Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The Phantom of the Opera Is There...

...Inside my mind! I still have the music stuck in my head after seeing The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre last night. It was, in a word, stunning.

But, anyway. Today's stop: National Art Library in the Victoria and Albert Museum!

We had a very nice visit with a couple of the librarians as they showed around their library and then gave us a chance to get up close and personal with a few of their items from special collections. The library itself is situated within the V&A Museum, but is not solely focused as a resource for the museum and anyone from the public can use its resources.

Read on for even more enthralling details:
  • National Art Library is one of 3 major reference libraries in the world and houses 1 million books.
  • The library was conceived of and set up in 1837 in conjunction with the Schools of Art and Design in an effort to educate the public more about those two areas. 
  • The V&A Museum was set up in 1852 and the library set up shop within it in 1884- it looks mostly the same as it did back then.
  • The books are ordered by size, not subject, which serves to maximize space. 
  • Like the London Library, they do not get rid of books, so they are constantly moving books around to accomodate new acquisitions.  
  • 1/2 the library's acquisitions are through donations, such as the Foster Collection, which includes original manuscripts from Charles Dickens, Charles V, and artist sketchbooks.
  • It is the largest department in the museum (library, archives, and prints, paintings, and drawings) and employs 40 staff.
  • Their special collections department contains books from the 14/15th centuries onward and include 3 of Leonardo DaVinci's manuscripts, a tortoise shell bound bible, and Dickens' original Bleak House manuscript. (I should mention the allowed us to look at, and gasp! flip through these items, as well- although we did look at a facsimile of the DaVinci manuscript and not the real thing).

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