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Behind the scenes at the British Library


Experts and directors at the British Library blog about strategy, key projects and future plans Read more

20 March 2018

Building up a new Shop range

Do you love the British Library’s building? Its five and a half floors of light filled space, designed by architects Sir Colin St John Wilson and M J Long, are full of sumptuous finishes such as travertine, oak, leather and brass, and provide the gateway to our magnificent collection.

Entrance Hall at the British Library
Entrance Hall at the British Library

We have woven some of these colours and textures into a new building range, now available in our Shop. Drawing inspiration from our iconic building, the range includes stationery, accessories and homeware.

Inspired by our architecture  a bespoke jewellery range by Victoria Myatt
Inspired by our architecture, a bespoke jewellery range by Victoria Myatt from Promises Promises

Details of our stairs are reflected in this pocket mirror     This bespoke tote bag echoes the red pillars around the British Library building at St Pancras
Pocket mirrors echoing the motifs of our stairs and tote bags drawing on elements found on the red pillars around our building

Jewellery designer Victoria Myatt from Promises Promises, who has created some handmade items exclusively for the range, says: ‘I wanted to take elements that were instantly recognisable from the building to build the collection around: the layers of stairs and balconies in graceful curves, the leather wrapped hand rails, the graphic shapes of the clock and landscaping. The final pieces have strong lines, layering and shapes that I feel echo the iconic nature of the building, both its structure and its purpose.’ As well as jewellery, inspiration from the interior design of the building can be found on notebooks, tote bags and mirrors in the building range.

Victoria Myatt's moodboard
Victoria Myatt's inspirations based on our architecture

The perfect place to find quirky books and gifts for the curious and literary-minded, the British Library Shop is also inspired by our collections and exhibitions. From rediscovered historical crime classics and our archive capturing the early days of punk, to the original Alice in Wonderland manuscript and our recent Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition, our award-winning themed Pop-up shops and product ranges create an immersive experience inviting visitors to get closer to our collections. Our Buying team is committed to supporting designer-makers and discovering new talent to create our bespoke ranges.       

To take a piece of the building home with you, pop in to our Shop or browse the collection online. Every purchase supports the British Library.

Shimei Zhou, Content and Community Team

08 March 2018

Women of the British Library

With International Women’s Day on 8 March, the Content and Community Team are introducing you to some of the women here at the Library, and the role they play in making us who we are.

Dr Cordelia Rogerson

Cordelia is the Head of Collection Management for the South (we have locations in St Pancras, London, and Boston Spa, Yorkshire) at the British Library.

Cordelia manages the care and conservation of the physical collection in the British Library – that is approximately 150 million books, manuscripts and varied artefacts ranging in date from 3000BC to the present day. Cordelia is also responsible for metadata creation (cataloguing) teams based in the St Pancras site. A team of 120 specialists support these activities. Cordelia’s aim is to ensure access to the Library’s collections for all our users as well as the long-term preservation of the items.

Cordelia Rogerson  Head of Collection Management for the South
Cordelia Rogerson, Head of Collection Management for the South

Cordelia has shared an amazing photo with us which gives you just a glimpse of her work here at the Library – being conserved and prepared for display for the Library’s 2015 exhibition, it is of the Magna Carta (dated 1215). Cordelia says, ‘I managed the project and it was the most fulfilling and engaging conservation project I have worked on.’

Magna Carta being conserved and prepared for the Library's 2015 exhibition
Magna Carta being conserved and prepared for the Library's 2015 exhibition


Jessica Pollard

Jessica is a Digitisation Conservator, her role is to support and enable the imaging of British Library material by ensuring their safety through all stages of the digitisation process, working very closely with Imaging Services, curators and the rest of the digitisation conservation team. Carrying out thorough condition assessments prior to imaging highlights any issues that may pose a risk to items during handling, and conservation treatments are completed where necessary to stabilise weak or damaged areas.

