Dame Lynne Brindley
The past year has been one of challenge and achievement for the British Library and, as always, we have focused our energies on meeting, and where possible exceeding, the high standards rightly expected of this world-class institution.
We were overwhelmed by the very vocal public support we received as we awaited a decision by Government on the Comprehensive Spending Review, which set our funding levels for the next three years. The outcome of a 2.7% each year increase in our revenue budget was welcome news, particularly set against genuine fears of cuts, and we will also receive a sustained level of capital funding over the next three-year period. Whilst tough choices remain, I am really confident in our continuing ability to deliver an unrivalled service to our users, investing in innovation to ensure long-term success.
The British Library would be nothing without its dedicated staff, who have once again excelled in ensuring the highest levels of service are maintained. The Library won an unprecedented number of awards in 2007, and it was wonderful to see the success of many colleagues publicly recognised.
The Library’s most successful ever exhibition and public programme, Sacred: Discover what we share, was an undoubted highlight of the past year, displaying some of the world’s earliest-surviving, most important and beautiful religious texts from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths. Over 200,000 people visited the exhibition and it has left a legacy of resources on the Library’s website, and a continuing regional and international programme.
There was considerable interest in our UK-wide competition, Hidden Treasures Brought to Life, which offered an opportunity for treasured items in the collections of public libraries to be converted into Turning the Pages ‘virtual texts’ and revealed to the world via the web.
Returning to the Library, we maintained our focus on building our great research collections on behalf of the nation. In December we acquired the archive of the leading playwright and writer, Harold Pinter. Comprising over 150 boxes of manuscripts, scrapbooks, letters, photographs, programmes and emails, it will be an invaluable resource for researchers and scholars for generations to come. Amongst many other acquisitions were the Wardington Hours, a lavishly illuminated medieval manuscript, and the archive of the celebrated photographer Fay Godwin, which includes some 11,000 photographic prints. There was also considerable public interest in the discovery in the Library’s collection of a ‘lost’ early sketch by John Constable.
In 2008 we mark the tenth anniversary of the opening of the British Library’s St Pancras building. It will be an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of its architect, Sir Colin St John Wilson – Sandy, to his friends – who died last year. A man of huge determination and vision, his masterpiece continues to be loved by visitors and Readers, and by all who enter and find themselves inspired. The high quality of every detail of the building means that it will stand the test of time.
The British Library though does not stand still. Last autumn we celebrated the official opening of the British Library Centre for Conservation: a jewel of a building offering purpose-built facilities for state of the art and traditional conservation work. With DCMS support, we have recently secured an acre of land right behind the Library for future developments, ensuring that we can continue to meet the evolving needs of our users well into the future.
Dame Lynne Brindley