The event was hosted by Caretaker Minister for Heritage and Culture Prof John Cortes, as Chair of the Board of Trustees, and Dr Jennifer Ballantine, the Library’s Director. There was much to celebrate as the Gibraltar Garrison Library, established in 1793, is the oldest library at Gibraltar, and, as we have now come to believe, the first of garrison libraries to have been established, with those that followed adopting the Gibraltar model. This 230th Anniversary is also institutionally significant as 2023 has also seen the Library cross the threshold into the digital age; through the establishment of a digitisation studio and a climatised repository, the equipment for which has been possible through a grant from the Kusuma Trust.
In attendance was a Royal Engineer piper and the Gibraltar Band and Drums Association.
The digitisation project will first concentrate on the various print media archives held at the Library, including the Gibraltar Chronicle. The digital output will be fully searchable and available online, thus offering local and global access to Gibraltar’s history. Importantly, digitisation goes hand-in-hand with conservation, as digital access will offer greater protection to the original paper archive whilst ensuring the history and information contained within will continue to be enjoyed by generations to come.
The event also marked the patronage of the Library by His Excellency the Governor, Vice Admiral Sir David Steel. The patronage of the Library by each successive Governor of Gibraltar is a tradition as old as the Library itself, being determined at the first meeting of the Library Committee in 1796. The Library designed a new bookplate which will be placed on the inside cover of all books added to the collections during the Governor’s term.
The exhibition, which is now open to the public, also marked the start of what will be a year-long cycle of events organised to celebrate this anniversary, more on this to be announced shortly.
Prof Cortes presented the Governor with a framed copy of the book plate together with a facsimile of the original minutes of the meeting of the Board, held on 8th March 1796, when the Governor was given the patronage of the Library. He thanks His Excellency for his support and commitment to Gibraltar during the whole of his term.
John Cortes commented, “This is indeed a historical occasion. The Gibraltar Garrison Library reflects the fusion of military past and civilian present that characterises Gibraltar, and its links with the United Kingdom. The Library is increasingly reaching out to the wider community, something with which digitisation will clearly assist, and has to take its place as a significant stakeholder in the world of Gibraltar Heritage, Culture and Literature.”