British Library Appoints New Chief Executive

Outgoing CEO Lynne Brindley, Photo:  BL ; Incoming CEO Roly Keating, Photo: BBC

Outgoing CEO Lynne Brindley, Photo: BL; Roly Keating, Photo: BBC

The Board of the British Library has appointed Roly Keating as the Library’s new Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Keating, currently Director of Archive Content at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), and a former Controller of BBC Two and BBC Four, will take up his new role on September 12, 2012.

Baroness Tessa Blackstone, Chairman of the British Library, said, “Roly Keating has a strong record of creative leadership and strategic innovation at the BBC. He has  a deep commitment to the digital information environment. He is the ideal person to build on the successes of the British Library to ensure that the Library continues to be a leading-edge provider of knowledge as we take forward our Vision for 2020. I look forward to working with him.”

Mr. Keating said, “It’s a huge honor to have the opportunity to lead one of the UK’s greatest cultural institutions. Under Lynne Brindley’s leadership the British Library set standards for the world in the quality of its curatorship and the boldness of its thinking around the new technology. I am looking forward to working with the Library’s talented staff to take it on the next stage of its journey into the digital age.”

Mark Thompson, Director-General of the BBC, said, “During Roly’s 29 years at the BBC he has proved to be one of the corporation’s greatest cultural heavyweights. Roly has always had a keen understanding of the BBC ethos of making the good popular and the popular good. His most recent role as Director of Archive enabled him to start the vital work of opening up the BBC’s archive, making it accessible to audiences across the world. We are hugely grateful for everything he has done for the BBC and delighted that he will now be going on to run another of the UK’s most valuable cultural institutions.”

Roly Keating was born in 1961. He graduated from Balliol College, Oxford in 1983 with a first class degree in Classics, and joined the BBC as a general trainee that year.

As a producer and director in Music and Arts, Mr. Keating made films for Omnibus, Bookmark and Arena. He was a founding producer and subsequent editor of the long-running arts and media magazine, The Late Show, and was also editor of the literary series Bookmark.

In 1997, Roly became Head of Programming for UKTV, overseeing the launch of the BBC’s joint venture channels. Two years later he was made BBC Controller of Digital Channels, with overall editorial responsibility for BBC Choice and BBC Knowledge. The following year he became Controller of Arts Commissioning, with responsibility for music and arts programming across BBC Television, before moving to BBC Four in December 2001.

As Controller of BBC Four, Roly led the launch of the channel in March 2002. From 2004 to 2008, Roly was Controller of BBC Two. Under his tenure he oversaw the launch of a raft of influential series, as well as memorable programs like Andrew Marr’s History of Modern Britain. BBC Two was named Broadcast Channel of the Year in 2007.

As Director of Archive Content, Roly acted as editorial leader for the BBC’s online services.

Roly Keating will take over from Dame Lynne Brindley, who will be leaving the Library on July 31, 2012 after 12 years as Chief Executive.

Queen Elizabeth Opens the British Library Royal Manuscripts Exhibition

Clare Breay, BL Head Curator Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts, with The Queen.  Photo: British Library

Clare Breay, BL Head Curator Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts, with The Queen. Photo: British Library

The Queen was on hand to open Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination exhibition at the British Library. On display are 154 manuscripts collected by British Royals over a period spanning 800 years. Her Majesty was particularly taken by a psalter annotated by Henry VIII, according to the UK Press Association release that is printed below.

The British Library’s unique collection of Medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts were all once owned by Kings and Queens during medieval times. They are outstanding examples of the decorative and figurative painting of the era. The collection provides a vivid source for understanding royal identity, morality and religious beliefs. The Manuscripts also provide an insight into the learning, faith, artistic trends and international politics of
the times.

The Royal Manuscripts are on exhibit through the middle of March 2012. You can learn more about this exciting collection by tuning in to the BBC Four series Illuminations: The Private Lives of Medieval Kings.

