Today we went to the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The National Art Library is one of four art libraries in the world. They have an estimate of 1 million books in their collection and have over 30,000 visitors from around the world a year. Their strengths are holdings and documents of fine and decorative arts.
The library first opened in 1837 at the Somerset House in conjunction with the school of design, in 1851 it was a part of the Great Exhibition held in the Crystal Palace, in 1852 the school of design moved and created a museum at the Marlborough House, then they moved to their current site in 1857 and was known as the South Kensington Museum, and in 1899 it became known as the Victoria and Albert Museum. The library is a closed access library and is open five days a week.
Our tour there started with us being split in to two groups: one getting a tour of the library and the other viewing the items that they pulled for us to view. I was in the first group so we stayed in the front of the library in the reading room where guests sign in. Our tour guide gave us a history of the library and then brought us to the back of the house. The back has stacks of books and workrooms. Since the library is closed access, staff members have to retrieve books for patrons.
After our tour of the library, we switched with the other group and were shown special collections items. Some of the items that we saw were a book about manufacturing pottery in Italian from 1556 – 1559, a tailor’s pattern book from Madrid from 1589, and a decorative book with the New Testament from 1594 – 1598.
I loved being able to visit this library to hear and see how it interacts with the museum because it is not a stand-alone specialized library, but a part of a bigger specialized organization.
|Front door of the library|
|Another reading room|
|New Testament book from 1594-1598|