A glimpse of the Sackler’s special collections

More than a month into my time at the Sackler, I am still discovering obscure but delightful aspects of its collections. One of my newly-acquired responsibilities is to fetch items from the closed stack areas of the library. Readers can consult these special collections items in a dedicated corner of the ground floor under the watchful eye of the desk staff, as these books are often old/rare/generally difficult and expensive to replace. These fascinating resources and gems from times gone by are kept in a variety of hidden places around the library.

One of these repositories is the Rare Books Room. Here a multitude of old volumes are kept under lock and key (read: sophisticated modern alarm system) in rolling stacks.

 

Inside the Rare Books Room [all photos taken by me]
Items in the Rare Books Room include:

  • folios and books containing accounts and drawings by 19th-century travellers to sites of interest such as those in Egypt;
  • accounts of famous archaeological excavations, such as Arthur Evans’ excavation of Knossos on the Greek island of Crete, some of which used to belong to the Ashmolean Museum Library collection;
  • drawings of artefactsheld at the British Museum in its early days.
Excavation reports
View of Petra in Jordan by Victorian Scottish artist David Roberts

Curious visitors to the Sackler Library may have noticed an intriguing room set back from the edge of the main reading room on floor 1 called the Wind Room. Though this may sound like a reference to something classical or elemental, it is actually named after Edgar Marcel Wind. Wind was a German academic who became Oxford’s first Art History professor in 1955, after a stint as a lecturer at All Souls. More information about Wind and his time at Oxford can be found here . The Wind Room itself mostly contains books about western art printed between 1500-1900. Because of their age, the books are treated as special/rare books, and are locked inside caged shelves that I think are actually rather attractive.

Caged books in the Wind Room

There is also an Archives Room containing archives of various Classicists and archaeologists, along with MPhil and DPhil theses, and miscellaneous pamphlets. I’ve only been in that room twice ever, and I suspect there is more to be uncovered during future visits!

The Sackler Library also houses a major research centre for Egyptology, including papyrology , and the work being done here warrants its own blog post (or even entire blog), so watch this space…

 

Lucy Taylor, Sackler Library

Hi, I’m Lucy and I’m the trainee at the Sackler (Classics) Library this year. I graduated in 2012 with a BA in Classical Archaeology and Ancient History from Oxford. I’ve spent the last 12 months working at a children’s bookshop in Cambridge and volunteering in a couple of Cambridge University Libraries to gain more experience of library work. Although volunteering in a Psychology Library and an Agricultural Archive was really interesting,  it feels nice to be returning to my subject area and a little odd to be returning to the library where I spent a great deal of my undergrad studying!

The Sackler library was opened in 2001 and houses the collections belonging to the old Ashmolean Museum. The building was designed with its classical subject areas in mind and the circular layout of the building is quite unusual too. This, along with a number of different classification systems taken from the old libraries, can sometimes make navigating the library quite confusing! 

The trainee scheme has been quite busy so far. It’s been great getting to know all the likeminded trainees who enjoy all things library related and to be getting to grips with library work. In the month since starting at the Sackler, I’ve mainly been based on the issue desk and in the technical services room, processing new books, all whilst trying not to look too lost when wandering round the identical circular floors!

As well as the work, there’s also been plenty of time for tea, cake and bumping into unsuspecting former tutors, who seem quite startled to see me back again behind the issue desk! I’m looking forward to the rest of the year and excited to make use of all the opportunities the trainee graduate scheme has to offer.

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