Friday, 10 August 2007

Barbican Library

The Barbican Library was another great library we visited that stands within the City of London's square mile. The Barbican Library has a long historical context.

In 1423 the Barbican housed a reference collection for those who could read-- lawyers, doctors, professionals, etc. That libray was split up when a royal figure decided to keep part of the collection (See previous post- Duke of Somerset).

The Barbican is a Lending Library, one of 3 lending libraries within the City of London. The lending policy was established after the 1964 Public Library and Museum Act. Prior to that time it existed as reference-only. They circulate roughly 500K items per year and are open 6 days per week. They service about 1200 people per day, and many of these patrons are individuals who work within the City of London. (The City doesn't actually have many residents, mostly businesses/companies, etc.) Much of the business that comes into the library occurs through the lunch hour while people are on breaks from their jobs.

After the WWII bombings, a new site was designed in the 1960s and erected in the 1970s. It was designed to be a unique international Art Centre. There were always plans for a library to be attached to the Barbican Centre, in order to serve student, business, and residential patrons.

Music Library
The Barbican Music Library is one of the two largest collections of music in London. They have a very extensive arts collection and aim to cover all types of music. They cater to a wide range (diverse) patron population (including amateur and seasoned musicians). The CD collection is probably the largest in London that is housed in one area. They own 17,000 CDs that are all available for perusal by the public. Our guide mentioned that they have seen about a 10% drop in CD circulation in the last year due to downloading MP3s. I think this is a bigger deal in the UK because most libraries (if not all) charge patrons to borrow any items that are not books (DVDs, CDs, CD-roms, etc.). Currently the Barbican Music Library charges only 30p per week for CDs, which is a competitive (cheap!) rate compared to other libraries. New CDs are not available to loan until they've been on store shelves for 3 months. I couldn't believe this!!

**The 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act does not cover CD's and DVD's in the verbage. The only items the act spells out as being freely available by public libraries are books, though the libraries don't charge for Audiobooks.**

CD Classification is split up into five sections: Classical, Anthology, Pop Groups, Pop Female and Pop Male. Most items have RFID tags, and all CDs have security cases as well.

The Music library also has a wide variety of Music Electronic Resources, which is also available at home. (This includes the Grover Dictionary of Music and International Index to Music Periodicals.)

One of the neatest things in the Music library is an upright piano that sits near the Enquiry Desk. It has headphones attached to it so patrons can "try-out" scores they are looking to lend before they take them home.

The books in the Music Library are classified by Dewey, the Scores are classified by Macolving and Reeves Scheme. Journals are bound each year so back issues are available in hard-copies within the library.

Listening Booths
There are 8 separate listening booths for patrons to listen to music on CD. There are no restrictions on time limits to use these booths. There are also 2 booths that house a special collection of Live Music called Music Preserved. This collection is not owned by the Barbican, but patrons do have access to listen to it if they wish- at the two special listening booths created for this purpose.

The Barbican Library strives to support financiers in the city. Their collection includes many different items, though they mentioned that they have a very male-oriented patron population due to their location.

They do have outreach services to homebound individuals, education area called "Basic Skills for Life", conversation ESL programs, 1-to-1 Internet Tutor Sessions, etc. This library was most like a library in the US.

The Barbican was one of the first libraries in the country to gain RFID technology, which they admittedly say has its advantages AND disadvantages.

There are 2 exhibition areas, and there is a stringent application/interview process to have artwork displayed in these areas.

The library also houses an Arts Reading Room which is often used for group meetings and writing workshops, as well as a Children's library.

The Children's Library at Barbican is one of the largest children's libraries in London. They have about 25K loan-able items in the collection, and cater to a patron population from newborn to age 14. Every fortnight Birmingham sends them CARTONS of books (100-300 books) and they must go through and decide what they want to buy. There is only one state school within the square mile of London, though the librarians have developed links and relationships with private schools in the area as well as neighboring boroughs. All computers in the children's area are equipped with internet filters, and they librarian also made some interesting comments about access. Apparently if a librarian believes the content or book a 12 year old is attempting to check-out, they will reserve the right to NOT lend it to that patron. I thought this was astounding- and so completely different from what our access policies are in the states.

The Children's library holds storytimes 3 times per week. They celebrate National Book Week in October and have schools come into the library to meet authors, illustrators, etc.

The National Book Trust has a program that provides families with bags of reading/literacy materials at birth, 18 months and at age three. They are given to every child by the Health Visitor who comes to the home of the child. The birth-bag of goodies includes board books, the older packages come with picture books.

I particularly enjoyed this visit because once again I felt that we were given the behind-the-scenes look at how a lending library operates and how library services differ between the UK and the US. I think taking a closer look at the access policies for minors in either country would be a really interesting study.

Guildhall Library visit

Guildhall library was the first lending-library that we were able to visit, and I wish we would've visited this library earlier on in the trip. This library seemed closest to the one (in service-models, services, layout, etc.) I work in back home. Plus, the atmosphere here made it incredibly inviting to study.

Guildhall Library is located within the City of London, which is London's smallest local authority (you may remember me mentioning the "square mile" the City of London exists in). It is also Britain's smallest local authority, and there are 5 libraries within this square mile. Guildhall is home to a great Art Gallery, and since its creation there were always plans to include a library within the building. Guildhall is the largest of the City's libraries (local and publicly funded). There are actually no membership requirements or restrictions, which also makes this a convenient place for people to visit while they're vacationing to search for information.

The building itself is the 4th building to house Guildhall. It was first established in the 1420's about 100 yards away from the current building, adjacent to Lord Hall Chapel. It housed mainly theological manuscripts/items.

In the 1600's the Duke of Somerset decided he would take over the collection, and he basically took off with all of the items. That was the end of Guildhall library as it was. (Incidentally the Duke was executed later for things unrelated to theft of the collection.) The library owns only 1 item that existed within the medieval Guildhall library, and the rest of the collection has quite literally disappeared.

In the 1820's influential people decided to create a library that concentrated on the City of London. It opened originally to corporation members and guests. Donations to create the library came from sheriffs, high-class citizens, etc. The library itself became incredibly popular. Because of this popularity, in the 1870's Horace Jones (city architect that built Tower Bridge) decided to re-build the another library. He designed with with ecclesiastical appearance based off the Knave of Taxton church. This version of the library opened to the general public in 1875, and was one of the first libraries in the UK to welcome the "general public" into their institution. As such, it too became incredibly popular. The library started creating/developing general collections of business information, commercial records, directories, etc.

