Closure of Landscape Institute Library & Archive

Posted on December 1st, 2008 by Sian Jones

The Garden History Society is concerned to hear that on 4th November the Landscape Institute announced that it proposed to close the library and archive at its London headquarters near Oxford Circus. The proposals include ‘seeking a new home for the collections … and using the library space to establish a members learning centre’ (eVista 4 November 2008 from Landscape Institute Communications). This proposal is being made as part of a suite of cost-cutting measures needed to ‘strip at least £200k out of recurrent costs right away’ according to the LI Director General.

The Landscape Institute library was established in the late 1940s with books donated by many of the founding members including Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, Richard Sudell, Dame Brenda Colvin, Madeline Agar, Maria Shephard, Dame Sylvia Crowe. Over the last 13 years the collection has extended to include original drawings. This is now the largest single current and historic collection of books, journals, articles and original design drawings dedicated to landscape architecture in the UK.

The Twentieth Century represents one of the most significant periods in the history of Landscape Design. It was the first time Landscape Architecture had been in such a strong position to influence all of society. New challenges confronted landscape architects in their designs for new towns, housing, business parks, garden festivals, transport, reservoirs, forestry, national parks, power stations, mineral extraction, landfill, land restoration, regeneration and conservation. This was work on an unprecedented scale.

Throughout most of the twentieth century, work in landscape architecture and landscape education have together elevated the impact of the profession nationally and internationally.

Much of the work done during the twentieth century is undocumented and unrecorded, and information about much of this work is currently being lost or destroyed. There is no coherent or standard approach to the cataloguing or system for holding modern records. It is clear that as landscape practices move, down-size, change hands or expand that drawings are simply thrown in the bin.

The Library

The Collection comprises 3800 books, 50 journal titles [from 1930-2008], 10,000 articles, the Library offers:

· reference access for students, members and non-members
· loan and postal loan facility for members
· online fully searchable catalogue facility
· information and advisory service

Over a 12 month period it has been used by:

1500 LI members [all categories]
2000 non-members
175 borrowers and 1065 book loans

The Drawings Collection and Archive

Most comprehensive single collection of 20c UK landscape drawings, photos and slides in the world comprising:

3,000+ drawings by Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, Brenda Colvin, Sylvia Crowe, Sir Peter Shepheard, Sir Peter Youngman, Michael Brown and others.

12,500+ slides, historic, contemporary by Cliff Tandy, Sir Peter Shepheard, Martin Jones, Colin Moore, Michael Littlewood and others.

10,000 photos by Susan Jellicoe, Michael Brown.

Over a 12 month period it has been used by:

400 members
600 non-members

Institute librarian Sheila Harvey received an MBE in June 2008 for distinguished services as a librarian at the LI from 1960-2006. The post of (part-time) archivist was established in 1995 and a project started to consolidate and expand the drawings collection in 2005: UKLAPP – the UK Landscape Architects Papers Preservation Project with the aims of:

· saving drawings, papers and information about 20c landscape projects ensuring the information exists for the future
· making this as accessible to as wide an audience as possible
· using the archive project to raise the profile of landscape architects, landscape architecture and the Landscape Institute on a national and international level and attract funds for future collection.

Volunteer archivist Amy Fitzgerald (conversion course to LA after qualifying as a barrister) says:

“it’s a fantastic opportunity to see some wonderful landscapes on slide and an amazing collection of drawings” – Vista 17 October 2008

The Library, Archive and posts of Librarian and Archivist are vital tools that enable the Landscape Institute to “disseminate knowledge relating to Landscape Architecture” and to “promote research and education” – both parts of the Institutes charitable objects. The potential audience goes way beyond the Institute’s members as especially the drawings have a wider public heritage value. Recent outreach work and collaborations include:

June-September 2008: Jellicoe drawings exhibited at Het Loo as part of IFLA/Appledorn International Triennial.

April 2008: LI/Garden Museum. Symposium to examine landscape and garden drawings (120).

July 2008: LI/Garden History 20thc. landscapes held at the Geffrye Museum (150 Attended).

July 2008: LI attendance at Garden History Society Conference in Liverpool (150 delegates) – visited important Jellicoe site and made contact with The Cultural Landscape Foundation – a parallel group in America.

The Garden Museum secured a grant from HLF 2008 “Collecting Cultures” – one of its aims is to work in partnership with the LI and RIBA/V&A on public programmes that link collections. A current loan will be drawings from the LI collection to be exhibited at The Garden Museum in 2009 “Design Drawings for Gardens & Landscape”.

Links with other organisations include:

The RIBA, The American Society of Landscape Architects, the V&A, Twentieth Century Society, The Association of Gardens Trust, The Royal Horticultural Society, The International Federation of Landscape Architects, The Civic Trust, English Heritage, the Royal Parks, Corporation of London, Society of Garden Designers, The Charleston Trust.

Much of the collection of books and drawings was handed to The Landscape Institute on the understanding that the LI would hold on to them. Some of the collection does not belong to the LI.

The Archive is the Institute’s cultural memory and it is possession of an archive that separates the Landscape Institute as a serious, learning institution from a trade union for Landscape Architects. The archive plays a crucial part in establishing and promoting the Institutes identity.

Deposition of the Library and Archive at a University will not ensure its intactness, accessibility or continuity.

We urge The Landscape Institute to reconsider its proposal and to ensure that this vital part of the Institute be retained and a way of resourcing it sustainably be explored.

Lucinda Lampton: President The Garden History Society
Sir Roy Strong: Past President The Garden History Society
Dominic Cole CMLI: Chairman The Garden History Society
Christopher Woodward: Director The Garden Museum
Barbara Simms: Trustee The Garden Museum
Christine Lalumia: Deputy Director The Geffrye Museum
Professor Charles McKean: Professor of Scottish Architectural History University of Dundee
Ed Bennis ASLA: Head of Centre for Landscape Research at Manchester Institute for Research & Innovation in Art & Design
Sheila Harvey MBE: Librarian Landscape Institute 1960 – 2006
Charles Boot: Librarian Garden History Society
Gillian Mawrey: The Historic Landscape Foundation
Richard Mawrey: The Historic Landscape Foundation
Charles Birnbaum: Director & Founder: The Cultural Landscape Foundation, USA
Barbara Collecot: Head of Library and Archives, RHS Lindley Library
Dr. Brent Elliott: RHS Historian
Jennifer White: Senior Landscape Advisor, English Heritage
John Watkins: Head of Gardens, English Heritage
Chris Young, Deputy Editor, The Garden

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