Gladstone's Library, Hawarden

Alexandra Foulds, archivist

What’s considered historically interesting varies depending on the nature of the collection.

With the records that the library is creating, we have to think about the core functions of the library - and I think the Reading Rooms are at the heart of that.

Although there are lots of books in the entire library building that fall outside the three main themes, the Reading Rooms themselves hold theological, historical, literary and political volumes, so that will shape the archive. The things that we acquire and keep will tend to fit with those themes.

Of course, we also have the historical connection with William Gladstone, so I am mindful that the researchers of the future might be interested in his life and personal history. The Glynne-Gladstone collection is our largest and oldest archive, and it is the collection that most people enquire about. We also hold the Esther de Waal and Don Cupitt collections.

The point of this is so that people who are interested in particular information know where to go. So a big part of my job will be publicising what we have here.

It’s a strange job, it puts you in a position where, in a way, you are shaping and ordering little pieces of history.

Because I come from a research background - I have a literary PhD - that informs the way I order information, but I don’t want to assume that everyone who comes here will work the same way I do. I actually need to be very careful to try not to let my background affect the value I place on collections and the way I would structure them or the language that I would use to describe them.

Archivists do end up shaping history, so I need to do everything I can to try to prevent my interests and my history from ending up shaping the historical record and be as transparent as I can be about the decisions that I make and why I make them.

Archives actually attract a really wide range of people. Historically, they have been used by researchers and academics, but increasingly you see members of the public who want to use the archives for building their family histories, or just because there is something in the collection that they would be excited to see.

So, while I deal with objects from the past, a lot of my job is trying to guess where the research of the future is going to go.