Catalogue of Sheffield Hallam University Library added to Copac

We’re pleased to announce that the records of Sheffield Hallam University Library have been added to Copac.

Photo of Adsetts Library, City Campus, Sheffield Hallam University

Adsetts Library, City Campus, Sheffield Hallam University

The history of the University can be traced back to 1843 when the Sheffield School of Design was founded. In 1969 a number of colleges merged to form Sheffield City Polytechnic. In 1992 it became Sheffield Hallam University. More information about the history of the institution can be found here:

Sheffield Hallam University’s Library Service holds over 520,000 physical books, 207,000 e-books and 74,000 e-journal titles in its collections. The service is delivered over two libraries, one at each campus.

The Adsetts Library, based at City Campus, is the largest library and houses material that supports the wide range of subjects taught on the campus. It also houses a number of special collections.

The Collegiate Library is approximately 1 mile from the city centre and houses material that supports the teaching at Collegiate Campus. This is primarily nursing and allied health, psychology, law and sports sciences.

Collection areas include:

  • The Teaching Practice collection
  • The TESOL collection
  • The Special Collection (includes a Festival of Britain collection and material related to the Sheffield School of Art)
  • The Readership and Literary Cultures Collection
  • Film Studies, and Art and Design material
  • The Corvey Collection

For more information see Sheffield Hallam’s library information page on Copac.

To browse their records, select the Main Search tab on Copac and choose ‘Sheffield Hallam University’ from the list of libraries.

More about London Metropolitan University Library Services

Library Services at London Metropolitan University are delighted to have our collections available on Copac, and hope that the increased visibility will create new interest in our holdings.

Our main collections cover a large breadth of subject areas, ranging across Human Sciences, Languages, Social Sciences, Business and Law, and are held over our two campuses at Holloway Road and Aldgate.

We have particularly strong holdings in the areas of Art, Architecture and Design, in support of the university’s renowned department The Cass. This collection is located in our Aldgate Library, which was partially refurbished in 2016 to accommodate this stock. We regularly promote our collection via book displays and social media, often tying in to university and external events.

Photo of book display related to Project Red fashion show at The Cass

Book display related to Project Red fashion show at The Cass. Photograph by John Verrall.

We also have an Artists’ Books Collection located within our Special Collections Reading Room, comprising limited edition works made and produced by artists and hobbyists, including leading contemporary artists such as Michael Landy, Sam Taylor-Wood, David Shrigley and Andy Goldsworthy.

Photograph of samples from LMU's Artists' Books Collection

Samples from our Artists’ Books Collection. Photograph by John Verrall.

Library Services is an ever-evolving part of London Metropolitan University: to keep up with our latest developments, please follow us on our social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also find out more about Library Services, including contact details and visitor information, here.

Catalogue of London Metropolitan University added to Copac

We’re please to announce that the records of London Metropolitan University have been added to Copac.

London Metropolitan University, Aldgate Library

Library Services at London Metropolitan University operate across 3 sites:

  • Holloway Road Library contains Human Sciences, Languages and Social Sciences material
  • Aldgate Library contains Art, Architecture and Design, and Business and Law material
  • Special Collections holds collections such as the Frederick Parker Collection, the Archive of the Irish in Britain, and the Trades Union Congress Collection.

For more information see their Copac library page.

To browse their records, select the Main Search tab on Copac and choose ‘London Metropolitan University’ from the list of libraries.

Catalogues of Bangor University Library and Northumbria University Library added to Copac

We’re pleased to announce that the holdings of Bangor University Library and Northumbria University Library have been added to Copac.

Photograph of Bangor University Library

Bangor University Library

Bangor University Library holds an extensive range of print and electronic resources, and also has one of the largest university-based archives in the UK, cared for by its internationally recognised Archives and Special Collections department.

The service is housed over four libraries:

  • Main Library – holds collections for Arts, Languages, Humanities, Social Sciences, Music, Law, the Welsh Library, and is the location of the Archives and Special Collections department.
  • Deiniol Library – holds collections for Sciences, Psychology and Healthcare Sciences. Also kept here is a large collection of Ordnance, Soil and Geological Survey maps.
  • Normal Library – holds materials related to Education, Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences and collections of children’s books.
  • Wrexham Library – holds materials on Nursing, Midwifery, Radiography and Healthcare Sciences.

