Would you be surprised to know that more than art—possibly even more than mathematics and milkshakes—David Walsh is mad about books?
As such, our library is no mere appendage, and certainly no ‘monument to ego’ (as Umberto Eco would put it), but rather a working research space that we invite you to use. Just lower your voice, you hooligan, and spit out your gum.
Primarily David Walsh’s personal collection, the Mona Library also acts a resource for Mona curators and gallery staff when researching for exhibitions, as well as for the broader Mona team—on topics as diverse as ancient brewing methods, the foods of the pharaohs, viticulture, heavy metal pollution, winter rituals, casinos, and charcuterie.
Mona visitors, members of the public, researchers, academics, and school groups are all welcome to use us as a reference library (sorry, no loans), or even as a place to have a rest and gather your thoughts during your exploration of Mona.
Our collection reflects David Walsh's tastes (which are both prolific and eclectic; as a kid he had no friends, so decided to dedicate his small life to reading, in Dewey order, the entirety of the Glenorchy City Library. If you have the choice, we recommend friends instead).
As he’s got cooler, David’s collection has grown. It started out at about 1400 books when he was researching his previous museum, the Moorilla Museum of Antiquities (‘Nobody came, so we declared it a triumph and decided to expand’, he says). As his interest broadened to encompass modern and contemporary art, so did the library collection; by the time we opened to the public in 2011, we had expanded to around 5000 titles. Since then it has continued to grow and now boasts (literally, he boasts about it quite a lot) around 11,000 titles in a range of formats, covering topics such as architecture, science, philosophy, statistics, literature, mathematics, ancient Egypt, and African art; as well as wine, beer, betting odds, religion, socialism, sex, and that old chestnut—death.
As a priority the collection holds titles relating directly to the artworks, artists and themes explored in Mona's exhibitions. If you want to know more about the artists exhibited at Mona—for example Marina Abramović, Anselm Kiefer, Wim Delvoye, among many others—then the library has a great range of titles for you to browse. In the case of some artists, like Sidney Nolan, the Mona library has a more extensive collection of items than any other library in Tasmania [smug face].
Library Manager Mary Lijnzaad has been with David since the Moorilla Museum of Antiquities days, and is quite a font of knowledge about the collection, both art and books. (Form an orderly queue pls. punters.)
In recent years David has indulged a love of rare, signed editions—although he continues to wonder why the ‘specialness’ seems to matter to him, provisionally concluding that it has something to do with the remnants of religious observance, a kind of hangover of his Catholic upbringing. The fruits of his Catholic guilt include: a first edition Lolita, an early edition of The Origin Of Species, signed editions by Umberto Eco, J.G. Ballard, and Hunter S. Thompson, and hand-written documents by Balzac, Whitman, Flaubert, Einstein, Newton, Marconi and Alexander Graham Bell. (These are not on display at the moment as there’s not enough room, but a new, bigger library is on the cards… Watch this space.)
The Mona Library is housed in an extension to the Round House, which was designed by Sir Roy Grounds for the parents of Claudio Alcorso, the founder of the original Moorilla site (read more about Moorilla here). Built in 1958–59, Claudio’s parents lived there for some years, before it was leased out to various tenants in the 1960s and seventies. Claudio’s son Julian lived there with his family in the 1980–90s. After Moorilla was sold in 1995, Claudio and his wife Lesley moved from the Courtyard House to the Round House. (And read more about the architecture of the Mona site here.)
David identified the Round House as an ideal location for a library, and options for this conversion were developed as part of the Mona design and build process. Initially placed on hold due to difficulties with designing a tunnel to link between the museum and the Round House, the project came back to life when it was suggested that the tunnel could be made from pre-formed concrete pipes. It was also decided that, rather than force the library collection to fit into the existing building, the library collection would be housed in an extension.
Designed by Fender Katsalidis Architects, the Round House extension radiates out from the central core of the house in three arced, galvanised steel clad ‘wings’. The extension ends in the Kiefer Pavilion, housing the large steel, lead and glass sculpture Sternenfall / Shevirath ha Kelim, 2007, by the German artist Anselm Kiefer.