On the campaign trail

April 12th, 2010 by Anna Towlson, Assistant Archivist

Or, please help us build our general election ephemera collection!

In every election year since 1945 the Library has collected election addresses and other publicity material produced by prospective MPs. We now have over 15k items in the collection here in LSE Archives, covering the whole of the UK, and including material from minority parties and independent candidates, as well as the three main parties. The collection provides a unique insight into the development of political campaigning in modern Britain and the evolution of the post-war political landscape – the rise and fall of policies, issues, parties and careers. On a more prosaic level, it can also come in handy if you want to check whether your MP has done what they promised they would do if they were voted in!

Medley of election leaflets
We are now collecting material relating to May’s general election. We are currently contacting candidates directly to ask for examples of their campaign literature, but we also rely on staff, students and users donating material they receive, so rather than putting in the recycling bin, think of us!

You can bring material to the Archives reading room on the lower ground floor of the Library (Room R01), send it to us through LSE’s internal mail or via standard mail using our Freepost address:

Archives and Rare Books
LSE Library
10 Portugal Street
London WC2A 2HD

Our collection concentrates on paper leaflets, although it does include some objects (traditional rosettes and lapel badges, but also stickers, balloons and even sweets). But politicians are increasingly using the internet and web 2.0 to communicate with their public, so it’s important to preserve a record of these online campaigns too. There are complex technical and rights issues involved in this, so it’s beyond the scope of our current project, but fear not, the UK Web Archive, experts in the field of web-archiving, are on the case. Their collection currently features over 350 websites maintained by MPs, election candidates and political parties, and they are adding to it all the time.

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2 Responses to “On the campaign trail”

  1. Tim says:

    Why not coordinate with http://www.thestraightchoice.org/ ? They already have 5000 leaflets from this election alone!

  2. Anna Towlson, Assistant Archivist says:

    Hi Tim,

    Thanks for this thought. The Straight Choice website is a great resource for monitoring and analysing current campaign material, but it’s not a collection that’s been put together with long-term preservation in mind (eg most of the images are jpgs, good for providing access, not for archiving). Indeed, I read somewhere (perhaps the Guardian?) that one of The Straight Choice’s objectives is to get the Electoral Commission to maintain an official archive of campaign material, to ensure that copies are available in the future to refer back to.

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