Monday, 27 January 2014

The National Library

I had never been to the National Library and, in fact, was only vaguely aware of its existence.  But I was given a ticket (thanks, A) to a guided tour of the current temporary exhibition, "Mapping Our World - Terra Incognito to Australia".  This is an impressive display of maps starting with some indigenous material and a Ptolemy map from about 90 AD (rediscovered in about 1300), and the amazing Venetian map by Fra Mauro. This is perhaps the highlight of the exhibition, given the size of the map and the complexities involved in bringing it from Venice to Canberra.

The exhibition then proceeds through the "discovery" era maps of the Portuguese, Dutch and of course Cook and the other English explorers and culminating in Flinders' "General Chart of Terra Australis or Australia".     All very interesting indeed.

There's also a permanent exhibition in the "Treasures Gallery", which contains a display of maps, pictures, photographs and objects designed to illustrate episodes in Australian history.   Again, the range of material on display is quite breath-taking.

As for the library itself, sorry, no bookstacks at all!    I guess they must exist somewhere but seemingly are not for public access.    There are various reading  rooms (complete with arrays of computer terminals, as well as people reading hard copies).  There are also some Leonard French windows - quite nice but not as impressive as the ceiling in Melbourne's National Gallery.

Edit:   As we were leaving Canberra, I noticed a warehouse-type building with a National Library sign on it.    Maybe the bookstacks are out in a warehouse, instead of on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin!


  1. When you say that you have never been to the National Library, I assume that you mean physically, rather than digitally. The online resource at Trove is truly a treasure trove.

  2. We're so glad you had a chance to visit us, not just the Mapping Our World exhibition but all of our services that you described.
    And yes, you're right, we do have an off-site storage facility - in the suburb of Hume. However we also have several levels of 'closed access' stacks on-site in the main building including much of the collections of rare books, music, ephemera, Asian, Australian and periodicals. And, as Aimi pointed out our 'Trove' service our [digital] pride and joy: