Wednesday, 25 July 2012

I Have Always Imagine That Paradise Will Be a Kind of Library

For our last class, we visited the British Library once again, this time to take a look at their Centre for Conservation.

We had three presenters: John, from Preventative Conservation; Caroline, from Preservation Advisory; and Robert, from the Conservation Studio. All three presenters gave us a little bit of info about their area of expertice in order to give the class a fairly broad view of the type of work that is done in the centre.

Here are a few of the things I learned:
  • The Centre for Conservation has been in its current location (an addition to the original British Library) since 2007.
  • The centre includes some rather interesting rooms like the Quarantine Room for materials suspected of infestation upon arrival and the Inergen Gas Store Room which is, essentially, a fire-safe room. 
  • As for the purpose of the centre- 'The principal role of our conservators is to treat damaged or deteriorated items to ensure that they are stable and accessible - both now and in the future - for exhibitions, public programmes and researchers.'
  • The Collection Care Department contains interventive conservators (digitization, exhibition, repairs), preventative conservators (storage, pest control, environmental monitoring), conservation scientists, and preservation advisory.
  • Preservation Advisory is mainly designed to support other libraries and archives in the area of preservation. They offer enquiry services, training events, preservation management and the like.
  • The Conservation Studios are where the magic happens! (In my opinion)
    • Conservation concerns, as well as running repairs are addressed and resolved here.
    • The studios contain sinks that run with the library's 'own' water- that is, water that is filtered through calcium to conteract acidity.
    • There are 38 employees on conservation teams-- only 4 of which are professional gold finishers!
After our tour of the Centre for Conservation, we got to check out the library's current exhibit 'Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands.' SOOOOO COOOOOOOL. Original manuscript of Jane Austen's Persuasion? Check. Original manuscript of Lewis Carroll's 'Alice's Adventures Under Ground?' Check. Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Check. JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone? Check. Handwritten lyrics by John Lennon's In My Life? Check. This list could go on and on and on.

Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?

Now that we are back in London, it's time to get back to business! Today we visited the Royal Geographical Society to take a learn about their library and archives and to take a look at some of the gems in their collection.

Let me tell you, was I ever impressed! The librarian, Eugene, was absolutely brimming with geographical knowledge and it was apparent that he is deeply passionate about his field. Not only did he give us the background of the society and the collection they maintain, but he also presented us with some intriguing stories about early exploration, as well as some of the COOLEST things I have seen during this trip.

Here are some highlights:
  • The Royal Geographical Society, originally the Geographical Society of London was founded in 1830 and was granted its Royal Charter in 1859.
  • The society is housed in Lowther Lodge, which was built in the 1870s, and to which the society moved in 1912/13. Originally, all the collections were spread about the house, but are now in one central location in the Foyle Reading Room, which was added just a few years ago.
  • The group was formed in order to 'promote the advancement of geographical science' by collecting geographical knowledge and disseminating it to a wider audience. This was done mainly through the  encouragement of traveling (particularly to Africa, the Arctic, the Antarctic, and central Asia) and collecting data and it was through this data collection that the library was started.
  • The library contains:
    • maps
    • pictures
    • objects/souvenirs
    • personal effects
    • scientific instruments
    • archives
  • The collection is around 2 million items, including 1 million maps, 1/2 million images, 250,000 bound volumes, 1,000 metres of archive materials, and 1,500 objects in special collections.
  • 1/2 of the card catalogue is digitized.
  • Access to the collection is free for students, educators (including library professionals), and members of the society.
  • The last major expedition supported by the society was in 2000.

The hats of Livingstone and Stanley

George Mallory's boot from Mt. Everest- Mallory's body was mummified for 75 years before being discovered in 1999!

Other cool things we saw:
  • Food bags found with the bodies of Captain Scott and his men after their fatal exploration of the South Pole in 1912
  • Shackleton's helmet from 1903- it was Burberry!
  • Can of meat from the 1850s left by the HMS Resolute- the ship in which the wood for the resolute Desk in the White House came from
  • Other artifacts found with Mallory's body on Mt. Everest- wristwatch, fingerless glove, altimeter (did he ever reach the top??), tin of savory meat lozenges

Saturday, 21 July 2012

You Say It's Your Birthday...

Good morning, good morning!
If you picked up on these two Beatles references (there are most certainly more to come in this post) then you are on your way to being as much of a Beatles fanatic as I am. Thsi may also clue you in to the winning answer in this post's version of 'Where in the UK is Kate?' If you guessed Liverpool, then you are most certainly correct! The weather is gorgeous, the air is fresh, and it is, in fact, my birthday!
Celebratory drinks at the Cavern Club!

