Fire at the National Library of Wales

National Library of Wales copyright Caroline Ramsden

My brother who is currently a student at Aberystwyth University (my old uni) text me earlier today to tell me there was a fire at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth. I have a joint honours in English Literature and Welsh, and as a part of my Welsh language studies we visited a lot of important Welsh cultural institutions to talk to the staff about the role of the Welsh language there. The National Library of Wales was one of these, and I remember being terrified at the idea of being there when a fire broke out because of the tour behind the scenes.

The National Library of Wales is a copyright library which means that it holds a copy of every book or newspaper published in the UK. There are miles and miles of shelves behind the scenes and because many of the documents are very rare, they would be damaged by water sprinklers in the event of the fire, so they have air tight steel walls which come down before the room is pumped full of carbon dioxide to prevent the materials stored becoming fire damaged. I think a special alarm sounded to let you know that the steel curtains were coming down and you had a minute to get out. Really scary. At least you’d stand a chance of getting out of a burning building.

You can read more about the fire here


9 thoughts on “Fire at the National Library of Wales

  1. orange

    I know what you mean! I started my Masters in Cultural Materials Conservation recently and getting “behind the scenes” access to so many important collections has also opened my eyes to the disaster management plans they have… the National Library of Wales’ plan seems waaaay more terrifying than anything I have heard of before though — that’s really interesting.

    1. Siobhan Post author

      Yup, deadly efficient. Your course sounds really interesting, what uni are you with? Have you had a chance to peek behind the scenes anywhere interesting?

      1. orange

        I’m studying at the University of Melbourne… which proudly boasts the ONLY art restoration course in ALL OF STRAYA. There have been some interesting visits, many of them I am not allowed to blog about sadly as we are told it’s confidential. I did write about an interesting visit to a bronze foundry but that has been about it. Oh! how could I forget! this one might be of interest to you?

        That said, it is a great course and I’m really happy to have found my calling. Even if sometimes I regret not studying in a European uni due to the restricted amount of access to Western cultural objects, to be honest my interests lay in Asia-Pacific, plus this way I get to keep my permanent resident’s visa.

      2. Siobhan Post author

        It’s a pity that you’re not allowed to blog about more visits because that post is amazing! You’ll be able to do all kinds of visits and exchanges to European Museums in time, I’m sure. Plus, the UK at least is best avoided at the moment. It’s meant to be nearly summer and we’re still having winter temperatures.Grim.

      3. orange

        It’s pretty chilly here right now to be honest — I’m experiencing my first winter in nearly 3 years and it’s a huge shock to my system! I grew up in France and did 2 degrees in art history so I was really spoilt for access to museums and galleries… here there are some interesting things going on but they are of a completely different category. It’ll be fascinating to come back with a new perspective on everything I visit! Btw I do have a couple of secret book pictures I’d like to share with you… maybe I can email you? In some places I was allowed to take pics for my own personal viewing, just not allowed to publish them online…. (sneaky haha)

      4. orange

        By the way, I kept thinking about this system when I was prowling the library stacks late the other night, it got me quite nervous!!

      5. Siobhan Post author

        Sorry! 🙂 Have you ever seen the Dr Who episode set in the largest library in the universe? Between that and the fire systems, I’m not sure I’ll ever feel entirely relaxed in library stacks ever again.

      6. orange

        I haven’t, you make it sound like the scary Miss Peregrine book where I am sure I’ll both love it and be terrified!

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