The Paul Hamlyn Library

It is with great regret that the British Museum will close the Paul Hamlyn Library as part of efforts to accommodate a 15% cut to the Museum’s grant-in-aid budget. The Centre for Anthropology library remains open to all visitors to the Museum.

The curatorial department libraries (Ancient Egypt and Sudan, Asia, Coins and Medals, Greece and Rome, Middle East, Britain, Europe and Prehistory, Prints and Drawings), may be accessed, by appointment, for research enquiries. The Museum is looking into how the books that were housed in the Paul Hamlyn Library can best be managed so that they continue to be used for the maximum benefit of the Museum.

Family backpacks and trails which were previously distributed through the library will be available from the Great Court.


The Paul Hamlyn Library was set up as a reference library in 2000. From 2007, the resources of another one of the Museum’s ten libraries, the Central Library started to be made available through the Paul Hamlyn Library. The holdings of the Central Library include books on the history of the Museum, a small number of the Museum’s rare books, and a collection of rare books from the House of Commons. In order to avoid confusion, from 2007 we began to refer to the joint collection as the Paul Hamlyn Library.

The resulting joint collection, the Paul Hamlyn Library, Central Library, and House of Commons collection, contains 50,000 books and journals. The subject matter is very wide-ranging, including archaeology, history, art, numismatics, Egyptology, Classical antiquities, oriental art and museum studies and covers the range of cultures and types of collection covered by the British Museum. There is a collection of works relating to the history of the British Museum, including guidebooks dating back to 1762. The library also holds a copy of every British Museum publication and there is a collection of ephemera relating to past exhibitions, including a poster archive.

The Museum has undertaken a 90-day consultation with the eleven affected staff. This is the standard legal consultation on the impact of the proposed closure on their personal circumstances. All redundancies were agreed on voluntary terms and a number of staff have been redeployed to other roles in the Museum.

When it was set up in 2000, the Paul Hamlyn Library collection was accessed by the public from the Reading Room. This changed in 2007, when the Reading Room was used for special exhibitions. The Reading Room will continue to be used for special exhibitions until the new World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre opens in 2014. In the lead-up to the opening, we will be consulting widely about the future use of the Reading Room.