So anyway, we had the chance to do a lot of things in Liverpool (not a minute was spared!), but for the sake of the length of this post, I will discuss just one place we visited and highlight the others.

The Beatles Story is a permanent museum dedicated to any and all things Beatles. Located in the heart of Liverpool on Albert Dock, the museum is a super fun and interactive way to learn about one of history's greatest musical acts. The exhibits take you through their whirlwind rise to fame and the infamous careers that followed, from the very first days Paul met George, John met Paul, and George met John (and Ringo later joined the banc), to their solo work in the years that followed the break up of the band, to untimely deaths of two of the memebers.

As you wander through the museum, you can see original artifacts;

One of Paul's first guitars

Listen to audio clips;

Checking out The Beatles' latest tunes

And even add your own contributions to the collection;

Fan art from around the world

The result is a fantastic museum/archive that not only tells the story of The Beatles, but puts you right in the midst of their crazy world. So whether you are a walking Beatles encyclopedia or are just learning to differentiate John from Paul, The Beatles Story is a great place to learn about and celebrate these four lads from Liverpool.

Other things we checked out:
In other words, Liverpool has been a fantastic part of my time in England.

'There are places I'll remember/ All my life'

Monday, 16 July 2012

Let There Be Light!

Today's travels find us in Edinburgh, Scotland where the weather is a lot like the weather we had been experiencing in London; cold and gloomy. Only in Edinburgh, it's colder and gloomier. That being said, Scotland is a very beautiful place and is absolutely crawling with sheep!


**Fun Fact Alert! Edinburgh was named the first City of Literature by UNESCO in 2004. There are now five cities named, with Iowa City having been honored as the third!

But anyway, back to the task at hand. For class today, we took a look at not one, but two (!) very different information centers: the Central Library of Edinburgh and the National Archives of Scotland.

I will start with the Central Library where we visited with 3 staff members from various areas of the library who offered a lot of valuable information about the types of programs and services they offer. It was especially interesting to note those not available/offered in England. Particularly of interest to me was presentation by the library's 'Reading Champion' who works closely with children and young people living in  group homes, residential care, etc. to  get them interested and engaged in reading for pleasure.

Lots of other fun and exciting facts about the Central Library:
  • This Carnegie Library (the carving of 'let there be light' upon Carnegie's request) opened in 1890 and cost £50,000- which is roughly £45 million today.
  • It was designed by George Washington Brown (a Scottish architect) and was built on the site of a mansion owned by Sir Thomas Hope (an advocate of Charles I). Some of the original door frames and fireplace mantels were incorporated into the library building design.
  • The library currently houses around 1/2 million items, while welcoming 1/2 million visitors and adding around 8-10,000 new members each year.
  • Membership is free and open to anyone around the world! (They have lots of great online resources, too)
  • Their collection includes fiction, nonfiction, dvd, and audio- they are known for having the largest collection of audio resources in Scotland.
  • Although the Central Library was originally designed with only three areas (reference, lending, and newsroom), it now houses a variety of libraries within it including reference, fine arts, Edinburgh & Scottish, music, lending, and children's.
  • The Central Library also offers a mobile library service for those who don't have a library within one mile of their home or are in hospitals or prisons. In addition, they run a Read Aloud Project in the homes of elderly patrons.
  • The library is very advanced in terms of technological resources offering things like e-resources, e-books, mobile app, e-newsletters, and their library website which is, of course, available 24/7. Their goal is to create a genuine alternative to visiting the library in person.

Once again, the second location we visited today was the National Archives of Scotland (NAS). Here are some of the most interesting things we discussed:
  • The NAS has 3 buildings in Edinburgh. The General Register House was the original building designed to house the archives (another has since been added due to the constant increase in material). Construction  for this building began in 1774 and was finished in the 1820s.
  • History records the first person to be designated to look after records/archives in th 1280s- making archivist one of the oldest professions. Record keeping as we know it began in the late 18th century- right around the time of the construction of the Register House.
    • Now, the archives employ around 110 people
  • NAS houses a variety of official information from Scotland including church records, government records, and deeds, as well as personal papers.
    • NAS currently houses government records for Scotland dating back to the medieval period- the oldest document is from the 1140s!
    • NAS has wills and testaments from the years 1513-2000, including the will of Robert Burns.
      • 1/2 million are digitized, including 30,000 soldier's wills from WWI
  • Since 1847, access has been free for the majority of research. Most records are also available online, though they may cost to access.
  • The NAS offers an online cataloge that has approx. 3 million entries and can be searched by key words and dates.
  • As of April 2011, the NAS merged with the General Register Office of Scotland to become the National Records of Scotland.  
That's all for Scotland! Time to travel around the UK!

