Sunday, August 8, 2010

V&A Museum/National Art Library-07/15/10

The National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum is a public reference library. Like many of the libraries in London, you must first register to become a user. After that use of the reading rooms is made available. The library mostly covers material dealing with art, craft, and book design.
During our tour we were shown preservation techniques that are used with the collections. Items are placed in acid free cardboard "boxes" and acid free covers, envelopes, and ties are also used. Other plastic envelope covers are used for individual papers and pages. Again, I was amazed to find the small amount of conservation efforts used with these collections. They use "preservation rather than conservation" as much as possible. Also there is no temperature control efforts taking place!
We also were shown the Dewey Classification that is used in two of the reading rooms. Paper requests are made and the staff picks up the slips every hour and retrieves the documents. There are a large number of periodicals including Sotheby's and Christie's records, letters of Elizabeth I, and materials on the Great Exhibition.
Some of the amazing items I saw here include William Shakepeare's First Folio, a proof copy of Dicken's "Bleakhouse" (of which I turned the pages), letters of John Everett Millais and William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones (I studied some of these guys in an art history course on the Pre-Raphaelites!), and other works by many artists and composers. Codices of Leonardo da Vinci are also in the library, but you must make a special request to view these and a librarian who "guards" these makes the decision if it is okay to view (we were not special enough!).

Most of the collections are on the online catalogue and can be found at:

(Image availabe from

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