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 one of the world’s major specialist anthropology libraries. Formed by the amalgamation of the Museum’s Ethnography library and the library of the Royal Anthropological Institute (RAI) it now contains over 120,000 volumes, covering all aspects of anthropology, but with a particular strength in material culture. The collection covers the whole world and the library continues to collect both domestic and overseas material, where appropriate
The Library is renowned for its extensive journal collection: over 1,500 periodical titles are currently subscribed to with approximately 4,000 titles held in total. The holdings are used as the basis for the Anthropological Index Online (AIO) which is produced by the RAI. The close relationship with the RAI endures to this day and plays an important role in helping to grow the collection through the Institute’s extensive network of exchange agreements with similar learned institutions.
The library’s rare books collection dates back to the 16th century and is a combination of the rare books from both the RAI and the collections of the former Ethnography Library at the Museum (the two founding library collections). A significant proportion of them came from Henry Christy, a Victorian industrialist, who donated his library to the Museum in 1865. Christy’s library focussed very much on travel, especially European exploration and settlement of Africa, America (North and South), Asia and Oceania in the 18th and 19th centuries. Whilst some of the Christy collection has been distributed among a number of the Museum’s other departmental libraries, the bulk of it resides with the Anthropology Library.
The library subscribes to a wide variety of e-resources and electronic journals which are available to readers on site.
There are over 25 study places and wifi is available throughout the library.
Photocopying facilities are available at a cost of 10p per A4 or A3 sheet. Please check with staff before photocopying oversize or pre-1914 material. We allow digital photography (without flash) for private research use only and may require a copyright declaration form to be filled in.
The Anthropology Library and Research Centre is open on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10am-5pm and Thursdays from 12-5pm. We are closed on weekends and public holidays.
Members of the public
The library is open to the public for reference and research only. The registration form and our terms and conditions of use can be downloaded below. Photographic ID will be required on all visits.
Members of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Fellows of the Royal Anthropological Institute are eligible to
borrow books and access e-resources once they have registered with
the ALRC. Please contact the ALRC for the registration form.
Photographic ID will be required on all visits.
For more information about membership of the institute, please contact the RAI directly.
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
Please note, that during the move of collections into the World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre, they will not be accessible for visits or loan requests. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.
The textile collection will remain fully accessible to researchers for the duration of the move, as will AOA departmental archives and pictorial collection.
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.