Friday, 13 July 2012

To All Studious and Curious Persons

Rounding out the week, we had a visit to the British Museum Archives.

This tour was unlike any of the others we have had thus far, and was, for me, absolutely fascinating- begs the question whether I should be studying to be an archivist....

In any matter, our tour guide Stephanie is, quite surprisingly, the ONLY archivist for the museum and has been working for them for the last 6 years sorting and sifting through the mounds of archival material that date back to the beginning of the museum. She so kindly took some time out of her day to show us around the bowels of the building and to give us a taste of what kinds of items she works with.
  • The museum was started in 1753 by Sir Hans Sloane (the same man who found the British Library, as both entities were housed in the same building until 1997), and was opened to the public in 1759
  • The museum was first held in a mansion called Montagu House, and the current building was constructed on the same site about 60 years after the museum's opening
  • The museum had its first archivist in the 1970s, around the same time construction of the British Library began down the street
  • Each of the museum's eight departments look after there own archives (which contain all things pertinent to that particular department), while the Central Archive looks after all information about the building and the museum itself
  • Central Archive houses (among other things):
    • Trustees' minutes
    • Staff records
    • Finances
    • Building records
    • Temporary exhibit books
    • Round Reading Room archives
  • There are approximately 6-7,000 photos in the Central Archives (with a lot more located within the other departments)
  • They get about 30 inquiries a week for information from the archives- anywhere from scholarly research for a book to personal family geneaology
Some cool items in the archives:
  • The bomb that hit the museum during WWII (amazingly, the museum stayed open throughout most of the war, although most items had been moved out- therefore, very little was destroyed)
  • Stereoscopic photos from the museum's first photographer who was hired in 1854 (and we got to look at them through a stereoscopic viewer!) 
  • Round Reading Room signature book that contains the signatures of Beatrix Potter, Virginia Woolf, TS Eliot and the like

Thursday, 12 July 2012

If Music Be the Food of Love, Play On

Our journey around England continued today with a day trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon to visit my dear friend Billy Bob Shakes. Stratford is a wonderfully gorgeous place with quaint shops and delicious food and, of course, more Shakespeare than you can shake a stick at!

I have decided to approach this post a little differently and present the day through pictures.
We commenced at Shakespeare's birthplace

Where we were regaled with a bit of Shakespearean prose

After which we discovered the library

And then satisfied our noontime hunger (with Shakespeare, himself!)

Before continuing our journey to his final resting place

Which was swiftly followed by a spot of tea (or two)

And aptly concluded with a production of 'Twelfth Night' with the Royal Shakespeare Company.


Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The Phantom of the Opera Is There...

...Inside my mind! I still have the music stuck in my head after seeing The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre last night. It was, in a word, stunning.

But, anyway. Today's stop: National Art Library in the Victoria and Albert Museum!

We had a very nice visit with a couple of the librarians as they showed around their library and then gave us a chance to get up close and personal with a few of their items from special collections. The library itself is situated within the V&A Museum, but is not solely focused as a resource for the museum and anyone from the public can use its resources.

Read on for even more enthralling details:
  • National Art Library is one of 3 major reference libraries in the world and houses 1 million books.
  • The library was conceived of and set up in 1837 in conjunction with the Schools of Art and Design in an effort to educate the public more about those two areas. 
  • The V&A Museum was set up in 1852 and the library set up shop within it in 1884- it looks mostly the same as it did back then.
  • The books are ordered by size, not subject, which serves to maximize space. 
  • Like the London Library, they do not get rid of books, so they are constantly moving books around to accomodate new acquisitions.  
  • 1/2 the library's acquisitions are through donations, such as the Foster Collection, which includes original manuscripts from Charles Dickens, Charles V, and artist sketchbooks.
  • It is the largest department in the museum (library, archives, and prints, paintings, and drawings) and employs 40 staff.
  • Their special collections department contains books from the 14/15th centuries onward and include 3 of Leonardo DaVinci's manuscripts, a tortoise shell bound bible, and Dickens' original Bleak House manuscript. (I should mention the allowed us to look at, and gasp! flip through these items, as well- although we did look at a facsimile of the DaVinci manuscript and not the real thing).