Sunday, 23 October 2016

In praise of Central Ref

Now I never tire of visiting Central Ref

The Social Sciences Library, 2014
This is where I spent most Saturday mornings from September 1969 till June ’72 and it remained a place of serious study for the next forty years.

I always got there early no matter where the Friday night had taken me and always chose to sit on one of those tables close to the central admin hub.

And over the years the spot rather became a special one from where I could gaze upward at the dome and out across the vast room.

I have to confess I did do a lot of staring out both from underneath and over the top of the reading lights over the years.

This was partly because of the tedium of some of what I had to read and also just because there was so much to distract me.

It would start with that sudden bang as a book was dropped on a table and carried on as you picked up  whispered conversations somewhere around the hall and continued as long as there were people walking past.

The same place, 1938
Looking at Neil Simpson’s picture of the renovated Social Sciences Library is to be taken back a full four decades and it compares well with Kurt Hübschmann’s 1938 photograph of the same spot.

Now I am a keen admirer of Mr Hübschmann’s work much of which featured in Picture Post. He left Germany in 1934 and was one of founders of the magazine which started up in 1938 and ran to 1957.

I grew up with Picture Post which regularly came through our letter box but it was also available to flip through at the doctor’s and some even made their way into our school.

So I am not surprised that Mr Hübschmann should have been on hand to snap the Central Ref in the October of 1938 just four years after it had been opened.

Nor was he alone in wanting to capture something of the Ref.  The first exhibition staged in the Library was photographed by Stewart Bale Ltd who perfectly recorded the simple beauty of the building’s design.

The Exhibition of Library Treasures, 1934
I think we are in the area which became Archives and Local History and as much as the area was a second home to me over the last decade I have to say this picture showing the “Opening Exhibition of Library Treasures” makes me wish I had known it like this.

And that neatly brings me to the appeal for memories of the Ref as it was.

There will still be people who will have visited the library as students and those who accompanied their parents to Christmas shows in the basement theatre which opened its curtains in 1952 and perhaps like me also remember the light displays which played over the safety curtains in the interval.

Pictures; the Social Sciences Library, 2014 from the collection of Neil Simpson, the same in 1934, Kurt Hübschmann, m51687, & Opening Exhibition of Library Treasures” Stewart Bale Ltd, m81672, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

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