Explore Archives – marking the centenary of the foundation of the Communist Party

The SSLH Explore Archives online conference, funded by the Society for the Study of Labour History and jointly organised by the Marx Memorial Library and the SSLH was held on Friday 16 October 2020. The conference was aimed at undergraduate and postgraduate students, Communist Party history enthusiasts, archivists and other heritage professionals. More than 50 delegates logged in from across the UK and Europe to take part in the session.

Watch the video below or on the Marx Memorial Library’s Vimeo page.

Keynote speaker Professor Mary Davis, Visiting Professor of Labour History at Royal Holloway, University of London, opened the session by providing an account of her work editing the forthcoming single-volume history of the Communist Party A Centenary for Socialism – Britain’s Communist Party 1920-2020, as well as touching on some of the opportunities and problems facing modern historians of the Communist Party.

In the next session, Janette Martin, Archivist, Curator & Reader Engagement Manager at the John Rylands Library chaired a panel discussion with representatives from the People’s History Museum, Marx Memorial Library, and Special Collections at Goldsmiths, University of London. Panel members provided a series of fascinating presentations about the Communist Party material in their collections, including material by Harry Pollitt, Rajane Palme Dutt, Phil Piratin and Margot Heinemann.

Meirian Jump, Archivist and Library Manager at the Marx Memorial Library, presenting at the conference.
Meirian Jump, Archivist and Library Manager at the Marx Memorial Library, presenting.

The afternoon session was devoted to a presentation by Marco Humbel, a PhD student in the Department for Information Studies at University College London. Marco’s presentation covered his work developing a digitisation strategy at the Marx Memorial Library as well as an overview of archival research platforms providing access to digitised material relating to Communism and the Communist Party of Great Britain.

A resource pack was created to coincide with the online conference. Although not an exhaustive survey of resources, the resource pack provided an overview of key collections held at institutions that are members of SSLH ARC.

Download a copy of the resource pack.