Tuesday, February 4, 2014

British Library - Touring Tuesday - Museum Mile

Now that the kids are in school I have the city at my feet. Aside from the casual errands, I can go anywhere (as long as I'm back in time for the dismissal bell).  I prefer the free attractions, but I'm willing to pony up a few pounds for an exceptional spot.

I recently visited The British Library up near King's Cross/St.Pancras Station.  It is part of the collection of museums knows as the Museum Mile.  Read about the other museums in the collection I've visited here.

Here are some facts:

It is the biggest library in the world.  The Library of Congress is second largest.

The really old items in British Library were originally housed at the British Museum (one of my absolute favorite museums).

The British Library is a huge vault of literature and artifacts, and it even has below ground storage.  You might be interested to know that this is a research library, and you are unable to walk the stacks and peruse the books of this library.  A majority of the public space is comprised of reading rooms for different academic disciplines.  If you have a specific research need, and the proper documentation to prove it, you can request to see specific texts to be delivered to your table.

The library receives a copy of every book published in England & Ireland.  That's over 3 million items per year.  I wonder how often they receive requests for the dime store romance books with Fabio on the cover.

For me, the highlight of my self-guided tour was seeing the center tower containing books collected by King George III from the late 1700's to early 1800's (the anniversary of his death was last week on January 29.)  The tower is highly controlled for humidity and light behind the UV glass.  The size of the books is impressive.  Many of the volumes on the shelves are well taller than 12".  I would love to get my hands on any of these books.

Aside from the books, the British Library also has a vast collection of literary artifacts.  I was able to view such impressive items as a Gutenberg Bible, the Magna Carta, the original Alice in Wonderland, lyrics to many Beatles songs in their handwriting, and much more.

Overall, I was impressed with the British Library even though I could not peruse the stacks.  I think I toured the facility in about ninety minutes.

British Library
96 Euston Road

Nearest Underground Stations: King's Cross/St. Pancras, Euston, and Euston Square

Admission: Free - special exhibits priced separately

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