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Archivists from LMA, Royal Albert Hall and Islington Local History Centre

​Archivists from the Royal Albert Hall, Islington Local History Centre and LMA

Hall for one! LMA hosts reciprocal visit for events-based archive collections

The Earls Court and Olympia (ECO) archive collection was the focus of attention on Monday 20 March 2017 when archivists from the Royal Albert Hall (RAH) and Islington Local History Centre visited London Metropolitan Archives to discuss the cataloguing and care of events-based archive collections. The latest in a series of reciprocal visits, this was an opportunity for archivists from the three institutions to forge links, discuss common experiences and share best practice. Louise Bruton, the ECO project archivist, tells more.

Three halls and a court

The Earls Court and Olympia Archive Project has been in progress at LMA since June 2015 with the aim of cataloguing and packaging the records of the Earls Court and Olympia exhibition centres. The archives were deposited in 2014 and work has been joint-funded by Capital and Counties Properties PLC and Olympia Management Services Limited. From the 1880s the two sites were run by separate, and at times rival, companies until they were united by a merger in 1973.

Known nationwide for holding popular shows such as the Ideal Home Show and Crufts, Earls Court and Olympia loomed large on the exhibition and events industry landscape for much of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but they were not alone in hosting everything from boxing matches to political meetings.

The Royal Agricultural Hall in Islington, known locally as ‘the Aggie', predates Olympia (originally named The National Agricultural Hall) by more than twenty years, having opened in 1862, and many well-known events such as The Smithfield Show and The Royal Tournament had their beginnings there before moving to the larger Olympia hall in the early twentieth century. When the ECO team visited Islington Local History Centre, which looks after the records of the Aggie, they were shown show programmes, posters and photographs from the earliest days of its history which bore a remarkable similarity to material in the ECO collection.

Similarly, The Royal Albert Hall has a history of hosting a wide range of events from motor exhibitions to tennis matches since its opening in 1871. It was the RAH that the Earls Court and Olympia project team visited on the first of the reciprocal visits in December 2016 when they discovered the similarities between both the events held at the respective venues and the archive collections which document them. Both archives include posters, show catalogues, photographs, plans and administrative records. By looking at the collections database, the ECO team gained a valuable insight into the way the RAH orders and describes its records, in particular long runs of events material such as show programmes and photographs. The ECO archive structure is now based on the same pattern as RAH’s arrangement which provides a user friendly order of series by site, by record type and event date.

Hall for one…

By inviting the archivists from Islington and RAH to visit LMA at the same time, the reciprocal visit was a great opportunity to discuss common experiences of cataloguing events-based collections. Discussion about catalogue structure, company history, ownership and copyright revealed the specific challenges of this type of material while establishing the similarity of approach taken independently by the three institutions. It is hoped that the links forged by the reciprocal visit will endure to provide mutual advice and support in the cataloguing and care of events-based archive collections.

The Earls Court and Olympia archive (collection reference: LMA/4684) is available by prior appointment. Please contact staff for further details.

The Royal Albert Hall archive collection can be searched online and consulted in person by prior appointment. Full details can be found on the website.

The Royal Agricultural Hall archive collection is held by Islington Local History Centre and can be searched online via the Archives Hub.

12 April 2017
Last Modified:
22 August 2018