National Maritime Museum Falmouth

National Maritime Museum Cornwall
The National Maritime Museum Cornwall

Bartlett Library

The Bartlett Library at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall in Falmouth houses a diverse collection of 19,000 maritime-related books, periodicals and archived material for public consultation and reference. This includes Lloyds’ Shipping Registers - some 200-300 volumes dating back to around 1790.

Foundation of the Library

J V Bartlett CBE FREng, an eminent British Civil Engineer with a passion for boats, had donated his extensive collection of about 6,000 maritime books and journals when it became too large for him to store at home and so that he could enjoy and share with others the collection in its entirety. It became the nucleus of the Museum’s reference library and it has been augmented over the years with other collections and acquisitions. It now includes a large collection of Falmouth ledgers, account books and records of shipping movements to and from the port.

Involvement of The Arts Society Falmouth

The decision to form a new NADFAS branch in Falmouth (now The Arts Society Falmouth) coincided with the decision to build the National Maritime Museum Cornwall and the formation of the Bartlett Library. The new Branch was approached for volunteers to help with sorting and reviewing the condition of the collection. This led to the inception of The Book Conservation Group which was formed in 2001. With expert guidance and regular training in the latest techniques from a professional conservator they have continued to conserve this extensive collection ever since.

Valerie Willis, our President and member of the original conservation team, recalled the early days when the Library and the Book Conservation Group were first established:

“At first we worked in very cold temporary accommodation on an Industrial Estate in Falmouth where we shared space with an ever increasing number of small boats being brought down from Greenwich and elsewhere. We finally moved into the lovely Bartlett Library in the Museum, in time for its official opening in 2003.”

The Volunteers
The team
The team at work
The team at work
Customised boxes
Customised boxes
made to protect fragile books”

The Collection

Many of the books are rare and valuable, some in a very fragile state. They are in constant use and consequently require regular examination, repair and conservation. The books are cleaned, torn pages and dust jackets are repaired using handmade Japanese paper. Damaged spines are strengthened, and special techniques are used to clean and conserve the book boards. Protective dust jackets are made using clear archival polyester film. Rusty staples are removed from periodicals, holes strengthened, and the pages hand sewn using linen thread. Valuable and fragile books are protected by placing them in customised boxes made by the team.

An audit of their work in 2016 indicated that well over 1400 books, records, registers and ledgers, and in excess of 700 periodicals and magazines had been worked on by the team.

Customised boxes
Customised boxes made to protect fragile books
Lloyds Shipping Registers
Ongoing work
Items being Conserved
Items in Conservation

Volunteer Wins National Award

In 2016 one of our volunteers won the prestigious NADFAS Marsh Award, open to members throughout the UK who have made an outstanding contribution to heritage conservation. To find out more Click Here

To find out more about the National Maritime Museum have a look at their web site National Maritime Museum in Falmouth

Repairing a dust jacket with Japanese tissue
John Day