Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Bow-WOW what a library!


Keddell Memorial Trophy
Now, since I'm writing my research paper on this library I'll spare most of the technical information/details since I need to examine those later and instead share the wicked-super-cool-experience aspect of it which I won't have an outlet for in my paper. A very short two block jaunt from the Green Park tube stop is the headquarters of The Kennel Club at 1-5 Clarges Street. Upon entering into the foyer, a right turn will take you directly into the library, and as the librarian came out to meet me and take me in I could barely stand the excitement! This was a rare opportunity to experience a place where 2 important areas of interest for me converged; I was at the intersection of dogs and libraries - and it was glorious. (No music will do to convey what an epic moment this visit was other than the representationally epic scale of a Bruckner symphony, and thus the second track selection for this day). The Kennel Club owns this building on Clarges Street, and the first floor houses the library, their gallery to display some of the fantastic canine art pieces they hold, as well as an area for a changing special exhibition. More of their art pieces are distributed amongst the upper floors displayed in hallways, boardrooms and other club spaces.

They claim the title as the largest publicly accessible and professionally staffed library on this subject in Europe. However, while the AKC Library in New York holds more volumes, they do not have a professional staff to operate the library let alone to aid in research, so while they may want to be cautious, this blog will go ahead and bestow the more appropriate title-end 'in the world.' The library has around 8,000 monographs and serials relating to the training, care, breeding, and history of dogs, a picture library of over 100,000 images and about 300 art pieces (which makes it the largest collection of dog paintings in Europe). They actively collect new materials on canine subjects, and they also aim to collect rare and valuable works with the financial support of the Kennel Club Arts Foundation. The oldest item in the collection is a volume from 1598 which is a book of law describing different licenses and detailing what breeds could be owned by various classes.

Many come here and contact this library for all kinds of canine research for books or articles they are writing or television segments they are producing, and other individuals require assistance for personal research to explore one breed or another, trace a pedigree, or investigate the history of relatives in the dog show world. I was so lucky to be able to spend over two hours with Ciara Farrell, the Library & Collections manager. She answered my countless questions, relayed the history of the library and guided me around to see the collections. We even went up to the swanky member club so that I could see a few more of the paintings, especially An Early Canine Meeting from 1855 which depicts in the pre-Kennel Club days when the earliest dog shows took place in taverns .(You can check out a very brief history of dog art here and see an image of that painting).   

Other notable items I was able to see included the all silver cup awarded to Best in Show at Crufts: the Keddell Memorial Trophy (eee!) and the third oldest item in the collection (Farrell's favorite), Observations Upon Prince Rupert’s White Dog Called Boy from 1641. This is thought to be a satirical piece of Royalist propaganda although the accusations in this literature align with those against the King at the time, claiming the dog (a poodle) was imbued with the gift of languages, it could prophesize, and it was a witch or sorceress. This is also important because it's the first item relating to a living specimen that was well-documented. Boy's life, as a companion of King Charles I's nephew, Prince Rupert, including when and how he lived and died is known. It was also really neat to see the exhibition space in a bit of a chaotic state as they were in the process of switching exhibitions. The previous exhibit concerning the Queen and her corgis which included some of her personal photographs was being removed to curate the next exhibit: The Newfoundland.      

The Kennel Club lucked into a land deal as a developer wants this building, and they'll be able to relocate just next door in 2 years and they are in the advanced stages of planning the new library which will incorporate a purpose-built design with all the relevant environmental controls and convertible shelving they desire. Along with this move they will be progressing with their digitization efforts as well. My hope is that this will create new positions they will need to fill by hiring me! This was a fantastic experience, and my only regret about it is that I wish I had been able to make this appointment earlier in my trip so that I would have had an opportunity to go back and explore the collection more.

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