British Library Reading Room

Designed by Sydney Smirke and located at the center of the Great Court of the British Museum (Bloomsbury, London), the Reading Room is made of cast iron, concrete, and glass. Its design was inspired by the domed Pantheon in Rome. At the time of its opening, it incorporated the latest heating and ventilation systems, and contained 4.8 km of bookcases and 40 km of shelves. In 1997, the books were moved to the British Library, St. Pancras, and the Reading Room closed for renovations. It reopened in 2000 and was used for special exhibitions from 2007 until 2013.

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Latitude: 51.519413300000
Longitude: -0.126956500000

Timeline of Events Associated with British Library Reading Room

Date Event Manage
2 May 1857

Opening of Reading Room of the British Library

British Library reading roomOpening of the Reading Room at the British Library on 2 May 1857. For a week, a curious public streamed in for a special open viewing of its domed ceiling, elevated stacks of gilt-spined books, and blue leather reading tables radiating out from its central core of power and knowledge, the librarian’s desk. After this spectacle, the doors closed to all except those holding Readers Tickets, who could access, open, and read books deposited in the National Library. Image: Exterior of the Reading Room viewed from the Great Court of the British Museum. This image is in the public domain in the United States because its copyright has expired.

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