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!
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