Prized Parker Collection to undergo conservation

By on 27/06/2011 in News
  • City's archive collections prepared and packed ahead of move to new Library
  • Services at Birmingham Central Library to change from summer 2011
  • Floors four to six of Central Library to close on Mondays and Tuesdays

 Birmingham's unique collection of games played by children and families over 150 years ago will be taken out of Central Library over the coming weeks so that conservation work on each item can take place, ahead of their move to the new Library of Birmingham in 2013.

The Parker Collection was donated to Central Library in 1950 by Bewdley residents Mr and Mrs JF Parker, who collected Victorian children's books and games. It features a beautifully illustrated game called The Young Naturalists, designed to encourage children to learn about the world around them, Every Day Things, a Victorian word game which unusually still contains its original bone counters and Race to the Ocean Coast, which challenges players to race from Paddington to Penzance, Birkenhead or Fishguard.

A number of school and adventure stories have since been added and the collection now contains rare books and games dating from 1538 to the present day. It is just one example of the thousands of valuable treasures from the city's Central Library that are undergoing conservation treatment before being moved to the new Library of Birmingham.

 To allow this work to progress, there will be phased changes to Central Library services with phase one introduced from Monday 25 July 2011. During the first phase floors four to six of Central Library will close on Mondays and Tuesdays. Access to archives in the search room on the sixth floor of Central Library will also be appointment only from 25 July. The library will not be able to provide access to library resources that are not out on display because the resources in the book stores are being prepared for the move first.

Other facilities will be largely unaffected in the first phase, with the Lending Library, the Centre for the Child and the Music Library remaining open. The Health Exchange and health information resources will move to the lower mezzanine on the first floor and will operate as usual.

 Councillor Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: ““Over a year into the construction process for the Library of Birmingham, we are at a hugely exciting point in the project. The building is progressing at a truly phenomenal rate and taking shape right before people's eyes. We are pleased that this phased approach will ensure that visitors can continue to access the majority of Central Library services over the coming years.”

The Library & Archive Services are also piloting some new services with the award-winning Business Insight and Learning Centre services merging to create a one-stop shop for business and learning. The new Business and Learning Centre will offer help and information on all aspects of starting and running a business, improving English and numeracy skills, studying for qualifications, preparing a CV and applying for jobs. A new Meet & Greet Service will also be provided in the Library Foyer where staff will be on hand to answer quick questions and direct visitors to Central Library facilities.

On the days that floors four, five and six are closed, limited numbers of computers will be available. To help minimise inconvenience, computers and some study space will be available on the ground floor. 'QuickNet' computers will also be available for Library members - for a maximum of 15 minutes - in the foyer and on the first floor in the former café. Accessible computers, for people with specific needs, will be available in the Music Library.

Brian Gambles, Project Director for the Library of Birmingham, says: “The development of the new Library of Birmingham is moving at a remarkable speed and, as such, the city's internationally significant collections and materials must be carefully prepared for the move to the new Library.

 “We have put a number of measures in place to minimise the disruption caused to Central Library users. The Library of Birmingham is a hugely exciting development for the city and we hope that visitors will understand that these vital changes to Central Library must be made to ensure that our spectacular new Library can open on schedule in 2013.”

 To plan your visit to Central Library go to where you will find the most up-to-date information.


Notes to editors

For further information or images from the Parker Collection or information about the changes to Central Library contact Ellie Backhouse at Colman Getty on 020 7631 2666 /

 About the reconfigured services at Central Library

 The Health Exchange and health information resources will move to the lower mezzanine of the Lending Library on the first floor

  • The new Business and Learning Centre will be located on the first floor
  • Computers and study space on the ground floor will be located in the former Business Insight area
  • Printers will be available on the QuickNet computers in the Central Library foyer
  • Central Library's selection of daily newspapers and journals will move to the third floor
  • All resources already on the open shelves will remain available
  • Library Resources stored in the non-public areas will not be available from 25 July onwards. Archives will be available in the search room on floor 6 on an appointment only basis.
  • New 'take-a-break' areas will also be available in the Library of Birmingham lounge in the Foyer and in the former café area on the first floor where vending machines will be available


About the Parker Collection

 The core of the original Parker Collection was based upon the acquisitions of Mr and Mrs J F Parker of Tickenhill Manor near Bewdley, who collected children's books and games between 1830 and the end of the 19th Century. In the 1950s after the death of Mr Parker, his widow donated their collection of early children's books and about 70 educational games to Birmingham Central Library. A number of school and adventure stories from the general library stock were also added and the Parker Collection now contains books dating from 1538 to the present day, including fiction, educational textbooks and picture books.

 Among the delights of the collection are the movable picture books, some of which are almost more toys than books. The earliest in the collection is a movable book by Stacey Grimaldi designed to teach virtuous behaviour to children. He initially devised the idea by sketching articles from his daughter’s dressing table as representations of specific virtues. The articles served as flaps, which, when lifted up, revealed scenes illustrating each virtue. The book enjoyed great popularity and inspired other publishers to release imitations.

 About the Library of Birmingham

 The Library of Birmingham will be a major new cultural destination, rewriting the book for 21st century public libraries. It opens in 2013.

 The total capital cost of the Library of Birmingham project is £188.8m, a reduction of £4.2m on the original forecasted figure of £193m.  This investment covers the 35,000 sq m of the Library of Birmingham and the building of new up-dated back of house facilities for The REP.  The Library of Birmingham will occupy 31,000 sq m.

Designed by international architects Mecanoo, the Library of Birmingham will be located in the city's Centenary Square. The building will comprise a spacious entrance and foyer with mezzanine, lower ground level with indoor terraces, four further public levels and two outdoor garden terraces, a ‘golden box’ of secure archive storage occupying two levels, provision for staff offices and service plant on a further two levels and at the very top of the building a rotunda feature housing the Shakespeare Memorial Room. In all, the facilities are spread over 10 levels of varying size and usage.

The new library will be physically connected to Birmingham Repertory Theatre (The REP) and the two organisations will work in partnership, bringing together the written and spoken word through drama, poetry and performance.

The Library of Birmingham will provide a showcase for the city's internationally important collections of archives, photography and rare books. New facilities including state-of-the-art gallery space will open up public access to the collections for the first time. It will also be home to a BFI Mediatheque, providing free access to the National Film Archive. Other facilities will include a new flexible studio theatre, an outdoor amphitheatre and other informal performance spaces, a recording studio, and dedicated spaces for children and teenagers. By harnessing new technology, everyone from Birmingham to Beijing, Bangalore and beyond will be able to access the Library of Birmingham's world-class resources. More than three million visitors are expected each year, and millions more online.

Described by its architect Francine Houben as a 'people's palace', the Library of Birmingham will be highly accessible and family-friendly. It will deliver excellent services through collaboration between the library, The REP, partners and communities. It will provide a dynamic mix of events, activities and performance together with outstanding resources, exhibitions and access to expert help for learning, information and culture. As a centre of excellence for literacy, research, study, skills development, entrepreneurship, creative expression, health information and much more, the Library of Birmingham will change people's lives.

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