Thursday, July 15, 2010

The V&A Museum Library

Today I visited the Victoria & Albert Museum Library. The library is open to the public, but is a closed-access library; this means that while people can browse titles online, most of the actual books and materials will need to be retrieved by a librarian. One interesting aspect of the library is that they have no classification system--everything is shelved by size. Because most art books can be large or unusual sizes, this method is used to best utilize available shelf space. Another interesting fact about the library is that they never weed items, thus space is always an issue. This is further complicated by the fact that the museum will often fight them for space for its exhibits. The librarian showed us a room where library materials were in locked shelves along the walls, but a museum exhibit took up the central space in the room.

In addition to the regular art collection, the library also contains a special colelction. Some of the items include Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks, a first folio Shakespeare, and Dickens' manuscripts (among other things). These items can be pulled out for patrons but only if absolutely necessary and if the patron provides appropriate letters and credentials for needing to see the items. One way around this is items like da Vinci's notebook, of which they have a photocopy. That way they almost never have to pull out the original. A couple interesting items they showed us were "art books", which weren't books at all in the traditional sense, but works of art. One was bound comic book pages that had several pieces cut out, making the original story unreadable. Another looked more like a wooden box, but had text written all over the inside, and pieces that came out of it, such as a small scroll.

Other than visiting the library, I didn't spend too much time at the library. However, I did take the time to visit the Beatrix Potter exhibit. My mom read those stories so many times growing up that I was eager to see the original artworks. The exhibit was well done in that it had each original illustration with the text from the story underneath it; thus you could walk around the room and read the story while viewing the original artwork.

After the museum, a classmate and I went to Hyde park for a bit. The park is massive and I intend to go back as I only got to see a fraction of it. We followed the park trip with a quick dinner at a pub, and then we were off to see the Welsh band Los Campesinos! play a show. The show was a lot of fun, it was at a smaller venue and the crowd was really into it. I had seen the band once before (at last year's Lollapalooza) but seeing a band at a festival is a lot different from seeing them at one of their own shows.

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