The Anthropology Library is part of the Museum's Anthropology Library and Research Centre and is one of the world's major specialist anthropological collections. It was started in the nineteenth century and its holdings were greatly enhanced by the gift of the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) Library in 1976.
10.00–17.00, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday
Closed: weekends, Bank Holidays and 24 December – 1 January
The library contains around 120,000 books and pamphlets and 4,000 journal titles (of which about 1,500 are current), in addition to microfiches, microfilms, maps, newsletters, sound recordings and congress reports. There is also an important pictorial collection of more than 150,000 photographs and other material.
Every aspect of anthropology is covered, including: cultural and social anthropology with a strong emphasis on material culture and art, archaeology, some biological and medical anthropology and linguistics, together with such related fields as history, sociology, description and travel.
The collection covers the whole world, but is particularly strong on the British Commonwealth, Eastern Europe and the Americas, notably Mesoamerica.
The library is open to the public for reference and research only. Fellows of the RAI are eligible to borrow books donated by the RAI
The library catalogue holds all acquisitions. There are six OPAC terminals, which offer access to the Anthropological Index Online (AIO) and the index to the library's journal collection
There is a self-service photocopier available. Photocopies may also be requested by email or letter.
The (then) Ethnography Department Library was much enlarged by Augustus Wollaston Franks, who from 1866 to 1896 was Keeper of the Department of British and Medieval Antiquities, which at the time included ethnography. Franks purchased around 2,000 volumes from his own resources and added these to the Christy Library, a collection of contemporary travel books received in 1865 from the industrialist Henry Christy.
In 1976 the Museum’s Anthropology Library was further expanded by the donation of the RAI Library. This Library had been formed by combining the collections of the Ethnological Society, founded in 1843, and the Anthropological Society of London, which seceded from it in 1863 but returned in 1871. It was built up by purchase, bequest and a journal exchange programme with other learned institutions throughout the world. The RAI continues to generously support the Anthropology Library.
In 2004 the Anthropology Library moved back from the former Museum of Mankind to the British Museum’s Bloomsbury site where it now forms a major part of the Centre for Anthropology.
Tel: +44 (0)20 7323 8031
Anthropology Library and Research Centre
Great Russell Street
London WC1B 3DG