In December of 1940 The Blitz hit London, and incendiary bombs hit the library. Most valuable materials were moved, but additional losses occurred regardless. The library has been able to replace or buy many of the items that were lost back for their current collection. The building as it stands now was erected in 1974.

The Collection
Guildhall houses the greatest collection devoted to London. It includes History, English local history, Parliamentary matters, early law reports, family history, etc. Many guilds (about 95 companies) gave their collections over to Guildhall Library, including Clock and Watchmaking guilds, Livery Guilds, Blacksmiths, etc.

The collection has international importance as well as a strong local historical importance. The London Stock Exchange gave all historic records and company annual reports between 1880-1964 to Guildhall, which occupies two and a half miles of shelf-space. They also acquired Lloyd's marine collection. Lloyd's was an insurance company specializing in maritime risks from 1740 and onward. Shipping movements, casualities and over 350,000 cards from 1927 to 1974 record every voyage that was taken by sea around the world.

Book Selecting

Guildhall continues to purchase and acquire items, both modern and antiquarian. With a staff of about 44 people (including security, shelvers, etc.) the librarians carefully select items that will benefit the collection and their patrons.

The Enquiry Desk is typically staffed with 2-4 staffers, and they provide reference services to the patron population. They receive about 10-15 letters/emails per day with reference questions. Because much of the research required to carry out these services is difficult and time consuming, the first 20 minutes of research by a librarian/staff member is free, but each additional hour for in-depth research charges 50 pounds! Because many of the patrons who utilize the collections are businesses and companies who can afford this type of charge, no one seems to complain much about the bill. Often the reference staff will bring in a retired employee from Guildhall who is a "freelancer" to work on incredibly time consuming work.

The catalogue is run by TALIS, and can be viewed here.

If you are a researcher and planning to carryout research at Guildhall, you may search the online catalogue and then fill out a Request Slip. Then the patron must take the Request Slip to the Enquiry Desk, where the librarians will place it in a tube-suction system (much like those at US Bank drive-throughs). The request then goes to the storage area in the basement. For rare items one must hand-over an ID as well as sit at the table closest to the Enquiry Desk for close observation.

Computers/Electronic Resources

Guildhall is one of the only libraries (it seemed to me) that has free internet access on their computers. Due to the building's architecture, Guildhall has problems with WiFi and wireless access.

Guildhall has a wealth of online resources, many of which are available to the public from home. COLLAGE is a digitisation project created at Guildhall, where over 40K images from the collection have been scanned in and are available for purchase online.


A Guildhall librarian created a special classification system for their collection of London-related works in the 1930s that is still used today. For non-London-related works, the library uses Dewey, but they aren't necessarily shelved that way. If someone donates a collection, the entire collection is kept together, not separated.

I really enjoyed the visit to Guildhall. As mentioned earlier, I felt this was the closest representation of what a public library is like in the states, and I would have loved to have had more time to utilize their resources while there.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

National Maritime Museum

So today we had to be in the courtyard (our group meeting place) at 7:30am. Seeing as I do not function without coffee, I woke up at 6:15, threw on clothes, went and got coffee, checked email, then met the group. We then trekked across the waterloo bridge over to the other side of the river and took a 23 minute long boat ride down the Thames to Greenwich.

Now, our official tour didn’t start until 10:30am. The museum (and most shops) didn’t open until 10:00. So we had a little bit of time to get some breakfast (THANK GOD) and I could settle down a bit before we went in.

The National Maritime Museum also has a library, which houses pretty much any and everything pertaining to ocean/sea related items.We walked up through the Museum into the E-Library area, which was a foyer with an Inquiry Desk (information desk) and about 12 computers. The computers have access to E-Journals, their catalogue, family history items, etc. The E-Library was created so people under the age of 16 could search for information, as the under-agers are not permitted in the library itself. Within the foyer “E-Library” area, they also place items on display, this time around they are displaying items from the Falklands Islands Dispute. Swords, paintings, documents, etc. Pretty neat.We then walked through the rotunda to the Caird Library within the Maritime Museum. The shelves within were all guarded with glass doors, and locked. (Patrons are able to unlock the glass doors, they need only ask for a key.) Above the door to the library is a plaque stating Caird’s (the main benefactor in creating the library) motto “Strive and Endure” which is pretty depressing if you ask me.

The shelving was based on Cambridge University’s shelving plan- and created in the 1930’s. There are about 25K books in the Reading Room, all Reference only. Of those books, about 8000 of them are Rare Books, pamphlets, charts, atlases, maps, etc. The Rare Books include anything that is from pre-1850. Many of these rare items are not on-site.The library utilizes the UDC cataloguing system- Universal Decimal Classification- which integrates punctuation into the call numbers to further divide sub-headings into sub-sub-headings. Most of the patrons to the library are either Family Historians or academics. The library is currently creating a new archive to accommodate all groups (allow for better quiet areas for academics) and will be switching over to temperature controlled areas for the entire collection. This library (which is different from most of the others we’ve visited) acquires things on a regular basis, so they WEED constantly. They’re short on space and work diligently to keep it all organized and efficient for patrons, just as any library would.

The library was opened in 1937 by King George the VI. The building itself was originally an orphanage called the Royal Hospital School, which housed children of sailors and seamen who’d been abandoned for whatever reason. The Museum building lays on the grounds of what used to be the Naval College which is a separate building and was closed in 1999 (now it houses the Greenwich University).

This whole experience reminded me of the summer reading program at my library right now, as a lot of Maritime’s items are pirate-related. Here are some of the things I got to see and HOLD IN MY HANDS! The museum library has about 4 and a half miles worth of manuscripts. Their oldest piece is from 1322.

Spy Book: 1582
This book was compiled before the Spanish Armada for Queen Elizabeth by a real spy who was in Portugal, watching the Spanish fleets bring in goods/people, etc. It is basically military intelligence from long long ago. Very cool.

Waggoner: 1682
Pirate-owned atlas. Neat! Basil Ringrose (a real pirate) wrote this around American and South America. On a map within it, California is drawn as an island. Basil would attack Spanish ships, so even though he was a pirate, because the English weren’t too happy with the Spanish at that time, they eventually let him off the hook after he was tried for pirating.

Pearl- Royal Naval Log Book: 1720
This log book has two lines in it that detail when the English Navy captured Blackbeard…the real thing, Blackbeard the Pirate. Very neat! Interestingly, it appears that he was caught off the coast of North Carolina.Merchant/Slave LogNot very interesting, because the slaves were listed as “goods” and not much is recorded about them other than where they were going, how many onboard, etc. However, this book was written by a man (Newton) who later became a reformed Christian and wrote the song: Amazing Grace. Neat!

Admiral Lord Nelson’s love letters- 1801
These were neat because we got to see the love letters to his mistress—and then also the letter to his wife that basically says, “Look lady, I can’t help you- I don’t love you, we’re married and whatever, but buzz off.” But the letter to his mistress is pretty hot and steamy. Apparently Nelson was a paranoid guy too, so a lot of what he wrote is scribbled out and re-written…just in case someone intercepted it. He burned all the letters he received. I bet he didn’t think hundreds of years later we’d be reading about his affair! The library has literally 100s of these letters, as the mistress never held up her end of the deal and burned them, as Nelson burnt his. (I wouldn’t burn them either.)

Titanic: Walter Lords’ collection of memorabilia
Walter Lords, who wrote A Night to Remember, collected a ton of stuff from the Titanic, and upon his death, the Maritime museum acquired these items. Some things I was able to look at: a promotional brochure for White Star Liner, with a cross-section of the ship; photographs taken on the Carpathia of the survivors, how they were saved, and even a real photograph of the iceberg that sunk the Titanic (amazing); a 2nd class dinner menu, which was also a postcard that a little girl had in her pocket when the boat went under.

I also was able to see a lot of information on the Confession and Execution of pirates…pretty bloody stuff. Also saw the HBMS Bounty book, which had a broken spine, so they tied it together with a piece of the sail from the boat. So all in all this was a neat little trip. I wasn’t expecting it to have so many interesting treasures.

After our visit to the museum, I trekked up the hill to the Observatory, which is the area where the prime meridian is located. I was able to place a foot in both hemispheres. Doubt that will ever happen again. Haha!

Monday: St. Paul's meeting with Librarian & Wimbledon

So on Monday I had an appointment at the St. Paul's Cathedral library to discuss their collection with the librarian. I was super-nervous about it. However, I calmed myself down with a trek out to Wimbledon to do some souvenir shopping for my parents (the tennis freaks). After a train ride, a long walk and two bloody blisters later...I found Wimbledon. Centre Court is being torn apart, and I didn't get to see much of it (it cost so much money to get a tour-- and I was pressed for time!!!) that I just snapped a few pictures of the Golf course across the street, and the outside of the tennis arenas. The buildings are green and the flowers everywhere are purple...gorgeous!! Then I proceeded to spend more money in that gift shop than I've spent anywhere in london to date. However, seeing as my parents helped me fund half of this trip, the least I could do is get them some neat stuff they'll love. :o)

Then I took a bus, then walked, then the tube (with three changes) back to waterloo. Dumped off my stuff in the dorms, band-aided my bloody blisters, and walked to St. Paul's for my meeting.

Climbed the 96 steps up to the library, and spoke with the librarian there about a multitude of things...mostly their collection. I only had an hour with him, but I did learn quite a bit about their collection, and even some pointers on how to get involved in the conservation field. He also was able to suggest a book that has more extensive information in it about the library in particular, so I'm going to try to get it on InterLibrary Loan when I get back. The book costs $95, so I don't think I'll be purchasing it, or convincing a librarian where I work to purchase it either...haha!

So the interview was worth it. I'm writing my short paper on that collection, so I'm not going to go into too much detail here. I'm also planning to focus my longer research paper on digitisation projects over I know I'll have enough content to get 25 pages out of it all.

Edinburgh: Details

Well, I'm currently on a bus headed back south to London. I have about an hour and a half of power left on my laptop, so I thought I'd use this time to catch everyone (including myself) up on all the things that have happened in the past few days.As I mentioned in an earlier post, on Sunday we went to Edinburgh Scotland, which is a lovely and beautiful town. It was a long 9 hour journey on a bus. The bus itself was great, but I really felt as though I lost an entire day of the trip just sitting on a coach. I thought we were taking a train, but I was mistaken. At any rate, they showed movies, and we could stretch out a bit, so that was nice. And the weather was lovely, so I was able to see some of the beautiful northern English countryside. I have never seen so many sheep in my entire life. Much of the land around England reminded me of back home in northeastern Ohio. I woke up after a nap on the trip at one point and didn't know where I was.

I've also seen three rainbows in the last three days, which I believe is a sign...of some sort. I'll figure it out later. But they're very pretty. :o)But the first night we arrived in Edinburgh (Sunday), Rachel and I went on a “terror tour” that started at 10pm and took us around to the scary parts of Edinburgh, and ended in the underground vaults. It was interesting (to learn of a parking lot that covers what used to be a “plague pit” of thousands of dead bodies) and the vaults were spine-chilling. There were several separate rooms that were previously hideouts for the homeless, back when being homeless was a crime punishable by death. There is a supposed poltergeist in one of the rooms and there were other rooms that I wanted to RUN OUT of immediately after I'd walked in. It was creepy and scary....and loads of fun.

Monday morning we headed off to the National Library of Scotland. There, two individuals who work at the library spoke to us for about 2 hours. One of the speakers, David- was the conservator and (from what I gathered) the main coordinator of the John Murray exhibit. John Murray was a publisher who published some of the most famous British literature starting in the 1700s going through 7 generations to 2002. Some of the works published by Murray include: Darwin, Jane Austen, numerous famous politicians, Lord Byron, and many many others. The collection was valued at 45 million pounds, and eventually was sold to the National Library for 32 million pounds. The National Library acquired the collection with funding assistance (17.7 million POUNDS) from the Heritage Lottery, which was the largest grant/donation ever given.The John Murray exhibit far exceeded my expectations. Again, we had the opportunity to speak with individuals who were charged with the responsibility of putting together the collection, working alongside designers to create an innovative and entertaining exhibit for visitors. They explained their marketing campaigns to us, what they had hoped to achieve with this exhibit, etc. After the description of how it was put together, we finally were able to visit the exhibit and see how it all worked out.What they did was remarkable. Because the collection is mainly books, letters and manuscripts of famed authors, politicians, etc., they wanted to create something that intrigued people and didn't require an enormous amount of reading. The script that was written on these documents is difficult to read, and then there is also the transcript that one would have to read in addition to the item on display. In order to give the PEOPLE who wrote these items a historical context for the visitor, the library created individual exhibits for each author like none other I've seen. Inside each glass case with the manuscript/book/letters, clothing that represents the individual is hanging to illustrate the stature and presence of the person. Interactive touch screen computers then work with the lighting in the exhibit booths to highlight the items and list why they are being displayed with this particular person's work. For example- Lord Byron was known as a somewhat narcissistic ladies' man- so, they placed a hand-held mirror and love letters in his exhibit. Each author on display had their own “booth” of sorts that had a virtual likeness portraying them. The lighting, layout and interactive touch screen technology allows visitors to listen to audio or read the items in the exhibit, whichever they prefer.

