Bow Street Magistrates
Another similar sort of collection acquired and amassed by different means is preserved by the Radzinowicz Library in the Institute of Criminology in at the University of Cambridge: it now houses a collection of printed books once held by the Home Office as examples of banned books. Some of these books were, indeed, legally outlawed, but others are examples of books sent in by the public demanding that they be banned. Obscenity trials and banned books featured in more than one of the National Archives' LGBT History Month podcasts, which I happened to be listening to shortly after the walking tour. I'd recommend 'Fictional obscenities: lesbianism and censorship in the early 20th century', and 'Genius on trial: key sources relating to Oscar Wilde at The National Archives'
These sorts of collections are fascinating to me, because they seem to bring to the surface a great number of questions which apply to most collecting. Many of these books (or objects) were brought together and kept by individuals or institutions out of a particular interest or for a particular purpose. Others drifted in through chance and accident, not deliberate action. But the controversial nature of the material throws into relief the chancy nature of preservation, especially of non-mainstream material. The controversial nature of the material ensured it was kept together, and that's hugely useful to us now, as the grouping reveals a lot about historic attitudes. On the other hand, it's luck and chance that these books and objects were preserved at all: they may not have been accepted for inclusion in the collections at all. What items do we all reject today (for whatever reasons) that we should be hanging on to instead? Is controversial material, perhaps, more likely to be kept, but the mundane to be disregarded and lost?
How can we tread the line between keeping every last scrap and creating collections that can actually be managed? I've no idea. But this tour and the thoughts it provoked have inspired me to consider the marginal more and the obvious a little less when considering collection development.
Edited to add Ross McFarlane's name.