Thursday, 15 July 2010

The National Art Library

Part of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Art Library has over a million volumnes of art books, manuscripts, periodicals, and more ranging all sorts of art forms. The library was part of the V&A Museum when it first opened in 1857, but the library wasn't established until 1884. The library moved into its current location back in 1966.

The library is split into two sections: The Reading Room which is quiet and the Public Room were inquires can be made. The library is a closed library, so the librarians have to retrieve the books. The library is three stories and the books are packed into every little corner that is available. It was cool to be able to walk around the library from the second floor and see everybody working. The library has to fight with the museum for space, and the museum usually wins. That could be seen where the museum had an exhibit in an old library space, but the library books were still around the walls. Since the books where around people, the librarians had to bar up the shelves so people couldn't walk away with the books.

A nice service the library provides is the use of two over large black and white copiers. If the book is too fragile to lay open, the library has a camera machine to take the picture of the page and the patron will also see the color. The library has about 30 staff members and there are always 4 people down on the floor at one time.

Along with the books and manuscripts, the library does have a special collections, and we got to see some of the examples. At the London Library, we saw Shakespeare's fourth folio, but here, we saw his first folio and was able to touch it! There was a corrected proof by Dickens, and we saw how he changed a characters name after he made the first draft. Another cool thing was the library has five of Da Vinci's note books. Some of the library staff have never seen Da Vinci's note books because they are hardly brought out, but we got to see them! So cool! If somebody wants to see any of these rare collections, they have to have a pretty good reason to do so. All of these things are awesome, but I didn't see how they fit into art. That was my thought, but I didn't want to bring it up. If I was an art student or artist, the National Art Library at the V&A would be the place to go.

To learn more about the National Art Library, please visit

Photograph provided by the blogger.

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