Truly, I was astonished with how well this worked. And it has since increased my expectations of museum exhibits and the way they are laid out and designed. Because the John Murray collection is so large (roughly 200K items), and the space where it is displayed is so small, they plan to rotate the exhibits. I was particularly interested in the digitization (or digitisation) efforts underway with this collection, as they hope to make much of the exhibit available online. I was lucky enough to get David's contact information to email him with additional questions regarding this project. The people at the National Library of Scotland were incredibly kind and informative, and generous...with tea and biscuits. I love tea and biscuits breaks, and believe we should make them required in the states.

From the National Library, we then trekked over to the National Archives, which are currently undergoing renovations, so we weren't able to go around the building much. However, a specialist did give us a nice talk on their collections, which I found enthralling. Though we weren't able to access the archives themselves, they did bring certain books/scrolls/letters out to us for us to read. We were actually able to handle these items (carefully of course). One of my favorites was the first written instance (that they knew of in Scotland) of the ingredients being purchased to make whisky. The scroll it was written on dated back to the 1400s! And again I was offered contact information regarding their digitization projects as well. And again we were given tea and biscuits. So I'm a fan of Scotland. They're incredibly kind and generous with tea and biscuits.Tuesday we had a research day, which meant I spent it trudging up to Edinburgh Castle and paying nearly 20 dollars (11 pounds) to walk around inside. I was a little disappointed by it, but I'm not quite sure what I expected really. The view from the top was amazing, and walking the Royal Mile was quite exhausting. My throat had been hurting and I assumed I was allergic to some of the very strange plants they had on campus. But as it turns out the next day (Wednesday) I woke up feeling sick so I guess it's the common cold.

I stuck pretty close to campus Wednesday, after first doing a little more souvenir shopping and visiting the writer's museum. That was interesting, mainly because I really enjoyed the house the museum was in. It was a part of the Old City before it was turned into a museum, so it had really interesting layouts and the staircases were neat. One of the staircases had one step within it that was a little higher than the rest of the steps, in order to deter strangers (I'm assuming home invaders) from being able to get up the steps unnoticed by the home owners.The Writers' Museum had information about three main writers from Scotland: Robert Burns, Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. I wish I had recently read some of their work so I would've found it a little more interesting. Most of the exhibits had interesting notes, letters and objects that were owned by the authors during their lifetime. But after having been to the John Murray exhibit, and understanding the amount of effort the National Library of Scotland put into that display, well I wasn't that impressed with the writer's museum. I'm glad we went, but I think between my head-cold and the rain and not having read anything recently by the prominent writers in the exhibit, I was ready to take a bath and a nap.

And now I'm headed back to London. And I'm so glad I finally got to talk to Ann last night, a friend who's coming to visit me here. I was really worried we wouldn't get in touch. I'm also hoping the weather clears up a little bit, as it's been raining all day and pretty dreary. I still don't feel very good but I suppose if I have to spend all day on a bus, the day I am sick would be the best day to do it, right?Alright that's all for now. I'll try to get more in later. I have a mini-break until July 31st. Miss you all!

Friday, 20 July 2007

Friday: Research Day- British Library Conservation Centre

So today was yet another research day. I was able to get some things done online and then trek over to the British Library to view their Conservation Centre. Separated from the main area of the building, the Conservation Centre is across a terrace in a very small area for the public to view and learn more about the art of conservation in progress at the British Library.

Upon entering the centre, there are several places to sit and listen (headphones) to various recordings. The British Library is the National Archive for Recorded sound. They work with all media types including wax cylinders (such as the ones Thomas Edison created in 1877), vinyl, cassettes, CD's, and of course digital media. Their sound recordings are forever being transferred into new media types for preservation purposes. There are specially trained Sound Archivists who perform the processes to conserve original sound recordings, remove distortions and repair damages to the original recordings. There are three main processes to sound archival. In one section of the Conservation Centre, you are able to manipulate digital recordings by turning a dial located in front of the computer screen. It is very interesting to do this while wearing the headset, and at the end of the fine-tuning of your interactive sound archival process, you can compare your own finished product with that of the "real thing". I was only a little bit off with mine, as I had a hard time eliminating the background noise.

The three main processes for sound archival are:
  • Speed- adjusting playback speed changes the pitch
  • Background noise removal- utilizing a software program called CEDAR, background noise is separated from the main voice
  • Treble & Bass adjustments- just like a normal equalizer in your home stereo, archivsts adjust treble and bass to effectively create understandable recordings.

In addition to the sound archival information, there is a plethora of hands-on interactive quizzes that patrons can sit and take part in while at the Conservation Centre. This was very interesting to me, as I was able to "guess" the best method of conserving a book back to its original condition. A book is described and then three options for conservation methods were offered. For example, a 15th century book printed in France on vellum pages and untanned animal skin has the following issues: split spine, worn velvet (rebound) cover, broken head-band. The options for conservation were: rebind with leather, full conservation, starch paste and Japanese paper repair, or place in archival box. (The correct answer is Japanese Paper and starch paste/repair.) After selecting a method, the patron is then informed of the pros and cons of utilizing this method, and then told whether or not it is the best method for conservation of this particular book.

Patrons may also find out more about the problems with old books and why they fall apart so easily. Books throughout the years were often created out of organic materials (animal, mineral, plants) so they decompose over time. Some examples:

  • Animal: egg whites for attaching gold leaf, animal skins for book covers
  • Vegetable: papers from plant fibers, linen & cotton. Plant based ink.
  • Mineral: gold-leaf, iron/carbon inks, paper whiteners, lime to treat vellum

The Conservation Centre also goes over the many different types of damage that books often go through: mold, insect infestation, brittle paper (acid), iron gall, dust and pollution, water and heat damage, amateur repairs, etc.

So mainly the Conservation Centre is an educational resource that explains the types of damage that can occur, how it can be preserved, options for conservation of items, and how conservation is carried out at the British Library.

The British Library attempts every effort to bring items as closely back to their original format as possible. They view the conservation process as a decision-making process, where they must decide what the best route to take is, with minimal intervention. They attempt to use conservation techniques that can be reversed. They consider many factors when deciding which techniques to use: including the cultural home of the piece, the amount of damage, the way it will be accessed/used in the future, etc.

