Exploring the British Library

by Helen Hooker January. 25, 2019 345 views
The British Library's central atrium

The British Library's central atrium

I’ve only been to the British Library once, seven years ago, but I knew on that occasion that I needed to return with my camera. After spending the whole week at home, typesetting music and doing admin tasks, I decided today would be work free, so I headed into London for a day at the library.

The current British Library building was opened in 1998, as a new home for its many collections – estimated to between 150 and 200 million items. Its original home in Bloomsbury, near the British Museum, was too small by then and I imagine having a purpose built facility must make life much easier for the staff.

The interior of the building is a myriad of clean, white lines, with spaces everywhere you look where people can sit and study. The core of the new building is a six storey glass walled space, containing the King’s Collection. This is a collection of some 65,000 books, pamphlets, manuscripts and maps amassed by King George III between 1763 and 1820. It’s an imposing feature, and I found myself staring at the endless patterns of books, half expecting someone to pull one off the shelf for reference!

The King's Collection, house in a six storey glass tower

The King's Collection, house in a six storey glass tower

I was very pleased to discover that photography is allowed in the public spaces within the library, although not in the reading rooms. You need a reader’s card to access these though, so I contented myself with exploring the rest of the building. I used it as an opportunity for a mix of architectural and street photography, noticing how people interacted with the building.

While I was there I also did a little pinhole photography. I noticed a few people looking puzzled by what I was doing, but only one person actually spoke to me. I guess it’s not every day you see someone using a wooden camera in the British Library! It’ll be a little while before I have the film developed, but at least I have some instant results from my digital photography to share with you now.

25 January 2019

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There are 6 comments , add yours!
Abigail Gossage 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Have you tried using your shift/tilt handheld?

8 months, 3 weeks ago Edited
Helen Hooker Replied to Abigail Gossage 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I have indeed. It’s easier with a tripod, but the built in electronic level in my camera means I can keep everything straight. These were all done handheld, but with small primes as I knew troops weren’t allowed in the British Library.

8 months, 3 weeks ago Edited
Abigail Gossage Replied to Helen Hooker 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Very cool.  I think that adapter is going to the top of my bucket list.

8 months, 3 weeks ago Edited
Kay Hooker 8 months, 3 weeks ago

What a fantastic building, nothing like the libraries I used to work in.  I too noticed that there was a tear in the jeans of the chap with the flask. I would really  like to know how they intend to get all the cobwebs down from their high ceilings. Spiders paradise!!!

8 months, 3 weeks ago Edited
Elizabeth Happer 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Wonderful photos Helen. I particularly like the way you have caught the people, as you say, interacting with the building. Is that a tear in the jeans of the guy with the flask? 😂😂

8 months, 3 weeks ago Edited
Helen Hooker Replied to Elizabeth Happer 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Thanks Liz! Yes, it is a tear - I didn't spot it until I got home. I wonder if he knows he has a hole in his trousers?!

8 months, 3 weeks ago Edited
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