Archiving the International Brigades

Post date: 27/01/2018

Rose Brown (pictured below) reports on the progress of a major project to catalogue the archives of the International Brigades and Spanish Civil War at the Marx Memorial Library in London.


We are now well over halfway through the project to re-organise and re-catalogue the Marx Memorial Library’s Spanish Collection. This has been made possible by a grant from The National Archives Cataloguing Grants Scheme which is funding my employment for one year. The IBMT was a partner in the funding application and we look forward to working with the Trust later this year to publicise and promote the finished catalogue to educational establishments and the wider public.


The Marx Memorial Library’s Spanish Collection is the largest Spanish Civil War archive in the UK and a unique and internationally recognised research centre for students, historians and International Brigade enthusiasts of all sorts.


I started the project with a large-scale sort of the collection and spent some time dividing the collection into the sections which will make up the new catalogue. I also sorted through the IBMT archives donated to the MML as part of this project.


The first, and largest, of these sections is the papers of the International Brigade Association, of which all have now been catalogued and repackaged. Of particular interest is the very large series of correspondence and the collection of IBA newsletters, the latter of which we plan to digitise so that they will be fully searchable by name or keyword. 



The aim of this project is to professionally catalogue the Spanish Collection to create a world-class research resource on the Spanish Civil War, Aid Spain movement and the International Brigades. 


We will improve access to the collection, not least among a wider audience who have until now been unaware of this unique cache of documents, photos and artefacts.


At the same time we are ensuring that the collection is preserved in the long-term and that access is improved through digitised material on the MML’s website and, jointly with the IBMT, the creation of an education pack.


Work to digitise the photo collection continues at a good pace and the digitised photos have already been useful in answering research enquiries and promoting the collection through our website and Twitter feed. We are also adding several boxes of previously uncatalogued photos to the collection. 


I have also created a project page on the MML website ( to help draw attention to the work on the collection. As ever, interest in the collection is very high, with visitors in the library most days using the material and regular enquiries received from around the world. 


Most pleasingly we are still receiving regular donations of material to the collection, which goes to show that an archivist’s work is never done! 


Rose Brown is the Project Archivist for the ‘Volunteers for Liberty: The Archives of the International Brigades’ project at the Marx Memorial Library. 

This article first appeared in the 1-2018 issue of the IBMT’s magazine, ¡NO PASARÁN!


Posted on 27 January 2018. 

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