11 May 2016
HRH The Duke of Cambridge visited the Weston Library today to formally open the building following a three-year transformation by Wilkinson Eyre Architects.
The Weston Library, which is part of the University of Oxford's Bodleian Libraries, opened to the public in 2015 and is now a 21st-century research library where scholarship, research, digitization and conservation take place under one roof. The £80 million renovation of the building also created stunning new public spaces that include exhibition galleries, a lecture theatre, event space, café and shop. The Library has proved hugely popular with everyone from local residents to tourists from around the world, and has welcomed more than 800,000 visitors in the last year.
During his visit, Prince William was given a behind-the-scenes tour of the Library's state-of-the-art facilities, accompanied by Lord Patten of Barnes, Chancellor of the University, Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the University, and Richard Ovenden, Bodley's Librarian.
In the Library's conservation studio, he was shown several treasures including a magnificent 13th 'Glossed Bible' covered in red velvet, which came to the Bodleian from the Library of King Henry VIII in the 16th century and has been expertly restored by staff conservators. The Duke also visited the Rare Books and Manuscripts Reading Room where he was shown a display of historic objects, including a key used by King George VI, the Prince's great-grandfather, to officially open what was then called the New Bodleian Library in 1946.
The building, now known as the Weston Library, was originally designed by Giles Gilbert Scott and constructed in the 1930s. When King George VI formally opened the building on 24 October, 1946, the occasion did not go entirely smoothly. The ceremonial silver key broke in the lock, and it was only after much effort that the King and Queen were able to enter. The key, cased and still in its broken state, is now numbered among the Library's Treasures.
More than 250 invited guests, including many of the donors who supported the project, gathered in the Library's new Blackwell Hall to watch as the Duke unveiled a plaque to mark the major transformation of the building.
In his speech, the Duke said: 'Everything stored here, or placed here for special exhibitions, for students and non-students alike will help us come into a better understanding of the past so that we may go into the future more fully equipped to deal with the challenges that face us.'
Following his speech, His Royal Highness signed a special visitor's book, and was presented with a specially bound copy of Marks of Genius, a book about the Bodleian's greatest masterpieces, as well as two children's books published by Bodleian Library Publishing entitled Penguin's Way and Veronica.
During his visit to the Weston Library, Prince William was also introduced to some of the major benefactors that supported the redevelopment of the Library including Guy Weston, Chairman of the Garfield Weston Foundation, Julian Blackwell, President of Blackwell's and Nigel Portwood, Chief Executive of Oxford University Press. He was also introduced to Mr SH (Sangho) Jo, President & CEO of Samsung Electronics UK and Ireland, which has provided technology throughout the Weston Library to help bring the Bodleian's historic collections to life.
While in Oxford, Prince William also formally opened the University's new Blavatnik School of Government and Magdalen College's new Longwall Library.