Today’s brilliant guest is responsible for what can probably be described as one of London’s absolute best secrets, The London Metropolitan Archive.
Geoff Pick is Director of this amazing London based resource. Just imagine over 100km of archives jam packed full of amazing historical and contemporary material with over 1000 years to choose from. Well that is Geoff’s job. Geoff is an adopted Londoner from Wigan who was recently awarded an OBE for services to the management of records and archives in the capital.
He joined the LMA in 1986 and became Director in 2013, having worked as a professional archivist since 1978. Under his direction, the LMA has played a pioneering role in areas such as digital archiving, engaging with the public, and promoting diversity through work with the LGBTQ+ and BAME communities.
In this fascinating episode Geoff explains his love and passion for his work and takes us through some of the LMA’s outstanding archive material, from the City’s Magna Carta in 1297, the collection for John Keats, an amazing character called Cy Grant, right up to date with the digital collection of the National HIV Story Trust and work with LGBTQI communities.
When lock down is over, the first thing I am going to do is get myself down to the LMA – and you should too. Meanwhile, be inspired and enjoy my chat with Geoff Pick. This is Your London Legacy.
On being an archivist: “…that balance between the practical and the historical. Looking at fantastic historical material but then making it available for people to research…for an 8-year-old school girl to someone in their 90’s doing their family history.”
We all love museums. The thrill of seeing and learning something new while coming closer to history. Geoff often gets asked – well what is the difference between a museum and an archive. While they have some overlapping similarities, most patrons of the archive come for a specific research purpose. They may be working on their PHD, or be researching their family history, and they will stay from dusk till dawn.
“The Hadron Collider at CERN creates enough data – if you put it on DVD’s – to go from here to the moon in just a single day.”
One topic that came up was just the sheer amount of information that gets put out into the world today. Journal articles, newspapers, online stories, blogs, reports – the list goes on and on. Geoff undoubtedly has a monumental task on his hands keeping everything organized and also making room for new entries into the archive from modern times. It is a job that is certainly worth it, as he gets to experience working with older documents and manuscripts from over 1000 years ago. He says there’s nothing quite like having the tactical and physical experience of working with those documents – like the writings of a monk from the 1400s.
The archive holds so many wonderful and important documents along its kilometres of sprawl – and we’re lucky enough to have Geoff handpick several and explain their significance to today and his own life. This includes a letter from John Hancock, a signer of America’s Declaration of Independence, to London for thanks in supporting their freedom, a stance likely taken to continue to bolster trade between the city and the New World. He also chose a letter from Keats to his fiancé that was delivered in a mailbox at the Keats house that you can actually go see – it was a letter before he went to Rome for tuberculosis treatment and died, leaving the epitaph of “Here Lies One Whose Name Was Writ in Water”.
These are just a few of the gems Geoff picked – not to mention his extensive work and outreach he undertakes on behalf of the archive. You can do some research yourself and find more here at London Metropolitan Archives.