Wilberforce Institute Library

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New Donations to the Wilberforce Institute Library

Since opening in 2006, the University of Hull’s Wilberforce Institute has been blessed with its own research library of printed and digitised materials pertaining to slavery in the past and the present. Every student and academic based in the Institute helps to shape the changing nature of this fantastic resource as the direction of the Institute’s research evolves. This reference library is open to all, including the general public by appointment.  

Between June and November 2023, I had the privilege of working as an Academic Librarian at the Wilberforce Institute, organising new deposits of materials that had been catalogued for us by the University’s Brynmor Jones Library. Situated on the basement floor of Oriel Chambers on High Street, in Hull’s Old Town, the new books expand our holdings to nearly 4,000 items, mainly related to slavery and abolition. Along with approximately 3,500 books, we have extensive parliamentary documents, doctoral dissertations, and education guides.

James Baker
Dr James Baker

My duties, however, extended beyond the stacking of books and building of shelves. As well as assisting academics and students with the location of books for their own studies, my work focused on re-organising the layout of the library to accommodate the arrival of the new books, liaising with the porters and the Brynmor Jones Library about the arrival and removal of books. I also assisted with the installation of a range of exhibitions at the Wilberforce Institute, and prepared 'Homelands' exhibition materials for transportation to Helen Ashby, Chair of the Friends of the Sierra Leone National Railway ahead of the exibition in Freetown, Sierra Leone. In short, like the collections in the Institute, the work has been varied and fascinating.

My tasks also included postdoctoral research work for the AHRC sponsored ‘Decolonising Earth Science’ research project, and more especially for the Institute’s current director, Professor Trevor Burnard, and academic Dr Nick Evans. Undertaken during the completion of my thesis and before my viva, this research gave me a welcome focus, and provided an excellent first dive into the newly acquired resources I had been responsible for organising. It also gave me the opportunity to combine the research skills I gained during my doctoral studies at the Institute with collections management.

But a library is not just about the material it contains. Donations from former academics at the Institute make up a good part of the collections, and this gives the library and its contents a certain poignancy. During my time working at the library, this point was brought home to me by the arrival of collections from our founding director David Richardson, who sadly passed away in July 2023. Professor Richardson was pivotal in the establishment of the Wilberforce Institute, and served as its first director between the years 2006 and 2013. His legacy of books is an important reminder not only of the scholarly interests of one of the world’s foremost slavery scholars, but also of the man himself.

Library donation
Wilberforce Institute library donation

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