You can find out more about the library on their Copac information page, and see descriptions of their archival collections at the Archives Hub.

Northumbria University Library holds comprehensive digital and print collections, comprising over 550,000 print books, over 822,000 ebooks and in excess of 108,000 online journals and print journals.

The service is housed over three libraries:

  • City Campus Library – is the largest of the libraries and houses collections that support all of the subjects that are taught at City Campus. The library has been extensively refurbished since 2013.
  • Coach Lane Library – based on the east side of Coach Lane Campus, and houses collections that support all of the subjects that are taught at Coach Lane Campus.
  • Law Practice Library – situated within City Campus East and is located on the first floor of the CCE1 Building (Business and Law), and it houses a reference collection of law resources, including textbooks, law reports and journals.

You can find out more about the library on their Copac information page.

To browse or limit your search to the holdings of either library, select the Main Search tab in Copac and choose the library name from the list of libraries.

LGBTQ and Alternative Sexuality Journals at the Bishopsgate Institute

Stefan Dickers, Library and Archives Manager at the Bishopsgate Institute, introduces us to the Institute’s diverse collection of LGBTQ and alternative sexuality journals.

Bishopsgate Institute is home to one of the most comprehensive and accessible special collections and archives documenting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) histories in Britain. We started collecting LGBTQ materials in 2011, as part of our commitment to recording hidden histories and to preserving and sharing the history of protest and radicalism.

These collections are based around the Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive (LAGNA), a collection of over 300,000 press cuttings from the straight press documenting LGBTQ history, culture and politics since the early 1900s. We are now also home to the archives of organisations such as Stonewall, Switchboard: the LGBT+ helpline and the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, along with individuals such as LGBTQ writer and campaigner Paris Lees. Bishopsgate Institute also holds a dedicated LGBTQ Library of over 6,000 fiction, non-fiction, academic and pulp fiction books.

Another key aspect of the LGBTQ holdings is the Journal Collection, which holds over 500 different journal titles. Dating from the 1950s onwards, the collection demonstrates the variety of different groups and interests that can be found within the LGBTQ community. There are a large range of genres reflected within the collection, including lifestyle, campaigns, politics and culture. The collection features well-known titles such as ‘Gay News/Gay Times’, ‘Capital Gay’, ‘Diva’ and ‘The Pink Paper’, along with rare and more specific journals which are created by local or niche organisations such as ‘BLGYN (The Bradford Lesbian and Gay Youth Newsletter)’ and ‘Gay Vegetarian Gazette’.

The collection has an international reach and appeal as it includes journals from across Europe and the USA. We are also about to provide a home to the largest collection of Australasian LGBTQ journals outside that continent. The experience of the transgender and gender variant community is also well represented, with holdings such as ‘TV/TS News’, ‘Beaumont Society Newsletter’ and ‘Transliving’, stretching back to the 1980s.

Bishopsgate Institute also holds a substantial amount of LGBTQ erotic and pornographic literature, including books, magazines and pulp fiction. These holdings began with material in the original deposit of the library of the Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive in 2011 and have expanded with numerous subsequent deposits from individuals and organisations. The collection ranges from physique magazines of the 1950s to pornographic magazines from the 2000s. There is also adult material relating to gay and straight fetish, leather and rubber sexuality, BDSM, body modification, transvestism and other alternative sexualities. The collection is an important resource for the study of visual representations of gay and alternative sexuality from the 1950s to the present day.

The Journal Collection is consistently being added to and new donations are always welcome. All of the titles can be consulted in the Researchers’ Area of the Library at Bishopsgate Institute. We are open Monday to Friday, 10.00am to 5.30pm, and no appointment or ID is necessary.


Stefan Dickers, Library and Archives Manager, Bishopsgate Institute

Bishopsgate Institute
230 Bishopsgate

Call: 0207 392 9270

All images are from the Bishopsgate Institute’s LGBTQ Journals Collection.

You can browse the Bishopsgate Library’s records on Copac.

More about the Science Museum Library

The Science Museum Library’s records were added to Copac in February 2017. In this piece Nick Wyatt, Head of Library & Archives at the museum, tells us more about the library and its collections.

