The usefulness of the conference as a means of exchanging ideas and creating networks is undeniable. Standing with a cup of coffee before the event starts, discovering acquaintances in common and discussing the latest news in the world of research - its new appointments, projects, grant applications and discoveries – is an essential, and a satisfying, part of pursuing one’s professional life. In fact many of my greatest discoveries have been made with a coffee in one hand and one of those plastic name badges on my shoulder.
A recent conference on sport resources held at the British Library on the 21st of May brought the value of the academic conference very much to the forefront of my mind. Organised by myself, and my colleague Philippa Marks from the Arts and Humanities section of the Library, the event focused on sports-related materials held by the BL, and also on current sports research, represented by our friends from the world of academia, Professors Andrew Sparkes, Kath Woodward, John Horne and Matthew Taylor.
This was the first ever conference held here to focus on the Library’s sports resources, and the BL’s curatorial staff made the most of the occasion: Stewart Gillies from newspaper collections gave a taster of press reporting on the Olympic Games and on sport more generally, taking us back to sports journalism from the Victorian age, and we were transported back even further by Karen Limper-Herz who showed some fascinating images from a 16th century swimming manual, and from early manuals of horsemanship and fencing. Other curators had things to say about such diverse subjects as Dutch pole vaulting; sport under Russian communism, the oral history of athletics; cycling and lawn tennis, so there was a huge amount for the audience to get to grips with. Our point, as always, was to emphasise the sheer amount of sports stuff we have here, and to encourage people to use it.
Thanks to sponsorship from the publisher Routledge, we were able to produce a booklet to accompany the conference which contains most of the presentations, as well as a number of articles by curators who were unable to present. Copies were given to all the participants and we are about to put an online version on the BL website which will be continually updated with more sports resources information. Watch this space for news about when that will be available.
The conference ended with the awarding of gold medals (chocolate ones) to the speakers and to other contributors. Here are the organisers handing the supreme acolade to Dr Phil Hatfield who is clearly relieved that he didn't peak too early.