If you want to learn what happened here before the Internet, visit the Suffolk Record Office. That’s where the newspaper microforms and bound volumes are kept, for a start.
There’s also a newspaper morgue in document boxes, old town directories, and idiosyncratically formatted records like half-height logbooks of transactions related to the poor laws:
At today’s Open Day, archivist Louise Kennedy gave a tour of the strongroom upstairs. Records are kept in acid-free cardboard boxes that can absorb water if there is a flood, keeping the documents drier.
The building is almost full and proposals are being considered for a new unified site, which may be in Ipswich or Bury St. Edmunds. Currently the records are split among Ipswich, Lowestoft and Bury. So go and see current setup in its splendid Victorian building while you can.
At the end of the tour, Louise showed us a 14th century royal charter giving rights to Ipswich, stabilized in a foam-lined case. The oldest charter in the collection is from the 12th century and bound in a scrapbook that’s too fragile to handle, she said.
People working in archives don’t wear gloves anymore, Louise said, because the gloves make you clumsy and cause more damage to the books than the oil from clean hands. The oldest documents are on vellum which is naturally a bit oily and has survived handling for hundreds of years. If you really want to learn to read manuscripts or just research buildings and personalities, the office gives courses – actually a lot more than are listed here.