Jessica Pollard  Digitisation Conservator
Jessica Pollard, Digitisation Curator

Jessica says, ‘It’s an incredibly varied and busy role, and I never know what I’m going to see from one day to the next. In the last year alone I’ve assessed over 700 items including Ostraca fragments, pre-1200 illuminated manuscripts, embroidered Chinese scrolls and 20th-century photographs. I really couldn't pick a favourite item but just last week, while assessing a collection of Ethiopic manuscripts, I was excited to come across the original leather satchels which were used for both storage and transport. Each item was individual and beautifully crafted which helped make up for spending a Friday afternoon alone in the basement.’

Jessica also has a knack for snapping some spectacular photos of her work, here’s just a taster (follow her Instagram @mini_museum for more)…

A herbal undergoing repairs to enable safe handling during photography (Add MS 41623)
A herbal undergoing repairs to enable safe handling during photography (Add MS 41623)


Cheryl Tipp

Let’s delve into the sound archive. Cheryl Tipp is our Curator of Wildlife and Environmental Sounds, and looks after the Library’s collection of natural history sound recordings which contains over 250,000 species and habitat from all over the world.

Cheryl Tipp  Curator of Wildlife and Environmental Sounds
Cheryl Tipp, Curator of Wildlife and Environmental Sounds

Cheryl says, ‘It’s a really varied role and can see me doing everything from cataloguing and enquiries to exhibitions and events. I’m currently involved with the Library’s HLF-supported Unlocking our Sound Heritage project which will see over half a million rare and at risk recordings from across the UK digitally preserved.’ Find out more about the project here.

With so much choice, what’s Cheryl’s favourite collection item? ‘I love the Gothic atmosphere of this Woodland in Winter recording’, she tells us.

Scottish wildlife recordings
Scottish wildlife recordings


Susan Reed

Meet Susan Reed, Lead Curator of our Germanic Collections which includes some 115,000 German books published before 1801.

‘I’ve been in the British Library for nearly 25 years – almost half my life! – and have always worked with the German collections: selecting books for acquisition, cataloguing, answering enquiries and using my knowledge of and research on the collections to raise awareness of our rich holdings from the German-speaking world.’

Susan Reed  Lead Curator of our Germanic Collections
Susan Reed, Lead Curator of our Germanic Collections

Last year Susan embarked on something very different – co-curating the Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths exhibition, a challenging but fascinating experience. She’s currently researching 19th-century Anglo-German newspapers for a seminar paper in June, and coming up with some new ideas for a future exhibition.

One of the 19th-century Anglo-German newspapers Susan's currently researching
One of the 19th-century Anglo-German newspapers Susan's currently researching


Amber Perrier

Amber is our Community Engagement Assistant. She started as a Community Engagement Trainee under the culture and heritage programme, Culture&. She spoke about her year of experiences at the Library at her graduation in 2017 – which included meeting Dr Carla Hayden, the 14th Librarian of Congress.

Amber Perrier, Community Engagement Assistant and Dr Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress
Amber Perrier, Community Engagement Assistant (left), Dr Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress (centre) and Emma Morgan, Community Engagement Manager (right)

Now, Amber’s role is all about encouraging the local residents of Somers Town, King’s Cross, Bloomsbury and Regents Park to use the British Library and all the facilities it offers, including tours, show-and-tells, and collaborating in community festivals.

Amber tells us: ‘As part of the Community Engagement team, I am currently holding community tours for local residents who have never been to the Library before. We are working with youth groups and harder-to-reach communities to take part in the Library’s major events such as the 100 years commemoration of the Suffragettes. We are also working with different departments in the Library to have a walkabout in Somers Town to meet and greet local businesses!’

Amber and Chezerina Dhaliwal  Community Engagement Manager
Amber and Chezerina Dhaliwal, Community Engagement Manager


Maria Lampert

Maria Lampert is our Intellectual Property Expert for the Business and IP Centre and she helps raise awareness of the practical application of intellectual property (IP) in supporting the innovation and enterprise process.

