27 September 2015


On Wednesday 16th September our friends from AFU, Clas Svahn and his colleagues Karl-Anton Mattsson and Hakon Ekstrand came to pick up the third and largest tranche of my Fortean  collection; something in the region of 3,400 books at a quick guestimate. They had clearly had a harassing journey up to Manchester, having suffered from an overnight stomach bug. Then a minor traffic accident led to problems with the hire car firm.
This caused them to be late ringing me up and missing my emails, so I assumed they were coming later in the afternoon and went for an early lunch - only to be held up where I was having lunch and to come home to find them waiting for me, fortunately only for five minutes. The huge van which they used last year was unavailable, but that at least a good chunk of the material could be packed in my own boxes and saved some time.

This last collection included the vast bulk of my books on ghosts and local ghost stories as well as quite a lot of material on cosmology and related topics.

Owing to the various transport problems it will next year before this collection reaches Norrkoping. Joining it will be the massive library of the late Steve Moore of Fortean Times.

I would urge any of our readers who have or know of collections of material on any of the many topics covered by the Archives for the Unexplained (or as I like to think, Archives of Fortenea and the Unexplained). These include just about anything to do with fortenea, ufology, cryptozoology, psychical research, parapsychology, ghosts, folklore, historical mysteries, unsolved crimes, conspiracy theories, history, philosophy and sociology of science, and the esoteric. Its coverage includes books, pamphlets, periodicals, case reports, letters, archives, photographs, films and even artifacts.

Bob Rickard provides an overview of this huge collection in Fortean Times for August 2015 pp46-49. In that article Bob notes the difficulties that he had in trying to establish a similar repository in Britain and why he has decided to throw in his lot with AFU.

I am sure there is nowhere else with scope both in terms of topics covered or the range of depth, from little kiddies’ books and mags to the most advanced treatises and in the international coverage.

I know that some disquiet has been expressed about manuscripts and archives going abroad, but the trouble is that there is very little that is safe in this country. Public libraries are closing at an increasing rate, and special collections are seen as financial assets to be sold off, not treasures to be kept. County record offices are likely to be under such financial pressure that all but the most essential historical resources will be turned away. Even when kept, archives are often weeded of “irrelevant “material. University libraries are also weeding out 'Special Collections'.

The situation in the private sector is little better, rent costs are putting collections under pressure. Of course most of our sort of material is in private hands and all too often lost or dispersed. Sadly on a number of occasions collectors' surviving partners have deliberately trashed such collections and thrown them on the tip. Others have been dispersed across the book trade. I would love to know what happened to the collection of really obscure old material held by the late Arthur Tomlinson of DIGAP. The same goes for a guy called Cliff Poole who occasionally turned up at DIGAP in the 1968-74 period, and I seem to think had inherited some of the archive of Eric Frank Russell (the bulk of which is in the University of Liverpool).

Little seems to be being done in the US, as far as I know APRO's archives are still unavailable, little or nothing has been done with Lucius Farish bequest, CUFOS seems at least half dead and there are rumours that the library of the American Society for Psychical Research is inaccessible and might well have been sold off. So what AFU is engaged is a kind of permanent rescue archaeology.

If you have a collection you would like to give to a good home and you are in the UK I suggest you contact Bob Rickard on bobrickard@mail.com  If you are outside the UK I suggest you contact AFU direct: http://www.afu.info/afu2/

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