History of Henry Wellcome's unique collection, £19.99
Letter relating to evacuation of the British Museum's collections during the Second World War
2 February 1944
During the 1930s, the British Museum was making plans to send most of its collections away from London if war should break out. The National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth had built a bomb-proof tunnel for its books in the rock beneath the Library building and invited the British Museum to share it. This was an early experiment in the use of air-conditioned underground storage.
In August 1939 the British Museum moved its collections out of London to their various hiding places. A hundred tons of books, manuscripts, prints and drawings was moved to Aberystwyth. Members of the British Museum staff worked there throughout the War.
This letter is from the Museum's Director, Sir John Forsdyke, to Julius Victor Scholderer, Deputy Keeper of Printed Books, who was the senior member of the British Museum staff at Aberystwyth. Forsdyke was worried about the fact that Scholderer (who was over sixty) and his staff were taking it in turns to sleep in the National Library of Wales building, and he thought that their work could be made easier. In his reply to this letter Scholderer wrote that it was important to inspect the tunnel several times during each night in case the air-conditioning should fail. He insisted that he and his staff would go on sleeping near the Museum's collections.