Toast of the Town

In the tradition of a celebratory beverage, the Library has teamed up with the Gilbert Scott restaurant to provide guests the opportunity to drink to their health with an “Illuminated Cocktail.” Oliver Blackburn, bar manager, has created this very special drink with rum, ginger, pear, juniper, and finished with gold dust. Cheers!


Scot McKendrick, BL Head of History and Classical Studies;  The Duke of Edinburgh, The Queen, Baroness Blackstone, The Lord Mayor of Camden.

Scot McKendrick, BL Head of History and Classical Studies; The Duke of Edinburgh, The Queen, Baroness Blackstone, The Lord Mayor of Camden.

The Queen had a glimpse into the past lives of her medieval counterparts at the launch of The Royal Manuscripts.

The exhibition, which opened last November, contains a number of manuals on how the royals should conduct themselves.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh had a private viewing of five manuscripts on display, including monarchs’ prayer books; a charter commemorating the start of monastic rule of St Benedict in 964; and books made for King Edward IV.

It was Henry VIII’s manuscripts that appeared to grab The Queen’s attention the most. “She did linger over it,” curator Andrea Clarke said. “She called Prince Philip, who was looking at something else, to come and have a look.”Henry VIII’s psalter, a volume containing the Book of Psalms, has a painting of him as the biblical King David. Curator Scot McKendrick said this showed Henry identified himself with King David. He added that Henry’s psalter – which was bought from Ushaw College, Dublin, last year – was rare because it contained annotations written by the king.”Part of it has an annotation written by Henry before he was king and the other was written towards the end of his life,” Dr McKendrick said. “He had a typical aristocrat’s style of writing.”

Copyright © 2011 The Press Association.
All rights reserved.

Landmark Google Partnership

In June 2011 the British Library announced a significant partnership with Google. Google’s interest is to add as much new material to Google Book Search as possible, a mission which dovetails with the BL’s goal of digitizing as much of its collection as possible. Some 250,000 books, totalling around 40 million pages, will be digitized. This represents a small but significant part of BL’s historic printed books collection.

The actual digitization is scheduled to begin in the autumn of 2012, and the project is expected to last four years. By working with Google, the Library will benefit from their enormous presence and experience in the digital universe. Additionally, Google will bear the estimated £6 million costs of digitizing the material.

In undertaking this project, the BL furthers the aspirations of its nineteenth-century predecessors, so eloquently put forth by Antonio Panizzi, an Italian refugee who became head of the BL: “I want a poor student to have the same means of indulging his learned curiosity, of following his rational pursuits, of consulting the same authorities, of fathoming the most intricate inquiry as the richest man in the kingdom, as far as books go.” The BL is now using the latest digital technology to continue the mission for a new generation in the 21st century.

The Library has selected a range of materials dating from 1700 to 1870, for digitization. All selections will be out of copyright, and will be offered free at the point of use through both Google Book Search and the BL’s website. Because there already is so much English language material available on Google Book Search, the BL anticipates that a high proportion of the material will be in languages other than English. One of the early candidates will be its collection of works produced during the French Revolution. But there will also be Anglophone books. One example is An address to the people, on the present relative situations of England and France, written in 1799 by Robert Fellowes. This work comments from a decidedly non-revolutionary position on political reform in both England and France.

The Google partnership is a landmark in the BL’s digitization program. Wherever they are, researchers, students and other Library users, will be able to read these historical items with the freedom to share and re-purpose material for non-commercial use. This flexibility is going to be particularly important in exploring new types of research questions and computer-assisted methods. This partnership is an important chapter in the efforts to achieve the BL’s 2020 vision.
Adapted from an article by Kristian Jensen, Head of Arts and Humanities at the British Library.

