I’ve recently been having a lot of fun with old bits of paper at Freedom Press indulging my mild archiving OCD, as preparations are made to move the building's retail arm downstairs by our tame shop-guru amid a serious change-around.
As the hordes of people who have been to Freedom know, we have for a long time had something of an eccentric setup. On the top floor, alongside a somewhat mysterious office there is the home of the Advisory Service for Squatters. Once floor down from that is the ‘Autonomy Club’ (basically a biggish living room/kitchen space with a big table, some chairs and a load of international magazines in racks), and another office, supposedly dedicated to the production of Freedom (we’re rarely there cos we do most of the thing via email these days) and distro of our books. On the first floor is the shop in a pokey and badly-lit room, opposite the loo and the hacklab. On the ground floor meanwhile, which is set up with big front windows, lots of room and a decent front door, we store huge amounts of books, with the security shutters permanently down.
In the new layout, the top two floors would remain the same (maybe they’ll get a bit cleaner), but the hacklab is going. In it’s place, we’re hoping to welcome the London Coalition Against Poverty to use the room for their new office space. The room opposite will hold a load of stock, while the big downstairs room will be done up all pretty as a bookshop. The extra space should mean we can have more stuff out, space it properly, and maybe shovel some extra useful bits and pieces in as well.
One of these extra useful bits and pieces is the reason for my shovelling paper around – or rather, papers. Over a century’s worth in fact. The tendency of many anarchists to keep vast amounts of largely useless and elderly literature lying around “Just In Case” (you know you do it too) has been upheld spectacularly over the years at Freedom Press as we have multiple copies of pretty much every issue ever printed of our august newspaper, along with a big batch of foreign publications.
I spotted them the other week after they had been moved upstairs to the Autonomy Club from the ground floor. Well-wrapped, they’re mostly in fairly reasonable condition and there’s a lot of them. They’d been dumped fairly haphazardly and I decided to re-order them. Somewhere around 1955, I had a bit of a thought – why not make this accessible to a wider audience? And so is born another ambitious project*, involving sorting through to get one copy of each issue from the turn of the 20th century up until today, putting them in some kind of protective folder, and then archiving them neatly in an open-access spot for the anarchist historians of the future to sort through.
Even doing this however, and keeping maybe another three complete issue sets per year for spares we’re going to have a lot of stuff left over. At some point in the medium term future then, we’ll probably be wanting to offload some of it on groups or institutions looking to expand their own archives. Watch that space!