I found this centre to be incredibly interesting, and I look forward to drawing this information in comparison with the techniques and processes carried out in the U.S. The most difficult part about this exhibit was by far my inclination to want to walk past the public-exhibition and into the REAL conservation centre doors that said Staff Only.

So for the average book-lover, this helps people understand the issues with conservation.

Thursday: Oxford & Bodleian Library

I love Oxford. Even though we went before, I still love this town. (Being from Columbus, I think I have a soft-spot in my heart for college-towns.)

We took the Tube to Paddington station and then a train from Paddington to Oxford. I love trains. They make me sleepy and you can stare out the window at the countryside. I've noticed that most of the farm animals here are pretty lazy. The horses, sheep and cattle are usually laying down for some reason. They can't ALL be sick, can they?

At any rate, we had a guided tour (as a class) of the Bodleian Library. I was REALLY excited for this tour.
We started off in the Divinity School, which is the oldest part of the college and built in 1420. You can tell it was originally a theological institution, as the room itself is incredibly ornate. If you're a Harry Potter fan, you may recognize this room as being the Infirmary at Hogwarts, AND Professor Madonagal's (sp?) Ballroom Dancing School. This room took 65 years to complete.

As you can see in this picture, this room was used for examination, mainly what we would call "defending dissertations" today. The student would sit in the corner, the professor across from him, arguing his research findings. A Regent's Master would sit in the middle (right behind my head) and act as a "judge" of sorts to keep things in line. All oral examinations were in Latin, and they could take hours or days to complete. Students who attended Oxford did not study only one area, they were required to become masters of all areas: Mathematics, Juris Prudence (law), Philosophy, and Medicine. Yikes!

This particular room's ceiling is a celebration of the contributors to the building itself, as it took so long to build because the school was continually running out of money. In addition, because of the constant back and forth between Protestantism and Catholicism, the windows (used the be stained glass) were destroyed. The crucifix above the door is gone. A sculpture of St. Peter (in the ceiling) was decapitated. In 1424, they began building the second level of this Divinity School, which became the library. The library itself didn't open until 1602 when it was finished.
The vaulted ceilings in one of the more recent rooms (This is the convocation house) were created to help support the upper level library. So though they are ornate and beautiful, they do have a purpose. The room seen here is the Convocation house, where administrators and faculty would meet. The throne in the middle was created for the Chancellor. And apparently, when the plague was ravaging London (around 1620), Parliament would meet in this room. Very cool.

Upstairs I was able to STAND IN THE BODLEIAN LIBRARY which was basically torture. Of course no one is allowed to touch any of the books, and of course you have to have a reader's card, and a specific explanation for whatever it is you're looking for. I mean, I highly doubt someone's going to hand over a manuscript I'd like to peruse that was written in the 1350s. Jeesh.

The strangest thing I noticed immediately was the shelving of the books, which were spine-in. Apparently, the books were previously chained to the shelves themselves so no one could check anything out. They still have a sample of what this looked like. And of course I couldn't take any pictures of the books. And for some reason I'm having a hard time finding images on google (or their website) to show you here. So you'll just have to wait until I get back with my informational guidebook of the library. (Or, if you're interested in Oxford in general, there's a picture gallery here.) But you can take my word for it. The ceiling of this library is all wooden panels, and no two are identical. They all have different colors of open books (which is the bottom of Oxford) on them, and each read (in Latin) "Lord is my Life". There are 9 satellite Bodleian libraries, some of which you may check out books, but of course this is a reference-only institution.

Some of the benefactors to the library include: the Rockefeller foundation (1933), Oliver Cromwell (1654), Kenneth Grahame (the Wind in the Willows proceeds after his death went to the Bodleian).

We then trekked to the Radcliffe Camera, which is a round building with two reading rooms (Upper and Lower levels). This building opened in 1749 but wasn't owned by the Bodleian until 1860. This place was breathtaking. I wanted to lay in the middle of the floor and read a book or just look at the dome-ceiling. The Bodleian's conveyor belt (materials handling system) beneath the library delivers the books to readers in either of these two levels. Again, no pictures of the inside, so sorry folks. BUT- Phillip Pullman's The Golden Compass book is being turned into a movie called Northern Lights. And it was JUST filmed in this building, the Radcliffe Camera.

We then walked beneath the Camera underground through the tunnel to where they house the REALLY valuable stuff. (J Floor, if you're ever interested in stealing incredibly valuable books). The conveyor belt system is hilarious-- as it was installed in 1940 (talk about forward-thinking!) and it looks incredibly archaic, but still works wonderfully.

So we ended our trip to the library, and had the rest of the day to Oxford. I ended up shopping because things are much cheaper in the smaller towns surrounding London. I ended up getting stationery (I really need to stop buying paper's starting to get ridiculous) and trinkets for people back home. Oh, AND a pair of jeans and a jacket. And jewelry. Okay so I bought a lot of things, but it was totally worth it and I don't feel bad about it at all.
I have more pictures of Oxford and I look forward to sharing them all with you when I get home. I can't believe this trip is halfway over already!

Outside Class Visit #2: National Archives and Kew Gardens

So Wednesday was a "research day" which means you can either sit in the computer lab all day and try to catch up, or you can go out and visit another site on your own...or gather research for your papers.

So I started off doing some quick research to see WHAT I could find more information about so I could pick a solid topic for at least ONE of my papers. Yea....that is hard. I decided to go to the United Kingdom National Archives (all the while scolding myself for never having seen the U.S. National Archives). It's about a 40 minute Tube ride...and that's if you get on the right train. A couple of flub-ups on the train lines (I picked the wrong easy mistake) until I eventually arrived at the Kew Gardens stop, which is a quick 10 minute walk to the National Archives.

The Kew area is "kewte"...hehe I couldn't resist. I took some pictures of the things I saw initially getting off the train. (Notice that Kew has itw own "storefront library") Kew appears to be a suburb just like any other...tiny houses lining streets and small shops and pubs on the corners. It was a gorgeous day, so I started my walk down to the National Archives. After passing through the gates of the building, well I was overwhelmed by how out-of-place the building looked in comparison to its quaint surroundings. But it's a beautiful place...surrounded by water and very modern.

And as soon as I walked through the doors of the National Archives....well, I was told that their museum and exhibits were closed. All I was able to view was a COPY of the Domesday book and the chest it was housed in. I was not pleased. Of course I was invited to enjoy a £5 coffee in their restaurant or perhaps purchase some souvenirs regarding genealogy at the gift shop, but otherwise that was it...until April 2008 the exhibit is CLOSED. I was so upset! It was a long trip, I was excited to see it, I was by myself, etc.

