Librarians and archivists around Edinburgh, Dublin, Manchester, Leeds, Cardiff and South Wales, and Liverpool (coming in October 2016) have put together guidebooks that take researchers to treasures such as letters between Cruickshank and his publishers, centuries-old sketches featuring Kirskstall Abby, and photos of the Cottingley Fairies. There are botanical illustrations so realistic you feel compelled to stroke petals and illuminated maps, manuscripts and charters with the paintings of Queen Elizabeth I, whose elaborate signature officially classifies as a work of art itself. Many of these gems are not online.
“These are handy, well designed little booklets,” says art historian, Mark Westgarth, “loosely drawing on the format of the ubiquitous city tourist guides. They are portable, user friendly and fit in a coat pocket.”
“All these cities have fantastic collections on architecture, design and history broadly defined, but researchers don’t know how to get their hands on everything they might need — this guide helps solve that problem,” says Rose Roberto, book historian at the University of Reading and series editor.
Introductions to each guide have been written by leading scholars such as Christine Casey and Ben Read. Through a visual narrative, all guides point the way to libraries and repositories with unique and under used resources. Indexed by over 80 subjects, all guides include citywide maps, navigation icons, and a time-saving subject index to collections and colour images of each place.
“What makes these guides useful is the map and index. If you’re doing research on fashion history, for example, the visual index shows which places have the right material, and whether it’s a book, archives, or audiovisual format,” says Racher Myers, former design librarian at Leeds University.
Published by the Art Libraries Society of the UK and Ireland (ARLIS), these pocket sized guides range in price from £4.50-£8.00 each. The books are available as a set or individually from the ARLIS website, http://arlis.org.uk/periodicals-libraries-sources/publications as well around the different cities featured in the Art Researchers’ Guide series.