BL Exhibition funded by ATBL

The American Trust had allocated $66,000 from its total grant giving for 2009 for the British Library’s upcoming fall exhibition entitled, “Evolving English:  One Language, Many Voices.  It will be the first ever exhibition exploring the English language in all its national and international diversity.  Iconic items and recordings will explore how English is spoken in the UK, from rural dialects to urban youth-speak, and celebrate English as it is spoken by 1.8 billion people around the world.

Rare Treasures at British Library

Rare Treasures at British Library Evolving Englishes Exhibit

The BL’s collection items will be set alongside engaging everyday texts to show the many social, cultural and historical strands from which the language is woven. Thus, treasures such as Beowulf, Shakespeare Folios, the King James Bible, Johnson’s Dictionary, Austen manuscripts, Scott’s diary and recorded speeches by Pankhurst, Churchill and Gandhi will be exhibited together with handwritten letters, recipes, posters, lists of slang, trading records, adverts, children’s books, dialect recordings, text messages and web pages. The interactive and media rich exhibition will emphasize how, from the very beginning, English has been shaped by the different cultures and languages with which it came into contact. It will demonstrate that the English language is by no means purely ‘English’– it is in fact a ‘mongrel’ tongue, mixed from centuries of influence from across the world, show the growth of English to the dominant world tongue, and show us where the language is now, where it has been, and – perhaps most important of all – where it is heading, for the new varieties of the language appearing in world literature and on the Internet show that this is a story which is by no means over.

Three curators of the BL gave ATBL a preview of the exhibit divided into English Comes of Ages, Everyday English, English around the World, Setting the Standard, English at Work, English at Play; and English around Britain and Ireland.  They saw rare and wonderful examples of what they BL will present:  an 11th century Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Manuscript, a handbook for Hobos, a 1612 map of Virginia, a Pidgin English kuk buk (cook book), the 1525 William Tyndale New Testament, British government posters from the First World War, a 1490 Eneydos (Aeneid), The Song of Solomon in various dialects of the Northern Britain, and Charles Dickens The Pickwick Papers.

The Library is planning this major exhibition running for four-months at the Library October 2010-March 2011. They expect to attract 120,000 visitors.

Acquisition of Narbrough Journal and Cataloging of BL’s Hebrew Manuscripts

The 2009 grants are targeted at completing the cataloging of the BL’s magnificent Hebrew Manuscripts collection; and to aid in the purchase of the journal and charts of the 17th-century English naval explorer, Sir John Narbrough.  Some $66,000 of the total has been allocated for a yet unspecified purpose at the BL.

Golden Hagaddah

Golden Hagaddah

These monies had been originally assigned to help defray the costs of mounting some seventy items from the BL on loan to the New York Public library for its scheduled exhibition, Sacred, due to open in New York next October.  Sacred,  a compilation of important holdy books representing the three Abrahamic faiths, had been produced successfully in 2007 by the British Library in Lobdonb where it broke all attendance records.  A portion of it was scheudled to travel to the NYPL for the Sacred exhibition here.  In mid-December the BL regretfully had to cancel its participation in the NYPL show, it said, for security reasons.

The balance of the ATBL grants total has been forwarded to the BL for the Hebrew manusripsts and narbrough Journal projects:

Hebrew Manuscripts ($12,125) has been an ongoing project to catalog and digitize one thousand images from part of one of the world’s finest collections, namely, the more than 100 medieval Hebrew manuscripts, most of them illuminated in Europe.

At present there is limited online access to these treasures of Hebrew manuscript art which include the Golden Haggadah, the Barcelona Haggadah and the peerless Lisbon Bible. The project’s completion will add these treasures to the Library’s Digital Catalog of Illuminated Manuscripts.

Narbrough Journal

Narbrough Journal

The ATBL’s grant of more than $12,000, raised at a dinner in New York City last April to pay tribute to the late William Golden, has helped complete the project. Mr. Golden had been a longtime benefactor of the Library’s collection of Judaica.