**The Domesday Book is the most famous and earliest surviving public record. It is a survey and value listing of all land held by the King and his tenants in the late 11th century.**

I was planning on using the Archives visit as one of my off-site (not required) visits for one of the assignments I have. Obviously, since all I was able to see was the gift shop and some replica of a book, this would not work. So, the only other thing remotely interesting at this tube stop was Kew Gardens. I'm typically not the Garden-y type, but I've heard they are beautiful, and figured it was worth it since I made the trip. So I walked all the way over there, paid £12 to get in, and started walking. And it is truly stunning. I went on the perfect day, and took amazing photos. But there is only so much one can do in a garden...without a book to read. So I walked around, took in the sights and smells (that's one thing I wish I could convey on this blog...the fragrant lavendar.....amazing!) and basically walked the paths of the garden for about an hour before I started to wonder if I was getting sunburnt...and headed back to the Tube.

The entire time I was walking this garden, I kept thinking, how am I going to explain this garden being relevant to libraries?! I can't-- it's basically a really pretty yard. It's a garden for Pete's Sake! And I wasn't about to shell out another handful of cash to visit Kew Palace. I continued taking gorgeous pictures and pondering the tie in between library science and the garden. Then I came upon this Taxonomy in Action sign. A-Ha! This is precisely the tie-in between libraries and Kew Gardens. Classification of plants. They're all labeled- they're all organized, they all must be cared of in precise ways, because the plants are from all over the world, have different requirements for sustinence, and of course- the groundskeepers need to know where they put everything! So there it is....taxonomy.

So after my long trek through the gardens (and certainly not even seeing half of them) I headed back on the Tube to Waterloo station, and had some pints with Rachel before going to bed. It was a long day, and I'm glad I went out to Kew. I'm finding that the things I'm most fascinated by tend to be things I don't plan. I had no intention of paying nearly $24. for a walk around a garden, but it ended up being a really good idea-- and a really peaceful place to settle-down in my head and just soak in the surroundings.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

St. Paul's Library & Outside-Class visit #1

This morning our class outing was to the St. Paul's Cathedral Library. It's not that big, small in fact, when compared to the rest of the building. Because I couldn't take pictures in the building (or I could and not publish them anywhere) I'm having to pull pictures off of and link you to the website, to get an idea of what I experienced. Probably better off that way anyhow, because I found there are virtual tours here, so you can actually see a moving image of what I did today.

Upon getting to St. Paul's, I realized that (like my adoration for Big Ben) I have a hard time limiting the number of pictures I take of this building. It's so large that it's impossible to grasp unless you're right up next to it. I have a ton of pictures of the sky and PART of the building, but in order to see the whole building, one would have to cross the river and take a picture. You can see me here, in front of the building...I'm a spec compared to only a few of the many pillars outside the main entrance.

(Oh, and the sky was beautiful today. When I took this picture of the dome next to the sun, I could not look directly into the camera, as the combination of the sun and the glare off of the gold cross on top of the dome made it almost impossible to see. )

At any rate, we first ventured up the Geometric Staircase, which some of you may recognize from Harry Potter. There is a virtual tour for that, too. It was scary- climbing up 90 steps that appear to be hanging in mid-air, though our librarian told us not to fear-- they're incredibly sturdy. Though the staircase itself is not recommended for people with a fear of heights OR bouts of vertigo. Ha! I managed to get up there unscathed and without losing my breakfast.
When we arrived at the top, we were taking into what was originally created as a Reading Room, evident by the plasters on the building walls: vines with quill pens, ink pots, books, etc. intricately woven into the design. In this room, Wren's original model of the building itself remains, made of oak and plaster, at about 1:25 scale. It's huge, so huge that I wondered how it ever got in and out of that room. The librarian working with us said it has only left the room a few times, one of which when it visited the States in the 90s...and then he mentioned that would NEVER happen again. Ha ha ha...

This entire time we were "behind the scenes" of this gorgeous church. the library itself (pictured above) was crammed full of books that had since been acquired after the fire of 1666, mostly by Henry Longdon/Henry Compton (a bishop who got a hold of other collections for aquisitions.) A plaque remains by a statue of his bust stating, "I came to it burnt down, and left when it built up."

I found numerous things about this library interesting. First off, most of the books are held together with binding wraps, as the boards are broken. The library itself is open to all who "can make good use of it", though I have a feeling they are selective in who makes "good use". Our guide is also the only librarian on staff there, and is currently embarking on a conservation project. I asked for his email address and am hoping to meet with him later this week to discuss this project, among some other things for a research paper I hope to write on U.S. and U.K. methods of preservation of print materials (mainly books).

At any rate, I love this building, and am excited to hopefully speak with the librarian again to get more information and more hands-on (or shall I say hands-off!!!) experience there and discuss conservation of materials that are apparently available to the public.

After this visit, we were left to explore on our own again. Rachel and I had been planning a visit to the Wellcome Collection, which is part of the Wellcome Trust. From their website:

"The Wellcome Trust is an independent charity funding research to improve human and animal health. Established in 1936 and with an endowment of around £13 billion, it is the UK's largest non-governmental source of funds for biomedical research."

What intrigued us about these galleries, were adverts in the tube explaining just some of what's on display. There were three exhibits, The Heart, Medicine Man, and Medicine Now, all of which were free. (Bonus!) Strangely enough, Henry Wellcome (and his partner Mr. Burroughs) were Americans, who came to England after starting their pharmaceutical company in 1880. After Burroughs died, Wellcome set up some research facilities to study further medical related issues.
In addition to being a scientist of sorts (and obviously an entrepreneur) he was an avid collector of medical-related artifacts. The galleries we visited included The Heart (illustrates the evolution of humans' understanding of the heart in medicine, art and culture), Medicine Man (an exhibit that displays many of Wellcome's collection of artifacts) and Medicine Now (mainly an art exhibit that deals with medical-related issues of today).

Some of the things I enjoyed on display in The Heart Exhibit:

  • A wooden table with entire (REAL) human veins/arterial system varnished into the wood work outlining a human body laying on top of the table. (Joannes Leonius 17th c.)
  • Leonardo DaVinci's anatomical drawing of the heart, liver and arteries
  • Rene Descartes L'Homme 1664
  • Pacemakers throughout the years
  • Speakers in the walls with songs about "heart" playing. Also speakers to listen to a normal heartbeat versus a mitral regurgitation.
  • And She Had Heart painting by Lombardo, 1890
  • Egyptian Book of the Dead
  • Separate caskets made of lead and silver, for burying the heart away from the body.

