The Library of Birmingham
Have you visited the Library of Birmingham?
Designed by Dutch architects Mecanoo, the Library has transformed the city’s library services and become a major cultural destination, housing Birmingham’s world-class collections of archives, photography and rare books as well as a million printed volumes, the largest number held by any public library in the UK. Of these, over 400,000 books are available on the Library’s public floors.
With outstanding resources and access to expert help, the Library is a centre of excellence for literacy, research, study, skills development, health information, creative expression and entrepreneurship.
At 31,000 sq. metres it is around 20% larger than the old Central Library building and is the largest public library in Europe.
The Library of Birmingham is a flagship project of Birmingham City Council’s 20-year Big City Plan, focusing on the regeneration of the city and the most far-reaching city centre development project ever undertaken in the UK.
The ten-level Library shares a spacious entrance and foyer as well as a flexible studio theatre seating 300 people with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Sited in Centenary Square it, along with The REP and Symphony Hall, forms a new cultural heart for the city.
An outdoor Amphitheatre, surrounded by wild flower planting, in Centenary Square provides a performance space for music, drama, poetry reading and storytelling.
There are two outdoor garden terraces, children’s spaces and a panoramic viewing gallery at the summit, where visitors are able to enjoy stunning views from one of the highest points in the city.
The Golden Box
A ‘golden box’ of secure archive storage occupies levels five and six of the building and contains the city’s internationally important archive, heritage and photographic collections. Whilst the Library’s precious collections are kept safe in this protective environment, thanks to an ongoing programme of digitisation they have been opened up to the public online and through digital innovations projects using new technology.
A gallery enables select parts of the collection to go on display through a programme of exhibitions. The Library contains one of the world’s largest Shakespeare collections, the Parker Collection of Children’s Books and Games, the Early and Fine Printing Collection and the Boulton and Watt archive.
Shakespeare Memorial Room
Above the golden box, visitors can explore the Shakespeare Memorial Room, an original feature from the city’s Victorian library. The Victorian room with its wooden panelling and glass cabinets has been moved in its entirety and painstakingly restored. Although the Library’s Shakespeare collection outgrew the room in the early 20th century, the collection is still housed in the Library.
Photography & film
The Library of Birmingham’s Photography Collection is one of nine national collections. Recent additions including the Val Williams archive, work from the renowned photographic cooperative, Magnum Photos, and three major exhibitions from internationally-acclaimed photographer, Brian Griffin, who has a substantial collection held by the Library of Birmingham. The Library’s photography hub GRAIN is already researching, developing and delivering new, ambitious high quality opportunities, strengthening photography in the region. GRAIN has also collaborated with the FORMAT International Photography Festival to offer a new Library of Birmingham photography prize.
The Library of Birmingham is also home to a BFI Mediatheque, providing free access to the BFI National Archive. Visitors are able to log on at a viewing station and enjoy highlights of the national film collection including a specially curated selection of films and television featuring Birmingham and the West Midlands, from a university procession captured by Mitchell & Kenyon in 1901 to Julie Walters playing the title role in an account of an West Midlands icon, The Mary Whitehouse Story (2008).
New to The Library this year
As the Library of Birmingham celebrates its first year anniversary this September, it brings together its most thought-provoking and inspiring programme of events yet. Voices Season reveals the intriguing stories behind how people of all walks of life learn to find their voice and express themselves to the world. Voices from the past and of the future, voices of the oppressed and forgotten, voices of those striving for change.
Voices of War exhibition.
29 September – 31 December 2014
Voices of War offers a valuable insight into the lives of the people of Birmingham during the First World War. Combiningphotographs, documents and letters selected from the Library’s extensive archives and special collections, Voices of War transports visitors back 100 years through history, focusing on stories from the Frontline to the incalculable efforts of industrial Birmingham and the men, women, and children who sacrificed their everyday lives. Voices of War also presents the vital contribution of Black and Asian soldiers, and discusses the notions of patriotism and pacifism in the city. The exhibition is complemented by a series of talks and events, online resources and an accompanying book.
Find out more here!
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