St Bride launches £50k fundraiser and digitisation project

St Bride's workshop

St Bride Foundation has launched a crowdfunding campaign to mark the 125th anniversary of the St Bride Library & Archive, including plans to reach a wider audience by digitising parts of its collection.

The Foundation is located off Fleet Street in London, and also houses a theatre and conference space, which have been closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It does not receive any government funding, and more than 90% of its income would usually come from venue hire and the theatre.

The crowdfunder aims to raise £50,000 by 29 November. Around 10% of the target had been raised at the time of writing.

Pledges start at £10 and up, and come with a range of rewards, from enamel pin badges to postcards, tote bags, Stanley Donwood prints or, for £1,000, to be named as an official sponsor.

Foundation librarian Sophie Hawkey-Edwards said the library’s 125th anniversary fell on 20 November, and St Bride’s was planning a year of activities for 2021 including physical and online exhibitions.

“We’ve got a talks programme and we are going to be creating new print workshops to add to the ones we already have. And as part of that we want to give opportunities for young people to come and work in the print workshops, and also to come and work with us in our archive and library – especially if they’re looking for a career as an archivist or librarian,” she explained.

Hawkey-Edwards said that plans to digitise key parts of the archive were at the heart of the project.

“The main thing is we’re going to begin a digitisation adventure. Lockdown has certainly pushed that to the top of the agenda, to make sure we can get our collections online for people to access.”

A pilot project will look into the best platform and protocols to use, and how to catalogue a diverse range of items ranging from single specimen sheets, to 3D objects such as punches, tiny books, and huge posters.

“We want to make it a year of celebrating  125 years of our library, but making sure that everything we do is part of managing and improving access to our archive, and bringing our communities together,” she added.

“We hope that a lot of the talks can be physical, but we’re ready for them to be online as well. And with the online talks our international community can be part of that.”

The St Bride Library & Archive holds numerous treasures of international significance, with more than 200 collections covering the history of printing and type-founding.

It includes 15th century books printed by William Caxton, and more modern-day items of note including Edward Johnston’s artwork for his iconic London Underground signage (below) and the UK road signs designed by Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinneir.

It also holds the collection of printing papers amassed by the late Printweek columnist Lawrence Wallis over the course of more than half a century.

The St Bride Foundation began life in 1891, and it moved into its Victorian building in 1894. The technical library was set up in 1895.

Five years ago a previous anniversary project for the Foundation aimed to raise funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund but was unsuccessful.

Hawkey-Edwards said she hoped the digitisation project would also provide a platform for St Bride’s to apply for Lottery or Arts Council funding in the future. 

To contribute, visit the crowdfunding page.

The annual Beatrice Warde memorial lecture will take place via Zoom this year, on 25 November. 

The speaker is Dr. Miriam Ahmed, assistant professor of graphic design at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.