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About the Library

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A short history of the Faculty Library

Two Departments, One Library and Seven Librarians ca 1956-2015

The Architecture Department shares facilities with the History of Art Department in the Library. Together the two departments form one of the eight Faculties in the University’s School of Arts and Humanities. (Architecture at Cambridge is unique among UK universities in treating it as an Arts subject rather than part of Engineering, Technology or Social Science.) At the time Leslie Martin arrived in 1956, the Library was located on the first floor of number 5 Scroope Terrace in what is now called the Classroom. The Librarian at that time was a member of the non academic assistant staff. In the late fifties following the University’s review of teaching in the Faculty the post of Librarian was given greater importance with its establishment as an academic post and the Library was moved to its central position on the ground floor.

In 1962, Francis Haskell, Fellow of King’s College, became the first academic librarian of the Fine Arts Faculty. He was librarian until 1967 and developed the library’s classification scheme which has only been slightly modified since. His appointment started a tradition of ‘scholar librarians’ which ended in 1996, following Deborah Howard’s elevation to a Readership. Between 1967-1972,  David Watkin was librarian although he was primarily an academic lecturer. Robin Middleton, who had already been teaching at the Faculty, was librarian between 1972–1988. He is a leading authority on 18th century French architecture and architectural theory. Ian Campbell was librarian between 1989–1992 and was responsible for instigating the first on-line catalogue. Deborah Howard became librarian in 1992 until she became a Reader in the Faculty in 1996. Madeleine Brown, who had worked in the Library as an assistant since 1989 was librarian from1996 until her retirement in 2009. Susanne Jennings and Tanya Zhimbiev are the present Librarians

The Rare Books Collection, the Library Furnishings and Room for Growth

The Maurice Webb Collection of rare books was given to the School of Architecture in the 1920’s. The Rare Books collection contains c. 2000 books, most of which are architectural treatises. Roger Hinks (1933-1963) gave many books to the Library in the 1960s. He was an art historian attached to Trinity College and worked at the British Museum.

The large chairs around the table in the Architecture Room were acquired by Robin Middleton and came from the Smirke Reading Room in the British Museum. Robin Middleton also obtained the marble washstand, made by E. W. Pugin, under the window in the second History of Art Room and the large tables on the ground floor of the Library. Around the table in the History of Art room are Thonet chairs, many of which bear the original Thonet stamp. It is of note that Thonet created the first bentwood chairs in Vienna. The table in the first History of Art Room and the cupboards in the first Rare Books Room came from MacFarlane Grieve of Toft Manor and were obtained for the library by David Watkin.


The Library once consisted of entirely open shelves. During the 1990s, the first and then the second basement rooms at the front of the building were altered by the installation of mobile shelving to accommodate expansion. In 2001, the Library expanded considerably with double the amount of shelf space. In 2006, when the Faculty started the large refurbishment, part of this extension became the lift to allow disabled access to the building. The Library expanded further utilizing what used to be the Caretaker’s flat. In this latest refurbishment , it is hoped that there will be sufficient space for expansion of the Library for several years to come.