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Conference highlights British Library's sporting treasures

16th Century swimming manual

The secrets of the British Library’s sports archives will be revealed next month, as some of the collection’s most interesting sound files, images, historical documents and sporting ephemera are discussed at a one-day conference.

In the run-up to the London Olympics, curators from the British Library will be joined by academic experts as they present some of their most unusual items – including publications from the USA and Russia – to an audience of sports enthusiasts.

Items in the collection include newspaper coverage of the 1908 and 1948 London Olympics, contemporary books from the Berlin Olympics of 1936 and a manual – dating from the 16th century – providing tips on how to swim.

Sports historian Professor Matt Taylor, Professor of History at De Montfort University (DMU), will be amongst the speakers at the conference.

“The resources that are available at the British Library are invaluable to those of us with an interest in the history of sport,” he said.

“DMU’s International Centre for Sports History and Culture has a global reputation and we rely on the facilities and expertise that are available at places like the British Library to help us maintain our knowledge and understanding of sport in an historical context.

“This conference is an opportunity for researchers, curators and anyone who loves sport to see items that are usually hidden away – and to hear how these resources help us to explore the history of sport.”

Lead curator Gill Ridgley, who’s responsible for the sport collection at the British Library, said: “We’re very grateful for the help we’ve received from the International Centre for Sports History and Culture at DMU – not just for Professor Taylor’s contribution to our conference, but also for the centre’s input into our new Sport and Society electronic resource.

“These web pages take a sideways glance at the summer Olympics and Paralympics from a social science and a historical perspective and will be an invaluable resource for anyone with an interest in the games who would like to broaden their knowledge.”

Sourcing sport: Current research; British Library Resources takes place on Monday 21 May from 10am to 5.30pm in the British Library Conference Centre in London.

Anyone with an interest in sport and sports research is welcome to attend the conference. Tickets for the event cost £10 and can be reserved at

Sport and Society can be found at

Photograph of 16th century swimming manual: © British Library Board

Posted on Friday 27th April 2012

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