Dana Research Centre and Library © Tim Soar/Coffey Architects

The Science Museum’s library collections are a world-class resource for the historian of the science, technology and medicine. For many years the Library shared a building and catalogue with Imperial College but this arrangement ended in early 2014 when the last of the Library’s collections were moved from London to the Museum’s stores at Wroughton, near Swindon. The catalogue then ceased to be available on Copac.

The closure of the old library allowed staff to plan for a new library in London and procure a new catalogue. There followed an intense period as the new library was designed and built, services reconfigured, collections moved and new staff appointed. In November 2015 the Science Museum’s splendid Dana Research Centre and Library was opened and then formally launched in March 2016, together with the new library and archive catalogues. The library is a beautiful, relaxing and inspirational space, designed by Coffey Architects, that has received many positive reviews from architects, librarians and researchers.  Visitors have been impressed by the continuity of design and attention to detail which makes the experience of using the library very rewarding. There are some beautiful images of the new Dana Research Centre and Library, showing the dappling of light within the space, here.

The library is a physical manifestation of the Museum’s strong commitment to research and scholarship. It caters for academic researchers and scholars, for the family and local historian, for the enthusiast and the curious. There are 18 reading desks, around 6000 volumes of books and journals in the history and biography of science, technology and medicine, and access to the new library and archive catalogues and to other electronic resources. Readers can also use the library’s digital microfilm reader – the library has Britain’s only microfilm copy of the Archive for the History of Quantum Physics.  Digital copies of original material can be produced for consultation or purchase, including large format engineering drawings. Readers can also consult archives and library material transported from Wroughton. Library staff are available to help readers find out about the Science Museum’s library, archive and object collections. Researchers can also consult museum object files in the new reading room.

Two Marconiphone Television and Radio Trade Catalogues, 1939 © Trustees of the Science Museum Group

The Wroughton site has its own reading room which remains open by prior appointment on Fridays for researchers, especially those wishing to consult large quantities of material brought from the stores. Occupying over 25 kilometres of closed-access shelving, the collections cover the worldwide development of science, technology, industry, medicine and related subjects over the past 500 years. Original printed works (in English and other European languages) include books, journals, patents, directories, trade literature, international exhibition publications and maps.

The new Library catalogue, available here, documents a large part of our library holdings stored at our Wroughton site and everything shelved in the Research Centre.  Over three quarters of the catalogued book collections are on the computer catalogue. These include all histories and biographies of science, technology and medicine; all books published before 1800; nineteenth-century books on mathematics, the physical sciences, medicine, engineering, and scientific exploration; twentieth-century books on general science, mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, medicine, transport and scientific exploration; and everything published after 1983.

Some Science Museum Library rare books © Trustees of the Science Museum Group

The catalogue records for these books were added to Copac in February 2017 after an absence of over three years and now are clearly attributed to the Science Museum Library. Work continues to edit and upgrade records and add new ones for recent acquisitions and older material. Uncatalogued collections are also being documented so recent additions include many of the books from the Walt Patterson Collection on nuclear energy and nuclear policy. Library staff at Wroughton can also check the card catalogues for untraced material.

The archives hold original records of some of the most famous and influential individuals and companies in the fields of science, medicine, engineering and industry. Archives are documented on a separate catalogue shared with other Science Museum Group museums and sometimes include printed materials.

The Science Museum Library & Archive collections offer significant opportunities for further research and exploitation. For example, the Trade Literature Collection, one of the largest in Britain and largely undocumented and unexploited, has huge potential. Containing mainly British manufacturers’ and distributors’ catalogues, advertisements and owners’ manuals, it covers a wide range of subjects including catalogues for bicycles, cars, radios, domestic appliances, sanitary ware, scientific and medical equipment. There are many avenues to be explored, including the history of companies, product design, distribution and advertising, or the language of technical manuals.  Library volunteers have listed over 16,000 trade literature items and in the coming years we hope to convert this growing list to add to the catalogue and thereafter to Copac.

There are many synergies between the library, archive and object collections. Our extensive history and biography collection can add a wider historical or social context for visitors wanting to learn more. Trade or international exhibition catalogues and user manuals can document Science Museum objects, allowing the researcher to compare the printed description and illustration to the product itself. The Science Museum recently launched its Collections Online portal, allowing researchers to search its archives and objects in one place and view higher resolution images. Digitised library material will be added at a later stage.

