The University of Aberdeen’s Sir Duncan Rice Library was formally opened on Monday 24 September by HM The Queen, accompanied by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.
University students and staff were joined by hundreds of alumni and donors to the University for a day of celebration which also included a talk on the University’s treasures, an organ recital in the historic Chapel, tours of the library, and a dinner for over 300 friends and supporters of the University – several of whom had flown in from the USA and Hong Kong to be part of the historic occasion.
A new choral piece by Royal Wedding composer Paul Mealor and a unique ‘soundscape’ of library life by fellow University composer Pete Stollery featured during the formal opening. Her Majesty also viewed the original Papal Bull of 1495 which founded the University, and was presented with a posy of rare flowers from the University’s Cruickshank Botanic Gardens by two students from China.
Guests joining Chancellor Lord Wilson of Tillyorn and Principal, Professor Ian Diamond, for the opening ceremony included Sir Duncan Rice, former Principal of the University, in whose honour the spectacular new library has been named.
Lord Wilson of Tillyorn, Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, said: “We are hugely proud and honoured to welcome Her Majesty The Queen to the University of Aberdeen for the formal opening of the Sir Duncan Rice Library. There is a very special resonance for the University community in this Diamond Jubilee year, being ten years since Her Majesty’s last visit in her Golden Jubilee year of 2002, which coincided with our hosting of the Scottish Parliament in the King’s College Conference Centre. This was another very happy, significant and memorable occasion.”
The £57million library provides an advanced learning environment in which the latest learning technology adds value to a magnificent collection of over one million books. In addition, adaptable spaces provide flexibility for individual study, group working, seminars and meetings.
The ambitious project is the largest capital fundraising project yet undertaken by the University, and continues to receive generous support from alumni and private donors around the world, from companies in many sectors of business, and from charitable trusts both local and national.
Professor Ian Diamond, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, said: “We are delighted and hugely honoured to be receiving this visit from Her Majesty in her Diamond Jubilee year. Our new library is not only a magnificent and inspirational building - it is a hugely important institutional and regional asset which will benefit students, scholars and our communities for decades to come, and a striking statement of the intellectual and cultural strength of our city and region.”
Chris Banks, University Librarian and Director of Library, Special Collections and Museums said “I’m thrilled that HM The Queen has officially opened The Sir Duncan Rice Library. This has been a wonderful opportunity for us to say thank you to all those who made the project possible, including our architects, all those within the University who worked so hard on the project, and to all our donors who so generously gave in support of the building. Since we opened our doors to students, researchers and the general public twelve months ago, we have had over 700,000 visits!”
Anne-Claire Deseilligny, President of the Aberdeen University Student Association, echoed Chris’s enthusiasm, adding: “This building is really special, and very attuned to what students need today. It’s modern and innovative, with great facilities for the way we study today. Our student community was very excited when we learned that Her Majesty was coming to officially open it for us.”
Conceived as a cube evoking the ice and light of the north, the library has a sharp, modern design, and a striking interior of sweeping contours around an asymmetrical atrium which rises diagonally from the ground floor through seven floors above, giving spectacular views of the Granite City and the North Sea.
Founding Partner of Danish architects schmidt hammer lassen, Morten Schmidt, said: “The University has been committed to creating a magnificent academic library for science and research, which would at the same time be open to the local community of Aberdeen. All through the process the University has made visionary decisions and supported the design of the building. This has had a positive impact on the final result we see today.”
Construction by main contractor Pihl UK began in September 2009 and was completed in summer 2011, following which library staff undertook a massive operation to move over 26 miles of the University’s book, archive and manuscript collection into the new building, much of which was from the Queen Mother Library, which has now been demolished.
The new library has been designed with the environment in mind. Rated as Excellent in the world’s leading ratings system BREEAM, the new building maximises energy efficiency and - in line with University policy for all new buildings - it provides the highest standards in sustainability, disabled access, material choices, safety and security.
The Sir Duncan Rice Library is home to the University’s distinguished collections of unique historic manuscripts, rare books and archives, in the environmentally-controlled conditions of the lower floor. For the first time, these treasures can be widely accessible for research and learning, accompanied by a programme of exhibitions, educational and cultural events.
In addition to the Foundation Bull of 1495 granted by Pope Alexander VI and the Foundation Book of 1514, her Majesty viewed a selection of treasures including:
- Aberdeen’s greatest treasure, the Bestiary, which was compiled around 1200;
- the 15th century Burnett Psalter;
- Aberdeen Breviary from 1509/10;
- Robson’s Scenery of the Grampian Mountains showing a coloured aquatint of Lochnagar from 1819;
- and a George Washington Wilson print showing Balmoral Castle.
The Sir Duncan Rice Library is open 8am-10pm during weekdays for students, researchers and members of the public.
More photographs from the visit will be added to this page.