July 9 & 10: Stratford-Upon-Avon and The National Art Library at the V&A
We spent July 9 wandering around the beautiful city of Stratford, better known as Shakespeare’s birthplace. I did a little shopping and then spent most of the day in their little library, working on blogging and research. Later, I met up with some of the girls over by the river across from The Royal Shakespeare Theatre. We sat in the grass and it was sooo nice outside. Then we went to see As You Like It at the theatre that night. It was an incredible performance and I loved it. We ended up getting back to London around 2 am, which made for a rough morning the next day!!
On July 10, we ventured over to the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum to visit the National Art Museum. This is one of the top 4 art libraries in the world, and is the leading reference library on this subject in Britain. They have 1 million items, and have 30,000 visitors a year. Many visitors are history of art and design students. Then there are members of staff and other people that check out books and research. The library began in 1837 in Somerset House, and in 1884, moved to the V&A. This is a closed access library, meaning everything must be requested online. There are 2 rooms open to the public- the reading room and the center room. One section of the library is being used for an exhibit, and we were able to see an aerial view of it. Right now, members of the library can access databases inside the library, and they would like to make access available offsite as well. Members of the staff collect requests every hour, on the hour. Items are then reserved for 3 days. They have an in house classification system by size. All of their collections are on site except their children’s materials. They have the largest Beatrix Potter selection (which we will see later on). The National Art Museum has an annual budget of $175,000. About half of their acquisitions are gifts. They hold some collections for the British Library, and they also collaborate with other major institutions. This is so they don’t all try to acquire the same material, and they are able to complement and supplement each other’s collections. They have an international collection here. 43% is comprised of languages other than English. The librarian said they would love to digitize the collection, but it really depends on how much money they receive in donations. I loved seeing some of the items from the collection here. I even touched a limited edition Picasso of which there are only 850 copies, maybe even less. There was also a DaVinci facsimile worth about £20,000. I also really liked that this library has a lot of information about preservation and conservation of their items. The staff goes through a lot of training to handle these items.