The Library welcomes enquiries about its collections by phone, email, or in person. For opening times, contact details, access to catalogues and other information about our collections see our web pages.

Nick Wyatt, Head of Library & Archives, Science Museum

The Dana Research Centre and Library
165 Queen’s Gate

Call: 020 7942 4242

The British School at Athens Aerial Photograph Collection Digitisation Project

Penelope Zarganis, Librarian at the British School at Athens, tells us about a project to digitise the library’s unique collection of aerial photographs of Greece…

Photo of the reading room of the BSA's main library in Athens

The reading room of the BSA’s main library in Athens

The British School at Athens (BSA) is a post-graduate research institute for Hellenic Studies, one of the 7 British International Research Institutes sponsored by the British Academy. The School’s library and archive collections cover all aspects of research on Greece, from prehistory to the present day, in many different formats. In addition to the main library based in Athens, the School maintains a small library specialising in Cretan subjects at its research base at Knossos in Crete.The holdings of both libraries were added to Copac in February 2017.

Seventy years ago the British School at Athens was given a collection of aerial reconnaissance photographs of Greece taken during the Second World War by the RAF and Allied Forces between 1943 and 1945. The collection represents approximately 750 flights, resulting in more than 30,000 individual photographs or frames, showing the topography of Greece at that time. They are of interest to archaeologists for identifying or comparing archaeological sites, to anthropologists and geographers studying changes in land use or settlement organisation, and to historians of Greece during the Second World War for topographical information on the final years of the German occupation.

Photographic frame showing the centre of Athens

Photographic frame showing the centre of Athens. BSA ID U37_3277. The frisket reads: 3277 683/L211 AUG.18.45 F/20’’ 1030 25.000’. This can be transcribed as: Frame number 3277/Photographed by the British RAF 683 Squadron/Sortie L211/Date August 18th 1945/Focal length 20 inches/Time 10.30 am/Altitude 25,000 feet.

Recently the BSA library received funding for a two-stage project to make this collection of aerial photographs accessible online through the BSA’s website.

Initial research revealed that the collection is unique. The negatives were not saved and this collection of prints is the only one in existence. The prints were developed under wartime conditions and are deteriorating. This meant that while making the collection accessible we also had to conserve it. The prints are mostly 21cm x 21cm with a frisket (band) at one edge giving frame number, flight squadron details, date, time, focal length and height. Each flight has been assigned a local number to aid retrieval. The prints are exceptionally clear and designed to be viewed in three dimensions using stereoscopic lenses.

The first stage of the project, undertaken by Gian Piero Milani (Oxford University, 2017 onwards), mapped the flight paths of each run onto a digital map of Greece using GIS (geographical information system) technology. It is now possible to follow each flight in its entirety, and in the online index researchers can click on a region or sub-region to locate the individual flight paths, and identify the BSA ID number for each flight.

Image from the digital map of Greece, showing the Thessaloniki area with a flight path (black polygon) and individual frames (plane icons) marked, and the information box for a selected frame.

Image from the digital map of Greece, showing the Thessaloniki area with a flight path (black polygon) and individual frames (plane icons) marked, and the information box for a selected frame.

The second stage of the project involves digitising the prints and linking the digital images to the online index so that researchers can learn whether an aerial photograph exists for their area of interest without physically handling the fragile prints. In addition, GIS applications will enable us to enhance the geographical information associated with these images by linking them to satellite imagery.

A significant element of the project has been the use of the application QGIS to create the geo-referenced data that has been uploaded into the School’s digital management system (Axiell’s EMu), reducing the time required for creating and entering data.

This involved four stages of work:

1. Using QGIS to create data for each flight and each frame/print to be uploaded into EMu.

2. Linking this digital data record, through QGIS, to the geo-referenced flight path index on the BSA website. The standard for this level of geo-referencing was established by the National Collection of Aerial Photography (NCAP) based in Edinburgh. Each frame is indicated by a point/dot within a flight path. Selecting the dot brings up an information box about the frame/print taken from the data entered into EMu (note: this feature is not live on the BSA website at the time of writing, but will be available soon).

3. Creating a geographical index of the regions and sub-regions of Greece, using the European Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS) to standardise the place-names. Researchers are thus able to select a region to identify which flights they need.

4. Scanning each frame/print and adding it to the relevant digital data record. This image will then be added as a thumbnail to the information box in the online index (not yet completed).

