Annual Meeting Notes


The 2017 ATBL Annual Meeting was held on October 17, 2017, at The Century Association.


Board of Trustees (from left): Baroness Blackstone (BL), R. Dyke Benjamin, David Redden, Caroline Rubinstein, Florence Fearrington, James Spica, Christine Zuromskis, Evalyn Lee, Catherine Morrison Golden, Stephen Stamas, Caroline Bacon, Simon Eccles, Gwendolyn van Paasschen

Development Highlights from the British Library, 2016-2017

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

In April 2017, the British Library was awarded a £9.5 million grant from the UK Heritage Lottery Fund to preserve the Library’s collection of unique and rare recordings, so that present and future generations can listen to and use them in the future.

The project, which officially started on July 1, will create the first ever UK-wide network of ten sound preservation centres to save almost half a million rare and unique recordings that are at risk of being lost because they are held on formats that are physically degrading and the playback equipment is no longer produced.

Over the next five years, the consortium will deliver a programme of public engagement activities, including workshops, learning events for families, public tours and exhibitions and, in 2019, a new website will allow listeners to explore a selection of recordings online.

The Library’s sound collection is celebrated in, Listen: 140 Years of Recorded Sound, which opened on October 6, 2017, in the Entrance Hall at St. Pancras and will run until March 11, 2018.

Listen: 140 Years of Recorded Sound is the Library’s first sound-focused exhibition and explores how sound has shaped and influenced our lives since the phonograph was invented in 1877 and demonstrates how innovations in recording technology and radio broadcasting have transformed our listening experience.

Learning: Discovering Sacred Texts

The British Library is extremely grateful to the Dangoor family who have provided very generous seed funding of £200,000 (with up to a further £100,000) for the Library’s new project Discovering Sacred Texts.  The new website will explore the richness and diversity of the Library’s collection of sacred texts, alongside articles written by academics, faith leaders and practitioners, celebrating Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism as well as other lesser-known faith which are well represented in the collection.

This project will be a key priority for the fundraising team who will aim to raise the remaining £160,000 through partnership funding. The website will be launched by Spring 2019, and will follow a similar structure to Discovering Literature, also supported by Dangoor Education.

Opening up the Library to Families

A significant grant of £60,000 received in June 2016 from the Sackler Trust has made a huge difference to the number of groups and communities we have been able to reach through our Family and Community Engagement Programme, enabling the Library to run additional outreach projects and to widen and diversify the audiences who attend our learning activities.

Digital Scholarship: British Library Labs

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation renewed their support for BL Labs with a final grant of $224,000 to help the Library find a long-term sustainable model for this activity. The grant will help develop and implement a business model to support scalable sustainable services for scholars to use the British Library’s digital collections in their research; and develop a pilot for the implementation of a tiered support process, based on the business model, for scholars including those who need basic advice and guidance through to those who might need advanced technical support.

Contemporary Acquisition: Michael Palin’s Personal Archive

Strengthening the Library’s collection of contemporary writers and archives, the Library was fortunate to receive the very generous donation of the archive of writer, broadcaster and traveler Michael Palin, whose numerous personal diaries and Monty Python notebooks we received in May 2017.  Cataloguing has now begun on this project and the content should be available by early next year.

Heritage Acquisition: The Mostyn Psalter

The Library is delighted to announce that the Mostyn Psalter-Hours was acquired for the national collection at the British Library earlier this summer, thanks to the support of the National Heritage Memorial Fund with a major grant of £390,000 together with funds from other generous supporters, including ATBL’s Breslauer Bequest.

The manuscript is a late 13th-century illuminated Psalter-Hours produced in London, and is now Additional MS 89250. The book includes a calendar, decorated with twenty small miniatures of the labours of the months and the signs of the Zodiac, and a Psalter with eight of the original ten large historiated initials, the Hours of the Virgin, and the Office of the Dead.

The manuscript’s original patron is unknown, but its high-quality illumination indicates that it was made for an important individual, possibly a bishop, as an image of a bishop appears in the illustration for Psalm 101, where a donor portrait might be expected. Relatively few examples of luxury books made in London survive from the medieval period. The book is therefore of clear national heritage importance and a natural fit for the Library’s collection, which holds the largest collection of English Psalters made in this period.

Collection Management

Due to a very generous donation of £145,000 over three years from the Dr. Michael and Anna Brynberg Charitable Foundation, the Library will be able to employ a spoliation researcher to investigate the history and provenance of two collections we believe might have been spoliated during the Nazi period.

Coleridge Fellowship for Curators

One of the Library’s long-standing Patrons has given a significant donation of £250,000 in September this year, to establish a fellowship to enable curators to take short sabbaticals. The three-month sabbatical is ideally to support their own study into their understanding of the collections area. The donor originally conceived this gift as a bequest, but was so enthusiastic about the initiative that she decided to sell her property and donate the proceeds in her lifetime.


Chairman’s Council (from left): Patrick Fleming (BL), Jeannette Redden, Phillip Winegar, Barbara Shailor, Winston Tabb, Davida Deutsch, Ted Widmer, Jean Ashton, Howdy Phipps, Seana Anderson

Significant US Donations

The British Library was pleased to work with the ATBL on the recent announcement of a gift from Mark Pigott KBE KStJ to the Trust of a collection of Tudor letters valued at £420,000. These letters concern the imprisonment of Mary Queen of Scots and are a historically important collection of 43 documents (in total 180 pages) comprising the letters written to Sir Ralph Sadler when he was entrusted with the custody of Mary, Queen of Scots, at Tutbury Castle in Staffordshire, 1584 – 85.  Four of the letters are signed by Elizabeth I, herself, and numerous others in the hands of Lord Burghley, Chief Minister, and Sir Francis Walsingham, Secretary of State.

The letters have been kindly loaned by the ATBL to the British Library and will be featured in the planned exhibition on the rivalry between the Tudor Queens, planned for 2020.

The Library will be celebrating Mark Pigott’s support of the Library with the naming of a study suite of rooms in the Library Manuscripts Reading Room, to be opened by the end of the year.

Harry Potter: A History of Magic Exhibition

The Library’s major exhibition, Harry Potter: A History of Magic opens on October 20. The exhibition celebrates the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and features rare books, manuscripts and magical objects from the British Library’s collection, capturing the traditions of folklore and magic which are at the heart of the Harry Potter stories.

The exhibition includes original drafts and drawings by J.K. Rowling and illustrator Jim Kay, both on display for the first time.

Visitors will see the gargantuan 16th–century Ripley Scroll that explains how to create a Philosopher’s Stone, witness Sirius in the night sky as imagined by medieval astronomers together with a range of hand-coloured pictures of dragons, unicorns and a phoenix rising from the flames.

Breaking new ground, the Library will take the exhibition to New-York Historical Society to celebrate the publication of the Philosopher’s Stone in the USA by Scholastic. The exhibition will open on October 5, 2018, and run to January 27, 2019.

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