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Welcome to birmingham.gov.uk

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Designated Library Status for Central Library

The Library of Birmingham is unique amongst UK public libraries for the depth and range of its collections. This unique status has now been recognised by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) who have awarded six of its collections ' designated' status.

This means that they are recognised as having national and international significance as library and archive collections. The latest round of designation applications was open to libraries and archives for the first time. Previously the process had been for museums only.

Nationally, 38 collections were designated in 28 institutions and included only 2 other public libraries, Bristol and Westminster who were designated for one collection each. The panel stated that 'The quality, range and depth of Birmingham's collections reflect its status as Britain's second city' and that the designation application 'clearly demonstrates [the collections'] broader significance in terms of the social, industrial, commercial and cultural history of the city, the region, and the nation'.

The six designated collections are:


Photography Collection - The Library has over 2 million photographic items and uniquely, holds the only national collection of photography in a public library. There are outstanding collections including those of pioneers like Sir Benjamin Stone and Francis Bedford as well as modern collections such as Paul Hill / Photographer's Place and Vanley Burke.

The Archives, Heritage and Photography service holds over 6000 archive collections including numerous major collections of national and international importance such as the archives of industrial innovators James Watt and Matthew Boulton, Birmingham Repertory Theatre including Bernard Shaw correspondence, and broadcasting pioneer Charles Parker.

Early and Fine Printing Collections a collection of outstanding quality and significance incorporating over 8,200 books printed before 1701 including splendid examples of early atlases, bookbinding from 15th century, 4,500 examples of fine printing, outstanding hand-coloured illustrated books and two 17th century parish libraries.

The Literature Collections Central Library holds the most significant and extensive collection of literature in a public library. It includes the Birmingham Shakespeare Library, one of the world most comprehensive Shakespeare collections, a superb collection of war poetry, and a significant collection of Children books and games.

The Birmingham Collection is unrivalled in depth and detail amongst historic collections about a single city. It charts every aspect of Britain second city, bringing together material available nowhere else. Its appeal is both national and international in scope.

The Music Collection - contains material of national and international significance unavailable elsewhere including records of the Triennial Music Festival, featuring correspondence with Elgar and other composers, the Manuscript score of Mendelssohn Elijah, unique Handel Libretti, and a vast collection of performance sets.

Cornucopia
An online database of information detailing collections in the UK's libraries, museums, galleries, and archives

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