Thursday, April 06, 2006

Biographical Research at the UCL Special Collections

My dance along the J.S.Haldane trail took me down the Hampstead Road to the UCL Special Collections today. Upstairs in an apparent office block they manage to create that comforting library fustiness. Orwell's archives are there. As are the papers of John Burdon-Sanderson.
My dance is growing wider. Burdon-Sanderson was the uncle of my J.S.Haldane, and was the professor over him in his early years working at Oxford. A trawl through many boxes found a few personal gems, the uncle writing to the mother about my character.
It's an intriguing process, this one of biographcial research. The story comes in little pieces, to be fitted into some coherent whole along the way. Today I found characters reflecting from great age, and also found them when they were young. I saw generational patterns, those who would become venerable and then die also passing through the first flush of romance, work and parenthood. It's all very endearing.


Blogger Matthew Sinclair said...

I was at the UCL library recently and it surprised me too; it is the polar opposite of the LSE library which is so consciously modern. I think I quite like both (apart from the ridiculous staircase at ours) but it is particularly strange given that the LSE library has far more luxury in terms of space to play with, apparently the old style works well for cramming stuff in.

10:59 AM  

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