A photo-mosaic of some of the frames stitched together, taken from the flight path over Thessaloniki marked in the previous image.

A photo-mosaic of some of the frames stitched together, taken from the flight path over Thessaloniki marked in the previous image. The frisket reads: 682/570.OCT 7.44.F20″1420.6-21,000’Confidential. Transcribed: Photographed by the British RAF 682nd Squadron/Sortie 570/ Oct. 7th 1944/Focal length 20 inches/Time 14.20/Altitude 21,000 feet/Confidential.

Since the online index to these World War II allied reconnaissance flights was completed and made available on the British School at Athens website, interest in the collection has been impressive. The project will ultimately provide visual online access to the prints to enable researchers to identify precisely the areas photographed. It will also provide enhanced information for research citation, including source, date, and precise geo-referencing data (longitude and latitude), while preserving the collection by limiting physical access to the precious original prints.

The project is still in progress, but the index to the flights and the location index are accessible through the British School at Athens website.

For more information on the collection, contact the School’s Librarian, Penelope Wilson Zarganis.
For more information on the geo-referencing process, contact Gian Piero Milani.

Penelope Wilson Zarganis

British School at Athens Library
Souedias 52
10676 Athens
+30 211 1022 822

All images copyright the British School at Athens, reproduced with kind permission of the copyright holder.

To browse the holdings of the British School at Athens Library, visit Copac.

Institute of Ismaili Studies & ISMC Library: catalogue added to Copac

We’re pleased to announce that the holdings of the Institute of Ismaili Studies & ISMC Library have been added to Copac.

Photograph of a Qur’an at the IIS & ISMC Library

Qur’an at the IIS & ISMC Library. Image copyright: IIS & ISMC Library

The Institute of Ismaili Studies & ISMC Library (IIS-ISMC) aims to serve scholarship in areas and languages of interest to the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations and the Institute of Ismaili Studies by emphasising the development of collections of primary and secondary resources, and published and rare materials, in the fields of Islamic studies and Muslim civilisation, as well as in the Humanities in general.

The library gathers materials published in and about the major areas of the Muslim world and their diasporas, as well as their history and evolution, while specifically paying attention to topics such as Ismaili studies, wider Shi’i studies, and Qur’anic studies and education.

Among the special collections, library highlights include the donation of the personal library of Professor Annemarie Schimmel, an important collection focusing on the Indo-Muslim communities and cultures, which contains several out of print works in Sindhi, Persian and Urdu; and also the donation of part of the library and personal archive of Professor Mohammed Arkoun, including his professional correspondence, notes, offprints of his articles and over 200 theses on Islamic thought, history and culture.

The library also houses an important collection of books in Ottoman Turkish that mainly includes works of literature from the Tanzimat and post-Tanzimat period, particularly novels, poetry and dramas, as well as travel literature, language materials and historical works, dating from the 18th to the early 20th centuries.

To browse or limit your search to its holdings, select the Main Search tab in Copac and choose ‘Institute of Ismaili Studies & ISMC Library’ from the list of libraries.

5 unusual items from the University of Reading Special Collections

Erika Delbecque, Special Collections Librarian at the University of Reading, tells us about some of the more unusual items they hold…

The holdings of the University of Reading Special Collections Service, which were added to COPAC earlier this year, are incredibly varied. They range from notebooks by Samuel Beckett to a medieval schoolbook and Russian translations of The Wizard of Oz. Working with such a wide range of material allows us, and our students and readers, to make interesting connections across collections and disciplines. To give a flavour of the type of material visitors may come across in Special Collections, in this blog post we highlight five of our most surprising items.

A miniature library for children

Photograph of the Book-case of knowledge, or library for youth (1803)

Book-case of knowledge, or library for youth. London: J. Wallis and John Harris, 1803. CHILDREN’S COLLECTION BOX—001

This tiny bookcase, entitled Book-case of knowledge, or library for youth, contains ten didactic books for children on topics such as English history and Mathematics. Dating from 1803, it was produced at a time when ideas by philosophers such as Locke and Rousseau on the innocence of childhood led to the creation of a new concept of childhood and a renewed interest in the education of children. Blurring the distinction between books and toys, bookcases such as these aimed to encourage learning through play.

It is part of the Children’s Collection, comprising over 6,000 children’s books and journals from the 17th to the 20th centuries.