The Medicine Man gallery had the strangest things, as it portrayed only a portion of the odd-collection Wellcome had created up until his death. Some of the things I saw and enjoyed there:

  • Torture elements/torture chairs (which are placed in the same exhibit space as a dental chair, ha!-- I can agree with that placement decision.) One of the torture chairs had blades all along the back and seat, with spikes on the arms.
  • Over 5000 pieces of medical/scientific glassware from throughout history and the world
  • Artificial limbs dating from 1500-1930s
  • An impressive collection of bone-saws (I badly wanted a picture of this for my dad) and forceps (ick!)
  • Napoleon Bonaparte's toothbrush
  • Ivory dentures from the 1700s
  • Tatoos on human skin from 1850-1900 (the skin looked like stretched leather, gross)
  • A mummifed Peruvian man
  • King George III's hair (had traces of arsenic in it...) You may remember me mentioning this King George, as his book collection is on display at the British Library.

After going through these exhibits, the last one was more contemporary/controversial art pieces reflecting medical concerns from today around the world. For example:

  • a map on canvas with mosquitos sewn into it to outline countries- a commentary on the malaria problem
  • Mosquito nets with malaria medicines sewn into them
  • An enormous sculpture of fat, a blob if you will, with legs commenting on obesity.
  • Many many pieces of art using EKG printouts and things representing the double-helix of DNA.

So the galleries alone were stunning and incredibly interesting.

And then we saw that the Wellcome Trust had a library. So we ventured in.

Gorgeous! A newer space, with beautiful wooden shelves in the first room. A librarian (roving reference?) approached us and asked if we needed help, and she told us there are three main collections: The History of Medicine, Clinical Medicine, and Science & Society. There is also a Rare Books area. The rooms we ventured through were stacks and stacks of beautiful old books, and in some of the rooms, they were stacked modern metal/glass shelving. There was an enormous amount of study-areas/tables. It was interesting to walk through the stacks and notice the different collections- titles outlining diseases, afflictions, solutions and breakthroughs in the medical industry.

This library is a working, full service library...all related to medicine. The main room was large, two stories (similar to St. Paul's Library) with names such as Nightingale, Mendel, Darwin, Hippocrates, Galen, Pasteur, etc. carved into the woodwork. Large anatomical paintings hung on the walls there. It was wonderful.

And it made me wish I were studying medicine. Haha. Can you imagine? But still, the space was so relaxing and well-laid out, I truly felt lucky to have happened-upon it.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Museum of London

Well, today we started with our class trips again, this time embarking upon the Museum of London, which was really neat.Before the start our our own investigations through the galleries, we were lucky enough to experience a short "history" of the galleries and the Museum of London itself, which was really neat.

The man who spoke to us was named John Cotton, and he is a curator in prehistory at the Museum of London.The museum started in 1976 and put together the London Museum that previously existed in Kensington Palace (from 1911), the London Archaeology Museum and Archives, and also the Guild Hall Museum (1825) in the City of London.The Museum of London capitalizes on "the city" that was once the square mile.

Their innovative marketing campaigns include a truck with a huge sign on it that they park in front of rival museums. The signs state things like, "London only has one museum" which is intriguing and really gets people through their doors. I asked and found out that they have their own in-house marketing department that creates the great campaigns. Awesome.

They have one USP or "Unique Selling Point": They are the largest Urban history museum in the world.". But the problem they have is, how do you utilize this USP and still illustrate that there is a vast amount of information there regarding prehistoric times/people? The National History Curriculum in England (all schools) begin with invaders and conquerors and do not include prehisoric times.

While they were investigating how to work the prehisoric periods into their marketing and promotions, they found that they typically have 3 types of visitors:
  • Those who want to know about Victorian London (19th century)
  • Those who want to know about Tudor London (16th-17th century..that's me)
  • Those who want to know about Londinium (Roman London)
They based the design of newer spaces (galleries have been updated in both 1998 and 2002) around this information, and were able to integrate the prehisoric era into it nicely.
The newer galleries are more people-centered, more negotiable and conversation-starting, the pieces ask questions and start discussions between people who come to view the exhibits. They decided to center the focus of the exhibits around four things: Climate changes (global warming), People, the River Thames, and Legacy.

They created 3 design elements to work these things into the galleries. There is a wall of things that were found in the River Thames, and the river weaves throughout the galleries, so people can bounce between the plinths (exhibits) and the River Wall. There is also the Landscape wall around the outside of the gallery, explaining the changing landscape and climate.

It is truly an interesting museum, but much moreso when you have the background information that goes into planning and designing a space like this. I had the opportunity to speak with curator regarding space issues and mentioned the renovation and space issues in our library- and how that is effecting the overall design of it all.

It was basically just really neat to have a one-on-one conversation with a curator, and talk to him about application of space/design/marketing for a cultural heritage institution. I really enjoyed today's tour a lot.

Some things I learned:
  • London was originally 1 square mile, surrounded by a wall, and very crowded, smelly and gross. It later grew and grew and grew....
  • But in 1665 half of the population died off anyways from the Black Death (or the plague)
  • And then there was the Great Fire of London.....which was started by a baker who forgot to put out his fire (entirely) for the night.
  • On September 2, 1666 at 1am, the fire began and the city burned for 4 days. No one had fire insurance, and a lot of people ended up in jail because they couldn't pay their debts.
  • It took London 50 years to rebuild the city.
  • The fire was said to be started by gluttony, as it began on Pudding Lane (by a baker) and ended on Pie Corner. (haha!) And a fat-boy statue commemorates this fact in the city.

A few of my favorite things I saw:

  • In the prehistoric gallery, it was evident that the River Thames was a spiritual/sacrificial river in which people have been laying precious sacrifices for hundreds of years. As they dredged the river, hundreds of artifacts from the past are dug up-- swords, coins, skulls, beads, all sorts of interesting things. Among these was a human male skull that had a hole in the top of it as a result of a surgery called trepannation. A trepannation involved the patient being conscious, and their skull was chipped away by a flint blade. The interesting part about this particular skull was that the man apparently lived for a year or more after this surgery, as the bone regrowth indicated he lived on, and probably died from other causes....amazing!

