National folk arts library to undergo a major refurbishment

Vaughan Williams Memorial Library

England’s national library of folk music and dance is to undergo a major refurbishment this summer to ensure it is fit for future generations to explore and discover the folk arts. The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library (VWML), the library of the English Folk Dance and Song Society based at Cecil Sharp House in London, will be closed from July 19 to September 5 while work is carried out.

The VWML is the country’s biggest dedicated library and archive of folk music, dance, and other traditions, and received Designated status from the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) in 2011.

It opened as part of Cecil Sharp House in Regent’s Park Road in 1930 to make Cecil Sharp’s personal book collection accessible to the public.

The library was one of the few rooms in the Grade II listed property that escaped serious damage from a WWII bomb, and so it still features the original bookcases made by Heal’s on Tottenham Court Road and its Art Deco ceiling.

The seven-week programme will include the renovation of the historic bookcases by accredited conservators Bainbridge Conservation, painting the ceiling, new flooring, curtains, and readers’ lamps.

A new display case to exhibit items from the archive will also be installed, along with facilities for browsing the VWML’s extensive catalogue and online resources. The National Folk Music Fund, set up by Ursula and Ralph Vaughan Williams to support the VWML, is funding the £50,000 cost of the refurbishment.

Laura Smyth, Director of the VWML, said: “The Vaughan Williams Memorial Library is the nation’s most prized resource for folk traditions and has been very well used by musicians, researchers, writers, historians, and other visitors over the years.

“The reading room has not undergone any major refurbishment since 1940, and the historic furniture has become chipped, tired, and cracked over the decades. This carefully planned refurbishment will ensure that the library can continue to serve our users and be a place of discovery for the folk arts for many years to come.”

Library staff will continue to operate an email, telephone, and letter enquiry service during the closure period. For more information, go to www.vwml.org.

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