If you’ve always wanted to take a look around the Royal Society’s London headquarters, now’s your chance! We’re welcoming visitors this weekend as part of Open House London, the annual festival which provides access to many of the capital’s grandest buildings.
We’ll be open from 12:30pm to 7:00pm this Saturday, 22 September, and from 11:00am to 4:00pm on Sunday. As our building is normally only accessible on weekdays, with entry restricted to those attending meetings or events, the Open House weekend provides a rare opportunity for architecture and history enthusiasts to take a good look around our four splendid Nash houses, set in their prime central London location overlooking the Mall. My fellow library team members and I will be buffing up our best anecdotes (all true, honest!) as we lead guided tours around the building every 20 minutes – tickets available from the reception desk, first come first served.
If you aren’t ‘lucky’ enough to be led round by a librarian or archivist, there’s still plenty to see – there will be free access to the special exhibitions Broadcasting Science and Edward Lear and the Scientists, plus the chance to see Art in Miniature at the Royal Society, part of the London Design Festival. And it’ll be your first chance to purchase our new full-colour brochure, ‘The History of 6-9 Carlton House Terrace’, which features the Prince Regent at his most spendthrift, the intriguingly-nicknamed ‘Bonanza Queen’, and some debunking of the more extravagant myths concerning our building’s ‘Nazi years’ (the brochure is hot off the press – further details to follow).
This is the third year in which the Royal Society has opened for both days of the Open House weekend, and it will be interesting to see how we do in terms of visitor numbers. We leapt from 900 visitors in 2010 to 1500 in 2011, and the London Open House concept seems to be growing hugely in general popularity – this year, their web booking system crashed on its first day under a volume of hits which they described as “many multiples of previous years”. But don’t worry – we’re not one of the buildings for which advance bookings are required, and our interiors were built with plenty of space to accommodate large aristocratic gatherings, so I’m sure we’ll fit you in! Do spread the word, and we look forward to seeing you this weekend.