Home British baseballProject COBB Project COBB “Research Days” announced for the off-season

Project COBB “Research Days” announced for the off-season

by Joe Gray

PCRDIn Part II of the four-part Project COBB series currently being run on the British Baseball Federation website, it is mentioned that I am “looking for one or more research associates who can travel to Colindale in North London on occasional Saturdays, particularly during the off-season, to collaborate […] on some exciting new projects.” I’d like to give some more details on that here.

A trip to Colindale is the quintessential newspaper research experience, and it is just like you see in films, with a choice between:

  • microfiche pages scrolling in front of your eyes, perfect for a set-to-music research montage;
  • or – pages of old newspapers in oversized binders to ever-so-carefully turn through, ideal for a crash zoom on a crucial headline.

However, in a story meriting its own crash zoom, there is just one complete off-season left for current or would-be baseball researchers to make use of the facility. The Colindale complex is set to close by the end of next year. According to an article on the Guardian website:

“[T]he days of researchers making the trip up the more deserted reaches of the Northern line are numbered. The government has pledged £33m to help create a state of the art storage facility in Yorkshire, a final resting place for millions of pages where it is hoped optimal humidity, temperature and oxygen levels will prolong their lives. By the end of 2012 the old newspaper library will be closed down, making way for social housing. The papers will be stashed away in Boston Spa, most of the public’s research done with copies or the more sustainable formats of microfilm and digital files. The ultimate goal is a multimedia newspaper room.”

The need to better preserve the items currently held at Colindale cannot be denied by anyone who has carried out research there. When I was trawling through newspapers from 1890 looking for box scores, game reports, and other material on the British pro league that year, the edges of the pages were crumbling away in my fingers, and after I’d finished with one binder and walked away from my chair to get the next I’d notice a halo of flakes of yellowed paper around where I’d been sitting. Concerned that I was somehow mishandling the paper the first time I noticed this, I looked around to be reassured by numerous similar halos around the other desks. In fact, so pervasive are these flakes that they’ve earned their own moniker: “Colindale dandruff”.

I already have a number of projects in mind, including filling gaps in the national champions archive. To discuss one of the potential projects or — better still — to suggest your own idea, please get in touch by leaving a comment below (your email address will come through to me) or using the contact form here.

I envisage the Research Days having the following format:

  1. At the start of the week before, discussion can take place through email on what questions or gaps we’ll aim to tackle or fill during our visit on the coming Saturday.
  2. We’ll submit our first orders by email a few days before the visit, so that we have some newspapers waiting for us when we get there on the Saturday morning, to save us some waiting around. And we’ll also be armed with shelfmarks for other papers we’d like to request during the day, to make things as efficient as possible.
  3. After a morning of research, we’ll head to the local cafe for lunch and a chat about what we’ve found and what the afternoon might yield. We’ll have placed more newspaper orders before lunch, so we can get straight back on it once we return.
  4. Once we’re exhausted or get kicked out because they’re closing, whichever comes first, we can retire to a local hostelry for a drink to further discuss what we have found, and even what we might want to look for next time.

I’m open to suggestions for Saturdays during the off-season, and am happy to coordinate the finding of mutually convenient dates. To get the ball rolling, though, I’ve pencilled in Saturday 15 October as the first one. To sign up for this or to suggest your own dates, please get in touch by leaving a comment below (your email address will come through to me) or using the contact form here.

Logistical details for Colindale can be found here. It is free to register, but first-time users will need to bring two forms of ID, as detailed here.

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Matt Smith July 1, 2011 - 2:10 pm

Looks like a great idea and an excellent way to get involved in some British baseball research alongside like-minded people. Count me in!

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