Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Victoria and Albert National Art Library

While knowledge in any form is always interesting to behold, it is always pleasant to visit an institution which combines the aesthetic with the intellectual. The National Art Gallery is certainly such a place, where works of art are displayed next to great works of literature, realia of all kinds and even graphic novels. There are over 2 million items in the gallery's collection which are classified under a unique system, and they have facsimile versions of famous works for displays and exhibitions, such as DaVinci's famous notebooks with mirror writing. In addition, their special collections also include a copy of Shakespeare's 1st foglio, a 1623 collection of Dickens' manuscript and his travel diaries, a collection of madrigals from 1588 and a number of rare Islamic book bindings, which are more valuable than the texts themselves. Reference materials are classified by Dewey, organized alphabetically and must be requested in advance. The library holds 8,000 periodicals, 2,000 of them current as well as extensive collections of microfilm and microfiche. They also possess historical National Art Gallery publications from 1837 to the present day. Furthermore, all items can be found in the online catalog

However, unlike the U.S. the National Art Library has an extensive collection of graphic novels which they use to supplement exhibits and displays, such as the display about "Alice in Wonderland" during our visit. The graphic novels included were "Little Nemo in Slumberland" (arguably the first graphic novel), as well as classic Spider-Man, Matrix-based materials and a number of Batman comics, including Grant Morrison's award-winning work "A Serious House" noted for it's Wonderland-themed imagery. The "Alice in Wonderland" display was supplemented from the Gallery's graphic novel collection which is cataloged with AACR II, and is mainly collected to display the artwork of the 20th century or to supplement other specific collections.

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