Wednesday, 9 May 2012

LibGuides - Ongoing progress!

Following a training session last week on LibGuides, I have added some more links, changed photos and generally tweaked, so that my subject pages are really taking shape. The ease with which this can be done is great, but still not there yet with the look - there needs to be more in the way of design! And I am still not sure about which boxes where...really hope to tidy up some more. Still, it's a massive improvement on the clunky library web pages for us. Hope the students agree when our guides are officially launched.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

ARCLIB Spring Visit 25 April 2012

ARCLIB's Spring event proved to be a day packed with opportunities to examine and explore some of the fascinating resources held by RIBA, to appreciate its variety of physical spaces, and to meet some very knowledgeable members of staff. On a personal level I found it extremely valuable to meet colleagues in the field from other institutions, and to find out more about the subject area. 
Education Curator Elizabeth Grant began with an introduction and overview of services and resources, and provided some interesting statistics relating to usage and membership. I will definitely be investigating further RIBApix online images, and the online workshops based on aspects of the RIBA collections. 

Elizabeth then gave an introductory tour of the building; explaining its history and design (by architect George Grey Wornum), pointing out many of its key features, and highlighting how the building has been able to lend itself to the evolving needs of its users, from the more formal environment required in the age in which it was built, to the more modern relaxed and informal use of its spaces today.
Elizabeth walked us through the current exhibition ‘A Place to Call Home’ which examines the ways in which people use the housing spaces created for them by architects. She asked us to comment on the cover photograph of the exhibition, stimulating a lot of discussion as to how the photograph depicted the way in which the subjects related to their housing space.
 Jason Canham gave a tour of the library itself, and explained how all RIBA queries come through to the library in the first place. The physical space has its original fixtures , fittings, floors etc., and contains a huge number of historic books as well as current material. The journals collection aims for complete international coverage by subscribing to at least one architecture journal from every country in the world.
The Assistant Curator of the Photographs collection, Jonathan Makepeace, introduced us to some wonderful examples of architectural photography. He noted the collection has approximately 1.5 million pictures, two thirds of which are British and most of which are black and white. Highlights I particularly liked included an 1850 calatype by Maxime du Camp taken during his travels in the Middle East,  Central Park in New York before the skyscrapers, and Ramsgate aerodrome by Tony Ray Jones – an example of photographic modernism.  
At the Victoria and Albert museum, RIBA’s Drawings Collection was presented by curator Charles Hind, who explained the background and commented on the success of the move to the museum in 2004. Charles explained how the first Drawings Curator was appointed in 1956, and he is only the third. He discussed how the Collection had come by many of its acquisitions, either by gift or purchase, including the Palladio collection,  which apparently will eventually fall into RIBA’s complete ownership on the death of the last of Queen Victoria’s great grandchildren. Highlights included a 17th century drawing of Hampton Court, proposals for the London Underground by Charles Holden, Gordon Selfridge’s proposals for the expansion of the UK’s first proper department store including a huge tower, and an original facade of Somerset House which was copied from Palladio’s original drawings and then became the standard of Georgian houses and country houses. He discussed the challenges of conservation, including the issues of unsustainable paper used in the 19th and 20th centuries.

 Charles explained how annual budgets were supplemented by other funds raised by the museum, and having just come from a meeting with his accountants he explained the difficulties in valuing the collection. He talked about some of the drawing instruments held,  showed us Greek and Roman coins displaying buildings no  longer standing, and presented a ‘holy’ relic in the form of a small piece of wood supposedly from the coffin of Christopher Wren. We looked at one or two examples of models including a house by Nicholas Hawksmoor, thought to be the second oldest domestic architectural model.
Charles then led us through to the Architecture Gallery, and discussed the difficulties of designing the space to fit with how the public would use it. It was felt a connected narrative where one piece follows the other would not help those who wanted to flit from one exhibit to the next without going in any particular order or direction. He explained how it now (unintentionally) follows the conventions of the Vitruvian principles of Fairness, Commodity and Delight. I appreciated how the 1930s house placed as one of the first exhibits provides a welcoming object for visitors to the gallery, and was impressed by the scale of the Lakeside shopping centre as displayed by one of the models.
Assistant Curator Susan Pugh walked us through the Albertopolis exhibition of the South Kensington museum area. The term was first used in an uncomplimentary manner to describe Prince Albert’s proposals for developments in 1860; and it includes the museum area and also the Albert Hall, or ‘nation’s village hall’. Plans for the Albert Hall arose from a need to spend money received for the Great Exhibition. We learnt about the design of many buildings in the area including the Victoria and Albert museum which was completed in 1894, the Albert memorial,  Imperial Institute and the growth of Imperial College. Susan highlighted the pulling down of Imperial Institute in the 1960s and the accompanying campaign as a useful discussion point on demolition and renewal.

The day was completed by a tour of the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel by the extremely knowledgeable hotel historian Royston Stock. He explained his own background and involvement with the hotel for many years, and gave an excellent guided tour peppered with facts, figures and anecdotes, demonstrating his impressive ability to recall such information from memory. We learnt about the hotel’s history and redevelopment, admired many of its original features and considered some of the key figures associated with it

Well done to the organisers (especially Carla, and Elizabeth) for providing such a packed day filled with a variety of activities and fascinating material. I look forward to ARCLIB events in the future, and to meeting again my fellow attendees.