– notes, frequently asked questions and useful links from the archivist and curator of manuscripts at Balliol College, University of Oxford. Opinions expressed are the author's own.

Q&A – closure

Can’t think why I haven’t posted this before – it must be my single most frequently and regularly received enquiry this year! 

Q: I am aware from your website / other source that Balliol’s archives and manuscripts are currently closed to readers. I would like to come and look at MS xx next week anyway. I hope you will be able to make an exception for me.

A: Thank you for your enquiry re consulting MS xx at Balliol. I’m sorry if the website is not clear (but it is); the working (modern) student library is not closed, but all special collections are and will be until October 2011.
I receive requests similar to yours at least once a week but I cannot make exceptions to the closure. We are working very hard to make sure the collections will all be in their new facilities and ready to open for business as usual by the beginning of Michaelmas Term, and if I honoured all such requests, which would be the only fair way, the move would never get finished.

Enquirers can have no idea of the scale of such a project even for a single college’s special collections. I suspect there is an element of assumption here as well; to the rest of the world it must seem obvious that Oxbridge colleges, vastly wealthy as they are and world-leading bastions of understanding of and appreciation for all things ancient and erudite, must of course have well-staffed and beautifully-appointed archives and special collections libraries. Some have – I may say a few have, and certainly Balliol’s facilities will shortly compare with any anywhere – but this is generally not true.

For more about Balliol’s archives and manuscripts and their ongoing to St Cross, please see this recent post and keep an eye on updates from the facebook page.

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