Help us develop Tower Hamlets collections for the future
Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives wants to create a lasting collective memory of our community’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. As an archive it is our responsibility to not only preserve historic records from the past, but collect and preserve the history of today to inform many generations to come.
If you are are an organisation or sole trader and would like to contribute your experience of the pandemic, or would like recordkeeping advice as a result of any changes caused by lockdown, please visit our new page on Recordkeeping Advice During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
If you are an individual who would like to contribute your personal experiences of the pandemic, please visit our new project website: Making History: documenting coronavirus in the East End.
Can I donate my records to you?
Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives is responsible for collecting, preserving and promoting the diverse heritage of the east end of London.
We welcome offers of records, images and books relating to the Tower Hamlets area. We also provide advice on record-keeping and can sign-post to wider sources of information to help you look after your records.
We want to ensure the collections are representative of the diverse lives, communities and built landscapes of the borough. By working together we can help document our society to benefit current and future generations.
If you have something you think we might be interested in, please read the list below and complete our Collections Development Enquiry Form [PDF] [Word] and return it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We provide a long-term home for material relating to the area of Tower Hamlets, whether it’s a single photograph or a large collection of documents.
Where material spans more than one borough or specific subject area, THLHLA may advise of other repositories which may be more appropriate to house them.
- collections mainly as gifts with copyright transferred, although deposits on long-term loan from active organisations or community groups may be considered. For more information on copyright and ownership see below.
- original records only - copies will only be accepted where originals no longer exist, are inaccessible, or as part of wider heritage projects with partner organisations.
- records as both hardcopy and born-digital format (e.g. a written letter and an email are equally welcome)
- photographic collections, prints, maps, cuttings and ephemera, graphic and audio-visual material, periodicals, books and pamphlets.
- relevant secondary source material about the Tower Hamlets area where we do not already hold copies in our collection (e.g. an unpublished manuscript or thesis).
THLHLA does not usually accept:
- material which the depositor is likely to need to refer to themselves, such as meeting minutes from the last 10-15 years
- short-term deposits of large series with access restrictions under Data Protection legislation, for example records relating to staff, customers or membership. These may be appropriately offered in the longer term.
- fine art, objects/artefacts or archaeological items unless there is a special reason within our collecting policy to do so. THLHLA is happy to provide advice on museums or galleries who you can contact. For further details, please see THLHLA’s Collections Management and Collections Development Policies.
Large collections require us to plan capacity to accept and house them. We also welcome partnerships to secure funding to help us catalogue collections.
We will usually ask you to transfer your ownership and copyright in the records to us. If we don’t have this, in say 50 years’ time it may become impossible for your historic material to be used in exhibitions or publications, as despite having kept them safe all this time, THLHLA would be unable to grant permission.
We will also ask you to permit Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives and our parent organisation, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, to use your images in our publicity, outreach and educational work including, for example, social media posts.
We understand that parting with ownership or copyright can sometimes feel difficult, and our team is always happy to talk through options in our deposit agreement. If you do not wish to transfer copyright to us we will ask you for up-to-date contact details and consent to pass on enquiries about publication and exhibitions to you. Without this, we might not be able to take in the records.
Records generated by organisations
For archives of businesses, charities, campaigning groups, tenant associations, places of worship (non-Anglican) and other organisations the following are often accepted:
- Foundation records including establishment, constitution, privileges and internal regulation, including charters, grants, royal licences, articles, certificate of incorporation and rules
- Governance documents including Council, Committees, Annual General Meetings, Trustees minutes (signed version where available), agendas, presented reports and papers, annual reports
- Papers of Chairman/Director/Secretary/other key positions – correspondence/project/planning files, reports, business plans, events, notices and circulars
- Material relating to operational and departmental work, branches, members and cases including registers, lists, files, factory records
- Financial records including annual accounts, cash and account books, ledgers [routine statement/invoices/cash stubs tend not to be accepted]
- Records relating to staff including lists and registers, ledgers, files on key individuals, pension scheme, rules [large series subject to Data Protection may not be accepted in the short-medium term]
- Property and premises papers including deeds, plans, files on building works, inventories, valuations and artwork
- Printed and other audio-visual material mainly generated in-house/collected by the organisation including photographs, scrapbooks, news cuttings, printed in-house magazines/newsletters, leaflets, booklets, posters, books on history, audio-visual (films, video footage and audio cassettes), website snapshot, small related written artefacts. Most artefacts cannot be accommodated and would be suitable for museums only.
Family and personal collections
- Records of families and individuals may include diaries, recipe books, letters, photographs and collected ephemera from attending events or clubs.
- Individuals may well have items which reflect their involvement in organisations (for record types see above).
- Individual sequences of property records are often offered including deeds and plans relating to Tower Hamlets
Graphic, visual and literature collections
Some individuals have actively built over time collections of photographs, posters, drawings, maps, prints and other printed material, and/or audio-visual formats such as films, videos and tapes which have relevance to Tower Hamlets.
Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives is part of the Idea Stores and Libraries service managed by Tower Hamlets Council.
From 14th century deeds to 21st century photographs, unique maps of the borough to local history reference books, the collections provide evidence and illustration of the history of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Our collections are freely accessible at our large Grade 2 listed Victorian library in Bancroft Road.
If you have something you think we might be interested in, please contact us for a chat.
This will give you the chance to receive advice, and to make arrangements for transferring the material to us.
Please do not arrive at the library and archives with a potential donation without making contact with us beforehand. No material should be sent to us via post without confirmation from us, and unsolicited material may be returned or disposed of at our discretion.