SOAS Library is 50 years old

The UK’s National Research Library for the study of Asia, Middle East and Africa - the SOAS Library - reaches 50 years old on this October. 

As part of marking this moment, visitors will be able to enjoy a new exhibition exploring the history and development of the care and preservation of our remarkable SOAS Library collections. 

SOAS Library is considered one of the world’s most important academic libraries for the study of these regions, attracting scholars from all over the world to consult its significant holdings to further their research. Its unique holdings and world-famous archives make it one of the UK’s National Research Libraries, just one of five. The Grade II* listed building is a masterpiece by the brutalist architect Sir Denys Lasdun, opened nearly half a century ago by Her Majesty The Queen Mother in October 1973.  

Photo credit: Glenn Ratcliffe

The exhibition will showcase the long journey to the present building, and how the final iconic Brutalist design came about following several iterations of design including four iconic architects, funding setbacks, and polarised press reports.  

SOAS Library is the custodian of some unique, priceless and extraordinary collections. In 2017, one of the (many) Library treasures, a handscroll painting, over 12 metres in length, which captures the pageantry surrounding a Korean delegation to Japan in the mid-seventeenth century was featured in the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow, hosted at Senate House. 

The future of SOAS Library can be even brighter than its already distinguished history. We are committed to transforming access and preserving the Library for the future. In recent years the Library has had parts of its resources digitally transformed to enable better access and deeper engagement, access, learning, teaching, research and outreach to a wider audience in the UK and globally. 

Our strategic vision will transform SOAS Library into a facility suitable for world-class, modern research, teaching and community engagement to ensure SOAS Library continues its mandate as the world’s most important academic library for the study of Africa, Asia and the Middle East for future generations and as a resource for the world.