Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas
+44 (0)20 7323 8041
Anthropology Library and Research Centre
+44 (0)20 7323 8031
Anthropology Library and Research Centre
The Anthropology Library and Research Centre is located near the north entrance to the Museum and is home to the Anthropology Library, as well as offering access to information about ethnographic collections and an object identification service.
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,
- 12.00–17.00, Thursday
- 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 (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.
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.
There are three catalogue terminals in the reading room, which also offer access to the Anthropological Index Online (AIO), an index of over 700 scholarly anthropology journals held by the library.
There is a photocopier available. Photocopies may also be requested by email or letter.
Access is available to copies of object accession registers, the digitised collection database and reference photographs of objects. Access to further archival material can be arranged by appointment.
If available, specialist curators will provide opinions (but not valuations) on objects or small collections. It is advisable to contact us in advance and send an image if possible. It is not possible to leave objects with us.
Orders can be placed for existing images at www.bmimages.com and reference images may be viewed
Visiting reserve collections
Appointments can be made to view selected material at our main store or textile store, subject to availability of staff.
Please note: there is high demand for visits to the stored collections. We can normally only consider requests made one to two months in advance.
Where possible staff can provide information or advice on other museums or institutions which may be of interest or able to give more information on anthropological topics, as well as relevant exhibitions or events in the Museum.
All visitors are required to register and produce identification, as well as leave coats, bags and umbrellas in the Museum's cloakrooms.
Staff may also ask to inspect books, folders etc when visitors leave.