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History of the Institute of Archaeology Library and Collections

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Early years: the St. John's Lodge Institute of Archaeology Library

A specialist archaeology library was an integral part of the Institute of Archaeology from its earliest years at St John’s Lodge (pictures), the Inner Circle, Regent’s Park, although initially the library catered as much for the general public as for students and academics, even remaining open throughout World War II.

The appointment of a new Director, the eminent archaeologist Vere Gordon Childe, in 1946 revitalised the Institute during the post-war period and the appointment of Joan du Plat Taylor as permanent librarian was to prove a turning point in the fortunes of the library. Initial expansion focused on European and Western Asiatic materials, but over time purchases, donations and exchanges enabled the library to build both geographical scope and specialist depth.Surviving reports and correspondence (pictures) reveal the vigorous efforts both she and her academic colleagues (pictures), including Gordon Childe himself and Kathleen Kenyon, made to build and organise an archaeological library of international importance.

The 'new' Institute of Archaeology Library in Gordon Square

In 1958, the Institute of Archaeology moved to its current premises in Gordon Square (pictures) and the library moved into a purpose-built space on the 1st floor (pictures). Post-war collections consisted of books and periodicals, an extensive map collection, a lantern slide collection and extensive quantities of pamphlets. Material was organised according to a unique classification scheme designed by Joan du Plat Taylor for the library, which remains in use today. By the 1970s, the library had gained a reputation as one of the leading archaeological libraries in the world, including extensive Human Environment and Conservation collections, as well as material relating to all aspects of global archaeology.

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Joining UCL Library Services

In 1985, the Institute was merged with UCL and the Institute Library became part of the wider group of UCL Library Services, benefiting from new funding and advances in technology, including the first computerised library catalogues. The latest major expansion of collections took place during the 1980s, when a postgraduate degree in Museum Studies was introduced at the Institute and a new class of museums-related books added to the collections. Collections still continue to grow each year and materials held reflect both the Institute's teaching curriculum and wider developments in archaeological theory and practice, including a stronger focus on social theory and anthropology, heritage and cultural resource management.

Movement and expansion

In 1997 the library moved once again, to a refurbished library space (pictures) and computer cluster on the 5th floor.  Collections now incorporated the Edwards Egyptology and Yates (Classical Archaeology) libraries, formerly based in the Science and Main libraries. Subsequent years have seen a marked expansion in the provision of electronic resources for archaeology, although paper resources are still essential for our collections.

Bust of Gordon Childe

The Institute Library today

The Institute Library continues to pursue its original objective of supporting the research and teaching undertaken at the Institute to the highest level and continues to welcome visitors from around the world with an interest in archaeology.

Further information

For further information and archival materials relating to the history of the Institute of Archaeology Library:

  • Contact UCL Special Collections
  • Consult the Bulletin of the Institute of Archaeology
  • Have a look at Janssen, R. 1992. The first hundred years : Egyptology at University College London, 1892-1992. London: Petrie Museum

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