The oldest and most comprehensive collection of women’s art and literature in Europe is set to reopen later this month after finally finding itself a new home within the library of the London School of Economics. Following nearly a decade of nomadic existence since the LMU (London Metropolitan University) stated it could no longer afford to host the library and its purpose built home in Aldgate; campaigners for the library hope its new place of residence will put an end to an era of upheaval.
Having been housed in its Old Castle Street building from 2002-2013, since March 2012 LMU began inviting bids from institutions willing to provide a home for the collection. Originally located in a WH Smith warehouse, worn from bomb damage during WWII, the building was eventually taken over by The City of London Polytechnic which would later become London Metropolitan University.
A formal opening ceremony took place yesterday but the public opening is scheduled for the end of this month. While the library’s relocation puts an end to the uncertainty surrounding the collection, some have argued that it’s more of an ‘abduction’ than a rescue from LSE. The University begs to differ; unlike most academic institutions, LSE libraries allow public access to a great deal of their accumulated materials and is promising to make the Women’s Library more accessible than ever before.
The collection contains rare items such as the very first copy of feminist magazine ‘Spare Rib’, a 1695 volume teaching women how to behave and hundreds of original banners and designs for the Artist’s Suffrage League.
For more information on the Women’s Library and its featured collections at lse.ac.uk