National Art Library/ V & A Museum

On the afternoon of July 6, our class visited the Victoria and Albert museum to tour the National Art Library. It is one of four art libraries in the world, and its strength lies in its collections on decretive arts and design.  There are an estimated 1 million books in the collections. The library originally opened in 1837 at the Somerset House as a small, but practical library. It was moved in 1852 to the Marlborough House, and later moved again to the South Kensington Museum.  In 1899, the library made its final move into the Victoria and Albert Museum, which was originally the South Kensington Museum. The library maintains that the stacks are closed, which means that all items are for in-house use only.  None of the collections can be taken out of the library. Any item that was created before 1850 is part of the special collections.  The staff pulls materials for patrons, and leaves in on reserve for three days.

The library has 11,000 periodicals, 1,000 of which are current subscriptions.  The numbering and lettering of the books are done in-house, and books are classified by height.  The National Art Library uses Library of Congress subject heading when cataloging books.  There are no photocopies in the library, although patrons can use the scanners that are provided.  By using the scanners, patrons can save the images on a thumb drive/ flash drive. Our guide also told us that the library has a budget of 175,000 pounds per year, and that there were around 4,000 inquiries a year for material.

The library has an online catalog that makes searching the collections easy.  The library website suggest to send a request for the material before arriving, as most material is housed in storage.  This can be done using the online library catalog.

The art library houses collections that include jewelry, fashion, and even has some information on the history of music halls.



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