Maria Lampert  Intellectual Property Expert for the Business and IP Centre
Maria Lampert, Intellectual Property Expert for the Business and IP Centre

Maria says, 'In short this means having one-to-one meetings with inventors and entrepreneurs to help them understand what IP they may have and the value it has for them or their business. I give talks and run workshops on IP for businesses and educational establishments outside of the British Library.’

Maria Lampert on The One Show
Maria on The One Show

Maria recalls, ‘I met Von Ryan Sy – inventor of the Nimble Babies Milk Buster – for advice sessions on many occasions whilst Von got to grips with his intellectual property needs. He had great belief in his product and, after using it on plastic travel mugs at home, I’m a fan myself! Von even wrote a post for us detailing his experiences.’

For Maria, working with inventors and entrepreneurs can be very rewarding especially when those same inventors and entrepreneurs go on to be a success.

Content and Community Team

(Rachael Williams, Shimei Zhou, Ellen Morgan)


06 February 2018

2018 at the British Library – a peek into our plans (part II)

Fresh from our whistle-stop tour of Library highlights in part I, we continue our look to the year ahead and explore what our colleagues will be working on.

So, who else is *very* excited?


Jonnie Robinson, Lead Curator, Spoken English

‘Here are some departmental highlights for 2018:

Two new PhD students (Andrew Booth and Rowan Campbell) take up three-month placements to assist with accessioning the substantial Evolving English: VoiceBank.

Andrew Booth & Rowan CampbellAndrew and Rowan at work.

East Midlands English to be published later this year by de Gruyter Mouton, based principally on data from British Library sound recordings.

C is for Cob

An updated SOUNDS website is to be developed as part of the HLF-funded Unlocking our Sound Heritage project.’

Follow our Sound and Vision blog to discover more.


Polly Russell, Curator for Contemporary Politics and Public Life

‘2018 is the centenary of women first gaining the vote in the UK and so it seems especially fitting that the Contemporary Politics & Public Life department is about to embark on a three-year research project called The Business of Women’s Words with Sussex and Cambridge Universities examining the entrepreneurial practices and people who started the feminist magazine Spare Rib and women’s publisher Virago. The project will add new oral histories of feminist publishing to the library’s collections as well as creating a digital map of the Women’s Liberation Movement.

SpareRibFront cover Issue 1 July 1972 - Women Smiling by Angela Phillips. Usage terms: © Angela Phillips Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence.

With my food history and food politics hat on I am looking forward to curating the British Library’s forthcoming Food Season. Taking place throughout April and May the season will include talks and tastings with celebrity chefs, food historians and food activists with topics ranging from histories of cheese making to the importance of family meals to the politics of food production.

The Contemporary Politics & Public Life department is delighted to announce the completion of a collaborative project between the British Library and three US institutions digitising and making available the archives of four key individuals in the Cybernetics movement.’

Polly Russell Photo 1

Polly Russell

See more on the Spare Rib project here and read our Social Sciences blog for more updates from Polly and the team.

Tickets for our Food Season events programme will be available to book from 1 March 2018.


Philip Abraham, Assistant at the Eccles Centre for American Studies

‘The Eccles Centre has a very exciting 2018 ahead. Event highlights in 2018 include our annual Bryant Lecture, which will be given by the BBC’s Security Correspondent Gordon Corera, and a workshop for younger visitors organised with Benjamin Franklin House exploring the scientific legacy of this legendary American polymath. As usual we will also be welcoming scholars and academics from around the world to explore the British Library’s North American collections, many of whom will be sharing their findings as part of our ‘summer scholars’ series of salons here at the Library.  

Our support for research into the Canadian, Caribbean and US-related holdings of the British Library will take something of a new direction this year, as we focus on a number of key themes and research agendas.