Narbrough Autograph Journal and Charts ($30,000). The acquisition of this unpublished material detailing John Narbrough’s three-year voyage in 1669-71 to South America enables researchers to evaluate more thoroughly the explorer’s role in assessing for his country the commercial potential of South America.

Narbrough’s passage through the Straits of Magellan,  in both directions, demonstrated for the first time the viability of English trade in the Pacific. That in turn would dictate the course of English foreign policy for the next half-century.

Through these documents — which include colored charts along with illustrations of the natives and wildlife of Patagonia and Chile — Narbrough may be perceived as a crucial figure in the history of English exploration, standing midway between Sir Francis Drake and Captain Cook.

The ATBL’s grant was made possible by funds from the Bernard Breslauer Bequest.

Other grants to the BL this past year was an ongoing pledge from the Caritas Foundaito of Greater Western kansas for the conservaiton of Thomas Crnamer’s prayer book.  And Roger Baskes, ATBL Board member and collector of maps and atlases, made an in

Reunited, Digitized Codex Sinaiticus Draws Worldwide Media Attention

Codex Sinaiticus

Digitized Codex Sinaiticus

The World’s Oldest Bible

The fourth-century Bible, Codex Sinaiticus, whose ‘reunification’ project received early support from the ATBL in 2004, is increasingly a focus of media attention.

The latest illustrated article on what has now become a “digital scripture”, available worldwide on the internet, appeared in the December 2009 issue of National Geographic magazine.

Codex Sinaiticus, handwritten on parchment in ancient Greek between the 1st and 4th centuries, resided at St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai. In the mid-1800s scholars from several countries removed sections of its fragile text for safekeeping. The divided Codex, which includes the earliest known complete copy of the New Testament, inspired a campaign four years ago to reunite what remains of the sacred text at the monastery with existing parts in Germany, Russia and the British Library. The American Trust made a $16,000 grant to support the early development phase of the campaign.

The now reunited Codex has become a virtual archive, each page appearing in high definition along  with a catalogue of details. The successful digitization effort has resulted in a new 21st century address for the world’s oldest Bible:

Internships at the British Library Aided by ATBL

ED Seana Anderson with Intern Nkwenkwezi Languza

ATBL Executive Director Seana Anderson with Intern Nkwenkwezi Languza

The program of British Library Sound Archive internships is now in the middle of its inaugural year. The American Trust for the British Library has provided a bursary for Nkwenkwezi Languza who is completing a five-month internship.

Nkwenkwezi heads the Sound Preservation at the National Film, Video and Sound Archives in South Africa. He is responsible among others for ensuring the preservation and promotion of the sound collection, which includes indigenous music and oral history. Will Prentice, one of the British Library Sound Archive’s Audio Engineers, is supervising Nkwenkwezi’s training.

As well as developing his knowledge of the preservation of coarse groove discs, cassette tapes and digital media, Nkwenkwezi will also be creating some recordings to take back to his own archive. These recordings will be oral history interviews of South African performing artists who were members of the much-acclaimed Ipi Ntombi that toured Europe and other parts of the world in the 1970’s. The interviews will be based on their experiences as performers in exile.

ATBL will support a second Sound Archive internship in 2008-2009.  These internships at the BL are supported through the contributions from the general membership of the ATBL.

We also heard recently from Beatrice Kitzinger, PHD Candidate at Harvard’s Department of History of Art and Architecture, Arthur M. Sackler Museum.  Ms. Kitzinger was an ATBL intern in the medieval section of the BL’s Department of Manuscripts in 2007.  This is what she wrote in part:

“I want to express my very great thanks for an invaluable internship period at the British Library made possible by the ATBL…  I found the experience extremely helpful for both my professional training and my dissertation research.  I was able to contribute to several different aspects of curatorial work in the department, and the access to the Library’s collections afforded by the internship enabled me to significantly advance my dissertation work….I would like to warmly thank you again for the commitment to young scholars’ research and training that your funding of this unique program represents.”