Thursday, July 15, 2010

National Art Library at the V&A Museum

Today's journey was to the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum.  There are two large reading rooms where patrons select their numbered tables from the board. Surrounding them are numerous general reference books. Their collections include: prints, drawings, paintings and the history of the art etc. The Forster and Dyce collections are the two largest collections and help founded the library. The library started before the Museum came to be in 1837.  Our guide was Natash Viner and she explained to us the manual retrieval system that has been in place. It takes approximately 20-40 minutes to get a request to the patron as they only do retrievals once per hour. However they are hoping to implement an electronic requesting system, budget providing. Despite that, most of their holdings are on the online catalog. Their archive is located elsewhere. Their rare books and manuscript collection is held upstairs in a locked cabinet. Although there is no climate control case, they do moniter the enviroment in the box. There is very little deteriation in the rare book and manuscript collection.  They don't have a set date on what is classificed rare versus modern. The paper and book conservation department can't keep up with the collection repairs. They work on them as they come across them or as they are being loaned out or displayed. The collection is catagorized by their own system and shelved by sized to save space. Art books are varied in size. The end of our tour was with Francis. She showed us examples of their treasure of the library. There was an early example of the printing press in Latin in Gothic styled words.  There was a Shakesphere 1st folio that was between the 1st and 2nd editions.  The Dicken's Bleakhouse book written in with corrections and its published pamphlets was also displayed. There was also some book art and book objects that don't seem like books at all. The most interesting was the copy of DaVinci's sketch book and the William Morris book 'The Well at the World's End' which was the first time the name Gandalf had appeared. It is said that this book was one of many that inspired J.R.R. Tolkien.

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