ETL507 Study Visit: Sydney 2014

Day Two: Australian Museum Research Library and Art Gallery of NSW

Australian Museum Research Library


At the Australian Museum Research Library it was interesting to learn that even though it is 2014 a card catalogue is still in use. An automated Library Management System started in the library in 1988 however the card catalogue is still regularly referred to. The library’s main collection has been divided into a monographs catalogue and a serials catalogue with a variety of in-house classification and Dewey classification systems being utilised. During the visit I really enjoyed viewing the rare book room and being able to see a variety of rare books which dated back to the 1550’s. I was fascinated to learn that the library is kept at 51 percent humidity and 21 degree temperature in order to keep the resources from rotting/deteriorating. It was also interesting to learn that unlike the State Library, the Australian Museum Library does weed their collection. Currently the library is in the process of weeding journals which can now be found digitally and are no longer considered unique.

The Australian Museum Research Library’s strengths are that it is committed to the conservation of its resources, it holds many journal titles that other libraries do not have and has one of the finest natural history collections in Australia. The Australian Museum Research Library’s weaknesses are that there is little space to shelve the collection and different cataloguing rules have been used to shelve the resources which makes it increasingly hard to locate anything. Currently the librarian spends her days converting older resources into the current Dewey classification system which is a time consuming practice. Had I not attended the library I would not have known of its existence. This study visit has certainly opened my eyes to the different types of library’s that are available in Australia and to the unique collections that they hold.

Art Gallery of NSW – Edmund and Joanna Capon Research Library


I have visited the Art Gallery of NSW many times and have never known that a library existed there. The Edmund and Joanna Capon Research Library opened to the general public in 1988. It was originally funded to support the acquisition and conservation of artworks and today supports the professional staff at the library as well as artists and Sydney locals. The library is very hidden and only a little plaque on the wall revealed its existence at the bottom of an elaborate staircase. The library contains fine art publications, rare books and manuscripts. The library’s collection surrounds mainly Australian and British art but in recent years Asian art has also been incorporated. It was interesting to learn that the general public contacts the library about inherited artworks and what they may be worth. It was also interesting to learn that the librarians have a large say in what the library will acquire and that no collection development policy currently exists in the library. Most acquisitions are simply driven by demand.

The Edmund and Joanna Capon Research Library’s strength is that it holds one of the most outstanding collections of fine art publications, rare books and manuscripts in Australia. The Edmund and Joanna Capon Research Library’s weaknesses are that many people do not know of the library’s existence, there is no public access given to the archive, the library has no collection development policy so acquisitions are haphazard and the library’s physical space is extremely small and cramped. I found it interesting that any material that is viewed by the public is first weighed before being given to the user and then weighed upon its return to ensure the contents remain in the library and are not stolen. A particular highlight of this study visit would have to have been the viewing of the rare cake book. It contained many elaborate hand drawings and its cover was made to look like icing. What a remarkable find.


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