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The British Library Bringing knowledge to life: The British Library Annual Report and Accounts 2007/08

Sacred: Discover what we share

Funding from each of the faith groups represented – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – helped make Sacred the library’s most successful exhibition to date. The generosity of donors also made possible an array of related public events, regional touring and learning programmes.

We are very grateful to everyone who supported Sacred, including the Coexist Foundation, the Moroccan British Society, the Saint Catherine Foundation, the Clore Duffield Foundation and Sami Shamoon. Through the vision and support of the Coexist Foundation, we plan to tour the exhibition in future years.

The Wardington Hours

We were able to acquire the Wardington Hours thanks to the generous support of The Art Fund, the Friends of the British Library and the Friends of the National Libraries.

The Wardington Hours is part of a Book of Hours – a collection of Christian devotions based on the Psalms for recitation at different times of the day. Produced in Paris in the 15 century, it is exquisitely painted, incorporating intricate detail and a wealth of colourful imagery. It joins a wealth of important manuscripts produced by the Bedford group of artists in our collections, allowing scholars to research its complex style and dating in the context of other related manuscripts.

The Harold Pinter Archive

The support of the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and generous donations from Dr Alice Griffin, the American Trust for the British Library, the Michael Marks Charitable Trust and other private trusts and donors enabled us, in December 2007, to purchase the playscripts archive of the Nobel Prizewinning playwright and writer Harold Pinter. The playscripts will now remain in the Library alongside the rest of the Pinter archive, bought by the Library earlier in the year.

The archive is one of the most significant post-War literary collections and represents an invaluable resource for scholars of Pinter’s work for the stage, cinema and poetry.

The Harold Pinter Archive

The Folio Society Gallery

We remain grateful to the Folio Society for their continuing support of the Folio Society Gallery, which enables us to create lively and accessible themed displays for visitors.

A highlight of this year’s programme was Bloomsbury Below Stairs: Grace Higgens at Charleston 1920–1970, which drew on the recently acquired Grace Higgens papers to provide an insight into the domestic lives of the Bloomsbury Group, as witnessed by their long-serving housekeeper. We were also able to catalogue Grace Higgens’ papers, thanks to the generosity of Alastair Kirkatrick, who supported the project in memory of his aunt, Brownlee Kirkpatrick.

The British Library Centre for Conservation

This year saw the successful completion of the first year-long book conservation internship, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, at the British Library Centre for Conservation.

Two further interns began internships in November, generously supported by the Ernest Cook Trust and the Headley Trust. A sound archiving internship programme, with bursaries supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Ernest Cook Trust, the D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust and the American Trust for the British Library, was launched in September. The scheme has attracted applicants from sound archives around the world.

A new programme of events for the public to discover more about conservation launched in Autumn 2007. Visitors can join behind-the-scenes tours, advisory days and workshops, and explore a new dedicated exhibition space in the Foyle Visitor and Learning Centre.

Conservation Research

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is generously supporting a three-year project between the British Library and the other UK Legal Deposit libraries to research the deterioration of paper and books in libraries. 350 identical books have been gathered in each library and the project team is analysing tiny samples from each to work out the effect of their differing storage conditions. Ultimately we hope to use the data to develop tools that give an early warning that books are becoming fragile and to design storage facilities that will minimise the rate of paper degradation.

Conservation Research

Pearson Creative Research Fellows

This year’s Pearson Creative Research Fellow is the last in a five-year collaboration with Pearson. Based within the Learning team, the Fellows have researched the collections and shared their findings through creative projects and workshops with young people.

This year’s fellow was fine art photographer Chino Otsuka, and the main subject of her creative research was the exploration of memory. She was particularly interested in photographs from the Asian and African collections and soundscapes in the British Library Sound Archive. During the year, Chino led two Young Researchers projects for groups of learners, inspired by Breaking the Rules. She will showcase images and sounds in an exhibition at the Library in September 2008.

Learning Space

We wish to transform the Education Room at St Pancras by extending into two smaller rooms and creating a fully-equipped Learning Space almost treble the size of the existing facility. Enhanced by new furniture, internet-connected laptops and interactive whiteboards, the new Learning Space will significantly increase the range and number of activities we can run for learners of all ages. Fundraising is underway for this project and we are very grateful to the Wolfson Foundation and John Lyon’s Charity, who have pledged their support.

Patrons

British Library Patrons gifted unrestricted funds which have benefited a range of inspiring projects, including the Breaking the Rules exhibition. Throughout the year we welcomed Patrons to a range of events offering them special access to our outstanding collections. These have included a tour of the Sound Archive’s treasure trove of historical recordings, a breakfast visit focusing on our historic Chinese collections, and a lively presentation by Lord Baker on bawdy and irreverent satirical cartoons from the reign of George III.

American Trust for the British Library (ATBL)

We are most grateful to all of our friends who continue to support the Library through the American Trust and, in particular, to the late William T Golden, Co-Chairman, who died in 2007 at the age of 97 and who had been a leading light in the ATBL since the 1970s.

Mr Golden, along with the late Arthur Houghton, the late Viscount Eccles and the late Douglas Bryant, the ATBL’s founding director, was instrumental in nurturing the American Trust in its fledgling days. The group’s greatest achievement was to lead a successful campaign to restore the Library’s American collections which had suffered severe bomb damage in WWII.