A souvenir from a frost fair

Photograph of a Keepsake printed for John Alderson (1739/40).

Keepsake printed for John Alderson. London, 1739/40. JOHN & GRISELDA LEWIS—3/8

In the 17th and the 18th centuries, a number of severe winters resulted in the River Thames freezing solid. This phenomenon attracted many visitors, and fairs and pageants were held on the ice, including what were to become known as frost fairs. Stalls and booths were set up selling toys and books, beer, wine, and gingerbread, and oxen and sheep were roasted. One of the most popular entertainments on the ice was to visit one of the many printing presses on the frozen river. People had their names printed, sometimes accompanied by an illustration or a piece of verse, as a keepsake to commemorate the occasion of their visit.

This example, printed at the famous frost fair of 1739/40, is part of the John and Griselda Lewis Collection, which contains some 20,000 items illustrating the history of printing and graphic design from the fifteenth century to the present. This collection was in the spotlight recently when the discovery of a previously unknown leaf printed by William Caxton made the news.

Mythical monsters

Illustration from The history of four-footed beasts and serpents

Topsell, Edward. The history of four-footed beasts and serpents. London: E. Cotes for G. Sawbridge T. Williams, and T. Johnson, 1658. COLE–004Q

The History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents (first published in 1607) is a wonderful illustrated bestiary that lists all manner of creatures from elephants to bees. Each entry describes the creature in detail, giving commentary from ancient, medieval and contemporary sources. Common animals and mythical creatures are listed indiscriminately. An example of the latter category is the hydra depicted here, a nine-headed monster from Ancient Greece with a fatally poisonous breath that grows two heads when one is severed.

This book can be found in the Cole Library, which covers the history of early medicine and zoology from the earliest times to the present day. It was compiled by F. J. Cole, who was a professor of zoology at the University of Reading from 1907 to 1939.

A view of the Great Exhibition of 1851

Lane's telescopic view of the ceremony of Her Majesty opening the Great Exhibition of All Nations, 1851

Lane’s telescopic view of the ceremony of Her Majesty opening the Great Exhibition of All Nations, 1851. London: C.A. Lane, 1851. GREAT EXHIBITION–11/29

The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations, also known as the Crystal Palace Exhibition, was held in Hyde Park, London from 1 May to 15 October 1851. Our Great Exhibition Collection contains around 200 books, periodicals, pamphlets and ephemera from that time. It includes this souvenir diorama from the Exhibition, which folds out to reveal a three-dimensional view of Crystal Palace, seen through a peephole.

Fat alpacas

Page from The alpaca, 1844

The alpaca. [s.l]: [s.n.], 1844. MERL LIBRARY RESERVE–3519-ALP

The library of the Museum of English Rural Life at the University of Reading is the most important collection in the country for the study of the history of British agriculture, the countryside and rural society. This pamphlet from 1844, aimed at British farmers, promotes the alpaca as a profitable alternative to other breeding stock in England, claiming that the alpaca is “as fat as any sheep I ever saw” and that the animals “never ramble from their hill pasture”. In case alpacas are not of interest, the advertisers add that they also sell “turtle alive, or ready cooked and securely packed in jars”…

Erika Delbecque
Special Collections Librarian

Special Collections Services
University of Reading
Redlands Road
Berkshire, RG1 5EX

+44 (0) 118 378 8660

All images copyright University of Reading Special Collections, reproduced with kind permission of the copyright holder.

Highlights of the National Aerospace Library

Tony Pilmer, Librarian at the National Aerospace Library, picks out some of the things that make the library special…

Photo of the National Aerospace Library reading room

National Aerospace Library reading room

The National Aerospace Library is the rather grand name of the library and archive of the Royal Aeronautical Society. The Society is open to anyone who is professionally interested in aeroplanes, helicopters, drones, launching things into space, hot air balloons etc., whether they are involved in designing, building, maintaining, testing, flying, administering, litigating – or simply enjoy researching the history of aviation.

The Society started in 1866 when a group of scientifically-minded individuals got together to work out how people could fly. For that, of course, they needed access to the best literature available, and so the library began. Then, as members got older and started looking for safe homes for their collections, the Society’s library was found to be a natural choice.

