On Tuesday 15 January I attended the CILIP Academic and Research Libraries Group (London and South East Section) visit to the Architectural Association Library. Located just round the corner from my workplace on Bedford Square, the Library is a hidden gem serving the needs of AA members and students.
Seated in the main Library room with its beautiful ceiling, we were given an introduction to the Library and its history by Librarian Eleanor Gawne. Founded in 1862, a few years after the AA itself was founded by some students dissatisfied with the current state of architectural education, the Library contains more than 45,000 volumes on the history of architecture, architectural theory, contemporary architectural design, building types, interior design, landscape design and supplementary subjects. The Library also holds journals and has a growing collection of e-journals and e-books.
I found the special collections particularly interesting. We were shown several volumes, including a Nuremberg Chronicle from the 15th century, donated by a former AA member. The designs and drawings in the architecture books were beautiful.
After a break for tea and biscuits, we were introduced to the archives by Archivist Edward Bottoms. The archives contain material relating to the work of the AA, including architectural drawings and paintings, models and student projects, as well as the culture and history of the Association. Formal cataloguing began in 2010 and an online catalogue is imminent. The collections were fascinating – the highlight being the record of a festival run by AA students in Bedford Square in the Seventies, which involved an elephant, a rock band and fire-eaters in the Library!
I really enjoyed my visit to the Architectural Association. Thanks to all the AA staff and ARLG London and South East for sorting it.