Behind The Scenes At The British Library


The thirty-four photographs linked below were taken on two separate occasions. The first date was 1990 or 1991; the second set was taken on the site of the new building at St Pancras. At this distance, I can’t remember the precise dates, and the Press Office was unable to tell me. The first set was for a feature; I had a publication in mind but as with so many things in my life over the years, it never materialised. Having said that, although I used a good quality camera, I did not use a good quality photographer, so probably nothing would have come of it anyway. All these photographs were taken in broad daylight. I arrived at the Library before it opened; the gent who showed me around – see for example Bloomsbury 1 – was a press officer.

The second set – St Pancras 1-9 – is not so much behind the scenes as before the scenes. At some point, Bloomsbury readers were invited to visit the site of the new building. Many of us did, and I have no doubt that both professionally snapped photographs and video footage were taken in abundance.

A few words about the earlier set: Bloomsbury 1 is of the main reader’s entrance to the Round Reading Room; Bloomsbury 7 for example is of the Annexe. This is a circular corridor that runs round the outside of the Round Reading Room; at one point I did quite a lot of bibliographical work in there. I believe photograph 11 shows the seat a certain Karl Marx used, ditto Round Reading Room Photograph 4. Bloomsbury Photograph 12 is Advanced Reservations for the Round Reading Room; Photograph 13 was taken in the North Library – Rare Books. The North Library Gallery – above – is for periodicals. Photograph 17 appears to be looking down on an exhibit in the North Library from the North Library Gallery. Photograph 18 is, I believe, the Reading Room Annexe again, ditto 19. Round Reading Room Photograph 3 is, or would have been, a spectacular panorama. This, and other photographs, can be lightened or otherwise manipulated, but I will leave that to the professionals – ie anyone with marginally more skill than me.

Before the move to St Pancras, the Library also used other buildings, in particular Life Sciences at Aldwych; SRIS at Holborn, BLISS, also at Bloomsbury, and the India Office, which was South of the River. I used both SRIS and rather more frequently Life Sciences on occasion; I also used both the India Office and BLISS once or twice. The India Office is now at St Pancras, while BLISS has been integrated into the main collection, as has the Sound Archive, which was formerly located at South Kensington (and which I never used).

July 14, 2010

Bloomsbury – 1
Bloomsbury – 2
Bloomsbury – 3
Bloomsbury – 4
Bloomsbury – 5
Bloomsbury – 6
Bloomsbury – 7
Bloomsbury – 8
Bloomsbury – 9
Bloomsbury – 10 (the seat used by Karl Marx)
Bloomsbury – 11
Bloomsbury – 12
Bloomsbury – 13
Bloomsbury – 14
Bloomsbury – 15
Bloomsbury – 16
Bloomsbury – 17
Bloomsbury – 18
Bloomsbury – 19
Bloomsbury – 20
Bloomsbury – 21
Round Reading Room – 1
Round Reading Room – 2
Round Reading Room – 3
Round Reading Room – 4

St Pancras – 1
St Pancras – 2
St Pancras – 3
St Pancras – 4
St Pancras – 5
St Pancras – 6
St Pancras – 7
St Pancras – 8
St Pancras – 9

Additional Photographs: Update

I have today – November 6, 2010 – added an additional forty-two photographs as enumerated below. In addition to that, the photographs number Bloomsbury 10 and Round Reading Room 4 above appear to have been the same, so another has been substituted for the former, making a total of forty-three additional such photographs added to this site. This incidentally is a decent sized photograph of seat G7, which was used by Karl Marx. A few of these photographs are similar or even near duplicates, but as far as I can tell, there is no further duplication. I have not attempted to put the photographs in any sort of order or sequence except that all the Bloomsbury photos are together, as are all those from the then unifinished new building at St Pancras. I can’t remember how many snaps I took at the time, and I haven’t owned a camera for years, but I think I have scanned them all, or all of them that will scan reasonably. I threw a few away years ago because they were too dark. I must confess though that I am not entirely certain of the provenance of photograph 16 of the St Pancras second series; the two men in this picture look like painted figures, and I have a feeling this may actually be a photograph of a lifelike illustration. Either that or my brain is getting addled, as the late Mrs Jefferies used to say. Probably both!

Nowadays of course, it is all digital cameras, but in some ways this is a unique record; even allowing for the terrible quality of most of the shots, there do not appear to have been too many such photographs taken behind the scenes at Bloomsbury.

Bloomsbury (second series) 1
Bloomsbury (second series) 2
Bloomsbury (second series) 3
Bloomsbury (second series) 4
Bloomsbury (second series) 5
Bloomsbury (second series) 6
Bloomsbury (second series) 7
St Pancras (second series) 1
St Pancras (second series) 2
St Pancras (second series) 3
St Pancras (second series) 4
St Pancras (second series) 5
St Pancras (second series) 6
St Pancras (second series) 7
St Pancras (second series) 8
St Pancras (second series) 9
St Pancras (second series) 10
St Pancras (second series) 11
St Pancras (second series) 12
St Pancras (second series) 13
St Pancras (second series) 14
St Pancras (second series) 15
St Pancras (second series) 16
St Pancras (second series) 17
St Pancras (second series) 18
St Pancras (second series) 19
St Pancras (second series) 20
St Pancras (second series) 21
St Pancras (second series) 22
St Pancras (second series) 23
St Pancras (second series) 24
St Pancras (second series) 25
St Pancras (second series) 26
St Pancras (second series) 27
St Pancras (second series) 28
St Pancras (second series) 29
St Pancras (second series) 30
St Pancras (second series) 31
St Pancras (second series) 32
St Pancras (second series) 33
St Pancras (second series) 34
St Pancras (second series) 35


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