The grand re-opening in March 2015 of the new Weston Library, formerly known as 'The New Bodleian', after more than three years' redevelopment was a milestone for the Bodleian, the University, and the city as a whole. Over 11,000 visitors explored the new attraction on Broad Street during the opening weekend. Blackwell Hall, the library's generous public space on the ground floor, invites visitors to take a break in the café, to admire treasures in the exhibition room, and, through the glass panels which have replaced some of the walls, to glimpse the working library on the floors above. After the refurbished Ashmolean Museum, the Weston Library is another example of great modern Oxford architecture, and another place where town and gown can meet.
Among the treasures in the Weston Library is the Bodleian's map collection. After having spent some time in temporary accommodation in Duke Humfrey's library, last October the Map Room moved back into the building which alumni will have known as the New Bod, but not to the Map Room they were used to, but into another room on the first floor which provides more space and better facilities for maps, staff, and researchers.
On 7 May Map Librarian Nick Millea invited a group of 25 map enthusiasts, including SoGE post-doc researcher Dr Ben Hennig (view his approach to maps on Views of the World), to visit the Weston Library on a 'field trip' organised by The Oxford Seminars in Cartography (TOSCA). The seminar series, now in its 22nd year, is run by Nick Millea and Dr Elizabeth Baigent, geography alumna (St Hugh's 1977-1981) and now University Reader in the History of Geography and SCIO Senior Tutor at Wycliffe Hall.
Nick Millea started his tour in front of the Sheldon map of Worcestershire, one in a series of four tapestry maps that were made to decorate Weston House in Warwickshire in the late sixteenth century. After extensive and intensive restoration the map is on display in Blackwell Hall where every morning at 11am a member of the Map Room is around to answer questions from interested visitors. Next on display, from January 2016, will be the tapestry map of Oxfordshire.
The group then ventured into the 'Readers only' area upstairs, tracking the changes that have been made to the building. With most of the collection now housed in the Bodleian's new storage facility in Swindon, the architects had the chance to let in more light, create more space, and take design features back to their original state as planned by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in the 1930s. Doorways that used to lead into dusty book stacks now open up to stunning views of the working library and Blackwell Hall beneath. A strenuous climb to the 5th floor was rewarded with views of the dreaming spires from the Weston's rooftop.
The tour ended with a display of treasures of the Map Room, many of which will feature in a Bodleian publication which will be published in spring 2016 under the editorship of Debbie Hall, now a Map Room librarian and another geography alumna of St Hugh's (1990-1993). The book's working title is: A Map for All Reasons. Good news for all those who had to miss the tour!
The programme for TOSCA's 23rd annual series 2015/16 will be available online from the autumn. All are welcome - and look out for news of TOSCA's 25th anniversary celebrations which the organisers are already planning.