Category Archives: Westminster Reference Library

Westminster Reference Library – Celebrating 90 Years! 8th Oct 1928 – 8th Oct 2018

A big Happy Birthday to Westminster Reference Library! 90 years old! Opened to the public on 8th Oct 1928, the Central Reference Library as it was then known has continued to serve the public throughout its 90 years, morphing its way through the myriad information formats, books, magazines, microfiche, floppy disks, CDROMs etc and on into the age of the internet and world wide web…  WRF90thPartyThe library’s journey throughout the 20th Century and into the 21st reflects the evolution of the library as institution, in particular the curious beast that is the reference library, a rare breed now, almost extinct!  Indeed the use of the word ‘reference’ in the library’s name is something of a misnomer as what were once purely reference and information services now includes lending, with the library focused on its special collections in BusinessLawArt & Design, and Performing Arts.

Current visitors enjoy access to characterful reading rooms with study spaces over three floors, an Exhibition space, free access to internet & pcs, free wifi, as well as access to books, magazines and newspapers, all complemented by the wealth of online resources also available via 24/7 Library.  The library hosts regular events  with a special programme of talks and workshops throughout October.

WRFStairs

Even libraries benefit from having a USP these days and earlier this year the library was refurbished and its unique heritage brought to fore.  Situated on what was the site of astronomer Isaac Newton’s house, the library’s architecture reflects the style of the original building.  Plaques marking the site’s historical significance always adorned the foyer and the exterior, but now a portrait of Sir Isaac Newton and images of the telescope he invented along with his study decorate the foyer and stairwell.  This decorative renovation was inspired by and designed to coincide with the Reach for Skies project, launched in May 2018,  with the library now lending telescopes!

Tucked away off Leicester Square and behind the National Gallery, often people report only finding out about the library when passing by. Lending telescopes is already working to put the library on the map and reach new audiences.  If you haven’t visited Westminster Reference Library recently or before, do come see us.

Our Celebration party is on Monday 8TH October, 11am – 3pm and everyone is invited!

There will be cake and crepes and an opportunity get to know the library better by taking part in a Cryptic Quiz which runs to the end of October. Full of clues about the library, its history and collections, you will be in with a chance to win theatre, concert, opera tickets, book tokens, and free access for 1 year for a lucky entrepreneur to exclusive KOMPASS Global B2B database.

No need to book, just turn up. Whether you’re a regular customer or first time visitor, we look forward to seeing you!

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Astronomy Month: Stars in Your Eyes

September is Astronomy Month at Westminster Reference Library with free events each week and telescopes for loan; more information about everything that’s happening on our website

Bayeux Tapestry 32-33 comet Halley Harold

Isti Mirant Stella, Bayeaux Tapestry, Canterbury, 1070s

They wonder at the star

This is the earliest picture of Halley’s Comet, made at a time when comets were bad omens. In 1066, it was visible from  24 April to 1 May, a few months after Harold’s coronation on 6 January, and before his death and defeat at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October.

Edmond Halley (1656 – 1742) astronomer and mathematician, was the first to compute the orbit of this comet and accurately predict its return in 1758. Halley was a frequent visitor when Sir Isaac Newton lived in the house which was on the site of the library from 1710 – 1727.

Did you know the library has a specialist Fine Arts Collection on the first floor? You are welcome to explore our books on this early medieval masterpiece, from a contemporary account to recent research:

Bayeux Tapestry and the Norman Invasion, Introduction and Translation from the contemporary account of William of Poitiers by Lewis Thorpe, London 1973

David Mackenzie Wilson, The Bayeux tapestry: the complete tapestry in colour, with introduction, description and commentary, London, 1985

Wolfgang Grape, The Bayeux Tapestry: monument to a Norman triumph, Translated from the German, Munich 1994

Lucien Musset, The Bayeux Tapestry: translated by Richard Rex, Woodbridge, 2005

Carola Hicks, The Bayeux Tapestry: The Life Story of a Masterpiece London, 2007

Library staff are happy to help you to find these and other books in the collection.

Not sure where we are? Westminster Reference Library  is off the south side of Leicester Square, behind the main wing of the National Gallery.  For more information, telephone 020 7641 1300.

Salon for the City

As the Salon for the City starts its 6th year at the Westminster Reference Library it feels like a good time to have a bit of a retrospective.

In case you hadn’t already heard, Salon for the City is a series taking a look at London through a different lens on the last Wednesday of each month at the Westminster Reference Library.

The Salon is very popular and regularly attracts 40+ people who brave all sorts of terrible weather conditions to attend (last month’s talk on London transport was beset by a snow storm that ironically shut down vast swathes of London and despite those conditions the Salon was still heaving)

The Salons always sell out and Hendricks lubricate the library each month with a specially prepared cocktail of that most London of liquors: Gin.

The salons usually take the form of two illustrated talks by invited speakers in the fields of history, the arts, business, fashion and culture. The talks are followed by a joint Q+A and conversation. We also have occasional performances, themed interviews and films.

There is time to mingle, converse, browse the amazing collection of the Library in the company of other London lovers.

