Sunday, July 18, 2010

National Art Library at the V&A Museum

On Thursday the class went to visit the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. I am not all too interested in art librarianship but I like seeing different aspects of libraries no matter what.

Upon arrival we were split into two groups again and some of us got to explore the museum a bit before heading to the library. The V&A is huge and I feel like I barely saw any of it. It is on my list for going back next time I am in London. The National Art Library was established in 1857, with a dedicated space for it made in the V&A Museum in 1884. Since then it has served as the go-to outlet for all research regarding art, especially British art (though they do not neglect international goings-on).

Our guide for the tour of the library was Kirsten, the assistant librarian. The library's main goal is to preserve and provide access to materials having to do with any medium of art. The collection is largely closed access, with a small open reference collection inhabiting the reading room. Like other libraries and archives we have visited, the National Art Library stores their material according to size as opposed to any classification system. The library has a finite amount of space, being within the museum, and seems to be constantly fighting off the museum for the space they already have.

This is a shame because the National Art Library truly has some valuable things to offer the public and not just those researching art. They hold several of da Vinci's notebooks, some Dickens manuscripts, and illuminated manuscripts. Francis, a special collections librarian, showed us some of these things. Also a FIRST FOLIO! The fortitude of my heart has been tested so often on these library visits.

Overall, I really enjoyed the National Art Library. It was another focus of librarianship that I never really considered too heavily. Visiting there helped me realize what importance an art library can have and the historical significance held within it.

Picture above is my own.

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