Society of Antiquaries

On the 10Th of February we visited the Society of Antiquaries and toured their Library. We were met by the Head of Library and Collections Heather Rowland and welcomed with coffee and biscuits and were given a detailed history of the society and the Libraries role within the society. the society have their home in the north west wing of Burlington house, which they share with the Royal Academy of the Arts and four other national learned societies - the Chemists, Geologists, Astronomers and Linnean.

The society was founded in 1700 and in 1751 received its royal charter which charged it with' the encouragement, advancement and furtherance of the study and knowledge of the antiquaries and the history of this and other countries'. Today the societies member number 2,500 and include many distinguished archaeologists and art and architectural historians.

Heather informed us that the societies original library consisted of a box which they acquired to store their books in, today the Library is very much at the heart of the society. Indeed heather commented that their is no room within the building which does not house part of the collection. The Library holds collection on archeology, architectural history, heraldry and the decorative arts, as well as British local history and genealogy. The society also holds a prestigious collection of paintings and illustrations. There are four members of library staff and while the collection deals with antiquaries it is not itself antiquated and is constantly expanding and being updated with new material.

The Library room itself is a delight to behold. it is a three tired building with ornate marble pillars, beautifully bound books and notable paintings. The Library is open to its fellows and to visitors who have a note of introduction. Students may also use the facility if they have a letter of recommendation from their supervisors, while members of the public may apply to the Library for consideration, if the provide proof of identity.

It was a very interesting visit and Heather was extremely welcoming. I think we all relished the opportunity to visit such a beautiful library. It may also be of interest to note that the society's 'Making History' exhibition is currently on in Stoke on Trent and exhibits rare objects from the societies collection.

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