We started off with this : London at the library

and grew to this :

Salon1

As the 50th Salon took over the entire ground floor with 10 London experts talking about their favourite Londoner.

Salon2

But normally it coexists quite well with normal library business going on around it:

Salon3

If you would like to come along you can book a ticket here.

Nicholas Alexander
Collection Services Officer

Art book of the month, March 2018

After a little break, due to the refurb at Westminster Reference Library, ‘Art book of the month’ is back. Over to Nick…

As befits our recent reopening of our ground floor this month (the first floor is due to open up in April so art books won’t be available until then), why not have a thought about what art actually is with ‘A New Dictionary of Art’ edited by Robert Good.

This is an interesting take on the question of ‘What is art?’ which presents over 3000 definitions of art compiled from both established sources and the internet.

These range from the straightforward –

To the bizarre

To the formal

There’s a vulgar definition too, but it’s a bit cheeky for our blog. One of the joys about this books is how the work itself is very much a work of art!

Nick
Nicholas Alexander
Collection Services Officer

PS previous art book of the month posts: November 2017, October 2017 and September 2017

Art book of the month, November 2017

The Illustrated London News

I hope that you will all forgive me for being a bit liberal in my usage of the word book here, as while The Illustrated London News is technically a periodical, when you’re faced with 281 volumes of bound copies it’s easy to forget that they aren’t technically a book.

The Illustrated London News first appeared on Saturday 14 May 1842, as the world’s first illustrated weekly news magazine and ceased publication in 2003. It is an incredible resource for anyone looking to get a view for the past with contemporary images from the time mixed in with articles of the day. Anyone looking to get some insight into the topical issues of the day would be hard pressed to go any further than this.

It is is frequently used by academics as for their research and a volume from our collection is currently on display in the Migration Museum as part of their No Turning Back: Seven Migration Moments that Changed Britain  exhibition.

In addition to the bound volumes held at Westminster Reference Library, The Illustrated London News is also available online here for Westminster’s library members.  Not yet a member? You can join online here

Nick
Nicholas Alexander
Collection Services Officer

PS – Art book of the month for October and September 

Art Book of the Month, October 2017

The Vernon Gallery of British Art Volumes 1-4 London: g. Virtue, 1850  

Buried deep in the stacks of Westminster Reference Library we uncovered the four volume set of the Vernon Gallery of British Art.

This collection lists in delightful detail all of the 152 paintings donated by Robert Vernon on the 22 of December, 1847 to the National Gallery. Each work is shown in full detail with an accompanying description that helps to set the scene as to how the work was viewed at the time.

All of the images are preserved by a thin sheet of grease proof paper that ensures the fidelity is not lost.

The collection donated by Robert Vernon consisted of works by notable artists of his time, such as Turner and Constable. It provided a huge boost to the then newly established National Gallery. While the works have since been split up and some now reside in Tate Britain the value of the collection still remains.

Anyone is welcome to visit the Westminster Reference Library and staff are always happy to retrieve any books from our stacks. If you would like to see this set of books, please do visit us.

Nick
Nicholas Alexander
Collection Services Officer

PS – and if you’re interested to know what was Art Book of the Month last month 

Morningwood by Kit Cox – book launch

As any regular user of Westminster Reference Library will be aware we have an excellent event on the last Thursday of every month, a Salon for the City

Every month the salon focuses on a new area of London, and has two speakers offering their own take on their speciality. Initially only intended on running for four months, the salon has blossomed and is rapidly approaching its 50th session.

The events are sponsored by Hendrick’s Gin whose host, the marvellous Kit Cox is not just an amazing bartender who makes special gin cocktails for every occasion but also an amusing raconteur who delights the salon’s audience with gin based facts at every event.

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As should not be a surprise to anyone, Kit is also an excellent author who frequently goes by the pen name Major Jack Union. For his latest book Morningwood, Kit decided to hold his launch at Westminster Reference Library and it was a wild success. Complete with cosplayers, Kit’s talk was engaging and witty and even revealed the secret behind how he chose his nom-de-plume (believe it or not, the fact that Jack Union is Union Jack is simply a fortunate coincidence!) Kit also spoke about the influences behind the book, from the fashionable streets of 60’s London into the mythology of a world of ancient deities.

Beneath the streets of trendy 60’s London an old and very cold war is about to bubble to the surface: Ancient feuds between creatures, long regarded as myth, threaten to spill back into the world of humans. Is it finally time for the Guardian of the early morning woods to step out of retirement? A ritual killing leads to a roller coaster world of espionage, brutal scooter gangs and mythical worlds as Mulberry Gale ,investigator with a point to prove, decides to call in a favour from one of the greatest protectors of humanity. Can Professor Early Morningwood (yes he’s fully aware) throw off the shackles of his self imposed exile and save not just one but two worlds from the machinations of an old foe? From the sleepy spires of Oxford to the trendy streets of sixties London and out into the wilds of Scotland It’s time to find out if this Old Goat is a myth or a Legend.

 

Nick
Nicholas Alexander
Collection Services Officer

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