Reference Works

Reference Works is the inaugural exhibition in the new Library of Birmingham, curated by Pete James, Curator of Photography and produced by Nicola Shipley.

Featuring newly commissioned work by Michael Collins, Brian Griffin, Andrew Lacon and Stuart Whipps, it tracks the transition between the old Central Library and the construction of the new one. Their is a curious lingering sadness about the demise of the old Central Library which sometimes epitomised the prickly issue of post war architecture and this show gives a moment to consider the prominence of such buildings in the map of human experience; from beacons of new beginnings (post war, austerity Britain and tenuous economic recovery from one or the deepest recessions in history) to the recurrent publicity images, to iconic building viewed as a cityscape, to the practical function of the space for its users. Amongst the glitz and celebrations, this is a democratically situated building that is accessible to anyone. Ultimately, this is a humble library ( and archive), which, it has to be said, is in a spectacular setting. When my local authority in Herefordshire is wielding a large axe over the county’s library service, I feel delighted that this building is being provided for the community of Birmingham. Libraries are back on the agenda.

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