For over one hundred and fifty years we have continued to give members (and now non-members) access to the best of new resources, whilst also preserving some amazing historical materials for historians, and indeed anyone looking for old answers to new questions.

Photo of the interior of the National Aerospace Library

We open the doors of our Farnborough Reading Room to all, although the specialist nature of our collections means that we mainly attract professionals, historians and undergraduate and postgraduate students – there are hundreds of dissertations and theses waiting to be written on our shelves.

Our tours can last from two minutes to two hours (more if you get lost exploring our shelves), so I thought I’d better limit myself to highlighting seven things that make the National Aerospace Library so special…

#1: New stuff

We collect the best new aerospace publications, including textbooks, conference proceedings, journals and magazines. We also go through our new journals and transfer the details of the articles of most interest to our members and readers onto our library catalogue and, as a consequence, onto COPAC.

#2: Rather old stuff

The Library holds aeronautical material dating from 1515 onwards. Some of the gems of our collections have been digitised and placed on our heritage website, including the first technical drawings of an aeroplane and the notebooks of the Father of Aeronautics, Sir George Cayley.

Page from the notebook of Horace Short (1909)

Page from the notebook of Horace Short, containing detailed sketches of the Wright Flyer from which the first official aircraft plans were made (1909)

Page from Sir George Cayley's notebook - 'Sea' (1799-1811)

Page from Sir George Cayley’s notebook – ‘Sea’ (1799-1811)

#3: Royal Aeronautical Society stuff

Letter from Orville Wright to Griffiths Brewer, 1922

Letter from Orville Wright to Griffiths Brewer, 1st April 1922

Royal Aeronautical Society members have always been at the cutting edge of research.

Not only do we have letters from members of the Society to key figures in aviation, including the Wright Brothers, we also have recordings of lectures and interviews with many of them.

We have started to make available some of our audio material as podcasts, including recordings of Chuck Yeager and the men behind the Fairey Delta II and the World Speed Record of 1956.

We also hold the Royal Aeronautical Society Archive, which contains some wonderful material, including this cartoon of Sir Robert Hardingham, one of the Society’s past presidents.

Cartoon of Sir Robert Hardingham, President of the Royal Aeronautical Society

Cartoon of Sir Robert Hardingham, President of the Society of Licensed Aircraft Engineers and Technologists, later part of the Royal Aeronautical Society. Tech Air (February 1969)  p.23

#4: Photo collection

We hold over one hundred thousand images in our photographic collection. We work with the Mary Evans Picture Library to market our digitised collections to individuals and to corporate users and…

Okay, I’m rumbled, I’ve just added this paragraph so that I can include some nice photos of aeroplanes!

Photo of 18 Hawker Hunters of 111 Squadron at the Farnborough Air Show in 1960

18 Hawker Hunters of 111 Squadron at the Farnborough Air Show in 1960

Photo of Airship R101 at its mooring mast at Cardington, about 1929

Airship R101 at its mooring mast at Cardington, about 1929

Photo of the first flight of the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works DarkStar, 29 March 1996

The first flight of the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works DarkStar, 29 March 1996

#5: Volunteers

We have a great band of volunteers who are helping us to conserve and record our collections…

Photo of National Aerospace Library volunteers at work...

National Aerospace Library volunteers at work…

#6: Staff

…and we have a small, but perfectly formed staff to help readers find the material they want, whether in person, by phone or via e-mail. Our Chief Librarian, Brian Riddle, has worked in the Library for over thirty years – so what he doesn’t know about the collections isn’t worth knowing!

Photo of Brian Riddle

Brian Riddle

#7: Turning grown adults back into small children

After just an hour at the National Aerospace Library, even the most serious grown-up has often turned back into the girl or boy who first saw an aeroplane swoop down in front of their eyes.

We have heard though that not everybody likes aeroplanes as much as we do, and for those who don’t there are over fifty other libraries like ours – of professional and learned societies – both scattered around London and further afield. You can find out how to access the library on your favourite subject by visiting the website of the London Learned & Professional Societies Librarians’ Group.

Tony Pilmer

The National Aerospace Library
The Hub
Fowler Avenue
Farnborough Business Park
Farnborough, Hampshire
GU14 7JP

+44 (0)1252 701038 or +44 (0)1252 701060

All images copyright the National Aerospace Library/Royal Aeronautical Society, reproduced with kind permission of the copyright holder.