knowing you could spend years in there and only scratch the surface. In addition to the shelves of books there were film canisters on the window ledges, and filing cabinets with photographs, correspondence and clippings. One cabinet housed Eric Dingwall’s files, now sadly embargoed but then freely available to researchers. Had I realised that they would become inaccessible I would have made more use of them when I had the opportunity."

"Sitting in the room, there was a sense of continuity with the past, and one could feel that Harry Price himself might put his head round the door to see how you were getting on, and tell you about the collection of which he was so justifiably proud."

You can read more about Tom Ruffles memories of the old HPL on his blog  HERE

Tom Ruffles is Hon. Review Editor, Journal of the Society for Psychical Research and author of "Ghost Images: Cinema of the Afterlife"

Read more about the SPR HERE

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