From April, we’ll be committing time, energy and resources particularly towards projects on the following areas: North American and Caribbean indigenous studies; literary, theatrical and artistic connections in Canada, the Caribbean and the US; book history and arts in Canada, the Caribbean and the US; the ‘ American Lake’ and the politics of the Pacific Ocean; migration in/from/through Canada, the Caribbean and the US; and LGBTQ politics, culture and experiences in Canada, the Caribbean and the US.

We remain keen as ever, though, to encourage and support a whole range of researchers beyond as well as within academia. We are, for instance, really excited to find out what our 2018 Writers Award winners, novelist Stuart Evers and memoirist Tessa McWatt, will discover here at the library, as well as our Makin Fellows (a new award for shorter-term research for creative or non-fiction writing projects), George Goodwin and Karin Altenberg.

Tessa and stuart croppedThe winners of the 2018 Eccles British Library Writer’s Award are the novelist and short story writer Stuart Evers, and the author, librettist and screenwriter Tessa McWatt. Photo © Ander McIntyre.

We’re also really looking forward to the British Library’s Windrush exhibition in the Entrance Hall (1 June to 21 October 2018), which is being curated by our colleague Elizabeth Cooper from the Americas team, and which we’re very proud to be supporting. What’s so original and compelling about this exhibition is that it won’t only explore the consequences for Britain of post-war mass migration from the Caribbean, but that it will also look at the Windrush as an important moment in Caribbean history, and the region’s tumultuous twentieth-century journey towards independence. The Eccles Centre is fully committed to promoting research and debate in Caribbean studies as well as the work on US and Canadian studies that we’re more well-known for, so it’s a real privilege and a thrilling opportunity to be involved in this project.’

Windrush (c) IWM
HMT Empire Windrush © IWM (FL 9448)

The team will keep you updated with their work on the Americas blog. You can also follow their work @BL_Americas and @BL_EcclesCentre.


Stella Wisdom, Digital Curator, Digital Scholarship

‘Fellow Digital Curator Mia Ridge said that she is looking forward to more Digital Scholarship blog posts from In the Spotlight participants, like this one from medievalist Edward Mills.

Find out more about the In the Spotlight project here.

  InTheSpotlight_Come_and_PlayThe Library’s collection has over a thousand volumes holding thousands of fragile playbills

Also, on a personal note, Mia will be teaching a new subject, Collections as Data with Thomas Padilla for the Humanities Intensive Learning + Teaching (HILT) digital humanities summer school.

I’m looking forward to collaborating with the Living Knowledge Network on digital skills sharing days including one on digital sustainability on 1 March in Norwich, and one on maker spaces in Exeter on 14 June. Here’s a blog post about the games and play skills sharing day in Leeds on 9 November 2017.

  SkillsSharingDay_2017Photo from November 2017’s skills sharing day (image © Stella Wisdom)

I’m also looking forward to the Infinite Journeys: Interactive Fiction Summer School taking place 23 – 27 July, this is collaboration with Library’s Learning Team. And my involvement in the AHRC-funded  Creating a Chronotopic Ground for the Mapping of Literary Texts: Innovative Data Visualisation and Spatial Interpretation in the Digital Medium project, led by Lancaster University.

This three-year project will focus on a selection of imaginary spaces from a variety of famous literary texts, using geographic information systems (GIS) to capture, store, manipulate, analyse and present spatial and geographic data, creating an array of interactive and 3-D outputs, including building environments in Minecraft, ‘Litcraft’, which can be used as imaginative teaching resources.’


Litcraft: Mapping Minecraft Across Literature

Stella and the Digital Scholarship team will keep you up to date with their project on their blog.

Keep an eye on our What’s On pages for more information on booking for the summer school.


As ever, we’ll let you know about key projects and where you can get involved on the Library’s main social channels too. And we always want to know about how you’re using our collection; share your progress and pictures with us using Twitter and Instagram.

Here’s to an inspired, and inspiring, 2018!

Content and Community Team

(Rachael Williams, Shimei Zhou, Ellen Morgan)