United Kingdom - Libraries and museums

London has more than 500 libraries, among them the British Library, the largest in the United Kingdom, with about 16 million volumes. The National Library of Scotland, with about seven million volumes, is in Edinburgh, and the National Library of Wales, with some four million volumes, in Aberystwyth. The Bodleian Library at Oxford University has about 6.7 million volumes, and the Cambridge University Library has 5.9 million. Each of these five is a copyright library, entitled to receive a copy of every new book published in the United Kingdom.

Other major libraries in London include the University of London Central Library (two million), the London Library (the largest public subscription library), the Science Museum Library (600,000), the Victoria and Albert Museum Art Library, the Public Record Office (containing such national historical treasures as the Domesday Book), and the libraries of such institutions as the Royal Institute of International Affairs (140,000), the Royal Commonwealth Society (150,000), the Royal Geographical Society (150,000), the Royal Academy of Arts (22,000), and the National Library for the Blind. In 2002 a Women's Library opened in London giving a home to publications documenting women's lives in Britain. There are major libraries at the Universities of Edinburgh (2.4 million), Glasgow (1.4 million), Queen's University in Belfast (1.1 million), and St. Andrew's (920,000). Manchester Metropolitan University has one million volumes.

Public libraries are administered by public library authorities (councils of counties, county boroughs, municipal boroughs, and urban districts). Public libraries also lend music scores, cassettes, and records. Rural areas are served by traveling vans.

The United Kingdom is a museum-lover's dream. Almost every city and large town has museums of art, archaeology, and natural history. There are more than 1,000 museums and art galleries, ranging from nearly two dozen great national institutions to small collections housed in a few rooms. London has the British Museum (founded 1759), with its vast collections of archaeological and ethnographic material from all over the world, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, including extensive collections of works of fine and applied arts. In the late 1990s, the British Museum was struggling financially; trustees rejected admission fees, and a multimillion-dollar deficit was projected when the government, which had funded most of the $84.5 million budget through the National Lottery, began reducing contributions. The National Gallery, the Tate Gallery, and the National Portrait Gallery are among other prestigious London art museums. Other museums located in London include the London Transport Museum (founded 1978), the National Maritime Museum (1934), the Natural History Museum (1963), and the Science Museum (1857). There is also a collection of royal ceremonial dress at Kensington Palace, and the Sherlock Holmes Museum, featuring Victorian memorabilia, opened in 1990. The Tate Gallery of Modern Art, featuring rotating exhibits arranged by theme, opened in May 2000. The National Museum of Wales is in Cardiff, and there are six national museums and art galleries in Edinburgh. Belfast has a quasi-national museum and art gallery and is the site of the Northern Irish Folk Museum. There are important museums and art galleries in Liverpool, Manchester, Leicester, Birmingham, Bristol, Norwich, Southampton, York, Glasgow, Leeds, and other cities. Oxford and Cambridge each have many museums, and several other universities also have important collections. Private art collections in historic family mansions are open to the public at specified times.

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