• ATBL

    The American Trust for the British Library is a not-for-profit organization whose purpose is to promote and support the work of one of the world’s greatest research libraries. The Trust was founded in 1979 and is supported through the generosity of its wide membership in the United States and the United Kingdom.
  • Pages

Annual Meeting Notes

The ATBL Annual Meeting was held on October 7, 2015.

Board Members: top left, James Sitrick, R. Dyke Benjamin, David Redden, Caroline Bacon, Simon Eccles, Stephen Stamas, British Library CEO Roly Keating; bottom left: Gwendolyn van Paasschen, Caroline Rubinstein, Christine Zuromskis, Ruth Robinson, Florence Fearrington

Development Highlights from the British Library, 2014-15

Magna Carta Exhibition Success

Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy has been the most successful exhibition ever mounted by the British Library. Over the course of twenty-five weeks, more than 126,000 people viewed the exhibition. 8,000 visitors were schoolchildren and 34% of exhibition attendees were from overseas.  In fundraising terms, we were pleased to raise a total of £730,000 towards the exhibition.

Exhibition Sponsorship

Staging any exhibition is a major undertaking, which calls upon the expertise and generosity of countless individuals and institutions including the ATBL. We were also delighted that Linklaters LLP generously supported this landmark exhibition, the largest and most significant ever devoted to Magna Carta. We were also pleased to receive support from US law firm White & Case towards the loan of the American documents.

We are currently working to secure a corporate sponsor to support the Library’s major exhibition programme on an annual basis rather than per exhibition, as this maximises fundraising effort and opportunities for sponsors. We are also approaching companies to join as corporate members at entry level (£15k) so they can see the benefits of working with the Library, with the aim of increasing their involvement and financial support in following years.


top left: Phillip Winegar, Sarah Thomas, H. George Fletcher, James Spica, Anne Sitrick bottom left: Jean Ashton; Joanna Wells and Michelle Burton, BL; Barbara Shailor

Direct Marketing Appeal to Readers

The team ran its first direct marketing postal appeal to Readers in February/March 2014 for our map digitisation projects, which was well received and for a first attempt did reasonably well raising £7,750.00. This will be the first of a number of well thought out, integrated and targeted campaigns via post, online and other channels to Readers.

Save our Sounds: Preserving the Library’s Unique Recorded Sound Heritage

Following a ‘model’ grant application to the UK Heritage Lottery Fund we were told in June that the Library was successful in its funding bid for a first development phase for our Save Our Sounds audio heritage project. The initial grant of £215,900 means that we can fully scope and identify the recordings that will be ‘saved’ and we hope will led to a successful Phase 2 grant of the remaining £9.3m. A project manager and learning programmes manager have now been appointed and are due to join the Library in early October. The fundraising challenge will be to raise match-funding of £2.5m from individuals, companies, and charitable trusts by December 2016. The Library will contribute £5m from its own reserves towards the overall programme.

We were honoured to have Sir David Attenborough support our Save our Sounds fundraising by making a film aimed at potential donors. Sir David visited the sound archive and was visibly moved by listening to a range of sounds and the extent of the recordings we hold.

Erasmus Manuscript

This acquisition dominated the early part of the year, with successful applications submitted to the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Friends of the British Library and an American donor. A total of £175,000 was raised towards this manuscript, which we formally acquired on July 15. 

Tim Neighbour Legacy

We are awaiting a legacy from Oliver (Tim) Neighbour, formerly of the British Library Music Department conservatively estimated at £600k. The legacy will also fall into the criteria for the HLF Catalyst Endowment scheme which provides match-funding of 50%. This entire sum will be ring-fenced as the ‘Neighbour Fund’ in line with Mr Neighbour’s wishes and which will be applied specifically for the purchase of music manuscripts (in addition to the department’s existing acquisition budget).

Polonsky Foundation Digitisation Bid

We are working on a bid for the Polonsky Foundation for a joint project with the Bibliothèque Nationale de France to digitise 800 (400 from each respective library) pre-1200 manuscripts. We aim to start the project by April 2016 and just over two and a half years, leading up to the 2018 Anglo-Saxons exhibition. The BnF will lead on creating a IIIF compliant research portal for all manuscripts and a conference, with the BL leading on more public-facing activities including a curated website (along the Magna Carta and Discovering Literature models) and a highlights book. We will also host two interns in the Medieval and Earlier manuscripts department. The total project cost is approximately £1.41m with the British Library’s share of ask totalling £720,000.

Final Phase of Discovering Literature

We are currently fundraising towards the development of the very last section of Discovering Literature, which will allow us to fulfill our original ambition of covering the English Literature from Beowulf to the 20th Century. The key periods will be Medieval English Literature (c.700-1500), The Renaissance (1500-1660), The Reformation and 18th Century (1660-1790).

Discovering Literature has received over 1m unique visitors and over 2m page views to date, well above our target of 500,000 users in the first year. People from more than 200 countries are using the site, mainly UK, USA, Australia, India and Canada, with the USA in second place, accounting for 28% of traffic. We need to raise funds of £225,000 – £310,000 to realise this.

China Displays

Roly was in China last month to share the announcement that for the first time some of the Library’s most iconic literary treasures, including Shakespeare’s First Folio and Charlotte Brontë’s manuscript of Jane Eyre will be displayed there. Ten items will star in pop-up exhibitions taking place across China between 2016 and 2019 to include handwritten manuscripts and early editions by some of the greatest British authors of all time, from Shakespeare and Dickens to the Brontë sisters and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The project which his providing £1.6 million of funding from the UK Government is part of an cultural exchange programme with China. As well as displaying the UK’s literary treasures in China, the British Library will also create related online resources in Mandarin, building on our learning website Discovering Literature.

Notable British Library Loans to US Institutions: 2015 – 2016 

Walters Art Museum, Baltimore including the Khamsa of Nizami for their ‘Traces of a Poet’ exhibition November 2015 – Jan 2016 (moves to Asian Art Museum San Francisco, February – May 2016)

Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma October – January 2016 – Captain Cook material including a log book from the first voyage.

The Newberry Chicago, September 23 2016 – December 31 2016
For its ‘Creating Shakespeare’ exhibition the institution has requested some key items including Hamlet (1603 quarto).

John Paul Getty Museum, October 2016

The Library has lent the unique Diamond Sutra for its ‘Cave Temples of Dunhuang’ display. This copy of the Diamond Sutra is the world’s earliest complete and dated, printed book. This scroll was made in 868 AD, in seven sections, each printed from a single block and stuck together to create a scroll over five metres in length.

The Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, 1 Jan 2016 – 30 March 2016

A number of British Library items are being loaned to the Folger 1st Jan – 30 March for their Shakespeare in His World, which precedes the Library exhibition which opens on 15 April 2016. We hope to co-ordinate an event for ATBL in the last weeks of its run. The British Library will also be borrowing a number of Folger items for its own exhibition.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, October 2016

For its ‘Jerusalem in the Middle Ages’ exhibition the institution has requested some 13 items, including many of the Library’s finest Hebraic manuscripts and a Qur’an dating from 1390 Jerusalem.


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