Sunday, February 1, 2009

Dispatch from Colindale

In an anonymous pair of buildings on an anonymous street in an anonymous north London suburb there lurks one of the world’s greatest repositories of intellectual treasure.

One uses the words “intellectual” and “treasure” with some diffidence. For here, too, lie all the foulest aspects of humanity, as well as its occasional best. Here is all the vileness and degradation and vice and versa and worser. This is Colindale, home of the British Library’s newspaper section, traditionally the final resting place of the old newspapers of Britain and much of the world.

Except that the resting place is no longer final. Next year, the lease runs out on one of the library’s two buildings here. In 2012, Colindale will close completely, along with its 28 miles of shelving. Nearly 700,000 bound volumes of old papers and magazines, dating back to 1631, will be re-interred in the distant Yorkshire fastness of Boston Spa.

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