  • I also really enjoyed this stone that had the following quote engraved on it:
"Here by permission of Heaven, Hell broke loose upon this Protestant City from the malicious hearts of barbarous papists by the hand of their Agent Hubert, who confessed and on ye ruines of this place declared the fact, for which he was hanged (vizt.). That here began that dred-full fire, which is described and perpetuated on and by the neighboruing pillar."
-This remained at the site where the fire started for 200 years, even though the papists obviously were not responsible for the fire starting, and Agent Hubert was determined innocent in 1667. Poor guy. They didn't remove the stone until 1830. haha!
Tomorrow we head off to St. Paul's Cathedral Library, and I'm hoping to speak to a conservator there. The library is closed to the public, so I'm also anxious to see what secrets we get to see. I'm (as noted from all the photos) quite enamored with this church.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Friday: Parliament

Even though I have a plethora of pictures of this clock at home, I can't seem to quit taking pictures of....Big Ben. It's so beautiful, and reminds me of so many things (namely a part of the movie Peter Pan)...and I have more pictures of this clock than anyone would ever need. But I love it.
At any rate, what you may or may not know is that clock is attached to Parliament. The rest of that massive building is where the House of Commons and the House of Lords exist. We took a tour of Parliament, and got to take the Sovreign's Entrance (Victoria Tower) and the "Queen's route" that she takes when she comes into Parliament to give her annual speech each November. (Apparently it's similar to our state of the union address, only she doesn't stutter, pronounces everything correctly, and sits on an enormous golden throne that was built in 1845.)

Starting off in the Sovreign's Entrance, our tour guide gave us some history regarding the things we were seeing as we waited to go through airport-like security, where every person gets patted-down and people/bags go through an x-ray machine, etc. As we waited, we learned that the building that stands today was rebuilt in 1845 after the fire. Kings of England had lived on that property for centuries. Henry VIII (you may remember him and his wives) was that last King to live on this site. And of course there was no photography permitted for the most beautiful aspects of this tour, so you'll have to bear with my descriptions.

There are some other neat tidbits regarding the history of government here.

  • They have a copy of the death warrant with wax seals all over it from 1649, that was a warrant for Charles I. Oliver Cromwell tried Charles for treason, and he was hung drawn and quartered.

  • There was no Sovreign for 9-10 years after that, but Charles II came back in 1660 (from Paris) and reigned.

  • The sovreign may never enter the House of Commons, they may only enter the House of Lords.

  • There is a messenger at the door to relay messages from the sovreign to the House of Lords, down a long hallway.

  • Most everything within Parliament's decorations on the inside of the building has something to do with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. (initials, paintings, etc. everywhere).

  • Victoria came to the throne at age 18 and reigned for 64 years (the all-time record thus far).

  • Enormous beautiful murals hang on the walls representing different parts of England's history. Two of the ones I particularly liked were the Battle at Waterloo (It was a naval battle against the French. and Duke Wellington was the man in charge of that victory); and also the Death of Lord Nelson at Trafalgar. It's really incredible to see the paintings and realize that I'm sitting in the same spot where a battle happened.

  • During WWII Parliament was bombed, so the House of Commons was rebuilt in 9 years time. The archway into the House of Commons is still damaged, you can see the blemishes from the bombing in the stone.

  • None of you probably know this, but I really like to watch the House of Commons on CSPAN. I particularly liked watching it when Tony Blair would have to answer rapid-fire questions and everyone would shout their agreement or disagreements at him. I couldn't believe I was standing in that room...the one I watch on television.
House of Commons

First, all of the benches are green (my favorite color). For the most part, seating is on a first-come-first-serve basis, though depending on which way they voted on a particular issue they're discussing that day, the two sides (that face each other) will sit on the Aye or Noe side. The Sargeant at Arms carries what's called a Mace, or a silver sceptre-type thing that is representative of the sovreign's presence as the House of Commons does business. On top of the table in the middle of the room, there are brackets on which to place the Mace. Only the Sargeant at Arms is permitted to touch the Mace. I need to look for that when I watch it on CSPAN again.The carpet is also green, but there are two long red lines in front of either row of benches that are apparently 2 swords-length long, so people who disagree may not draw their swords on one another. (Obviously this was an older rule.) There is also a sign above the cloakroom requesting them to "Hang Swords Here" on hooks, but instead that's where they place their umbrellas (which they need most of the time here.)

Westminster Hall

Westminster Hall is enormous. This is the place is the oldest remaining building on the site, and dates back to 1097. I did get a chance to take some pictures of this hall, as well as the stained-glass window within it. This place is not only huge, but it is incredibly easy to see how it worked for people hundreds of years ago, as a center for commerce, celebrations, proclaimations, etc. Really neat. And we ended our trip to Parliament with some pics just outside the building, since I'd never been able to get behind those big black fences before. I also took a picture of Big Ben again, from an angle that I'd never seen before with my own eyes.

I really enjoyed the visit to Paliament more than I expected I would. I wish our tour guide would have gone into more detail regarding the artwork however. Luckily there is information about it online, so I can supplement my memory of what I saw with informational tidbits here.

Thursday: British Library

British Library
Thurday we went to the British Library, which is at the Kings Cross/St. Pancras stop on the Tube. We had a chance to get a picture next to the Platform 9 and 3/4 that I'll include here. (Even though I'm not a huge Harry Potter fan, I understand the importance of this "stop".)

So once we arrived at the enormous library, we waited for a while and perused the gift shop before starting in on our tour of the building. I took vigorous notes, as this place was amazing. It's absolutely enormous, and unfortunately due to funding cuts, they will not be expanding it to the size they originally planned. Back in the 1960s there was talk about moving all of Britain's special collections/rare items, etc. into one large British Library. In 1972, they began bringing all of them together. The building took 14 years to finish. The first reading room opened in 1997 and it was officially opened by the Queen in 1998.There are 200 MILLION items in the collection, and it grows every day by 8000 items PER DAY. It continues to grow so much because nothing can actually be checked out from this library. It is purely a research library. (No weeding!!!!! Talk about huge shelf-space concerns!!!)

So, individuals who wish to utilize the services of the British Library must register their application. To utilize their facilities, you must provide-- proof of signature, proof of address, photo identification, reading list/letter from employer/why you're studying there, etc. Users of the library can only have access for up to 3 years, but most applications are processed to be used for only 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year...or at the very most, 3 years.

Their materials handling system is amazing. Being the second largest library in the world (second only to the Library of Congress) they have a state of the art conveyor belt system that brings books from the bottom 5 floors beneath the library, and takes them to one of the eleven reading rooms. When a person requests a book, they fill out a form, and a card is printed out. The card is then sent to the appropriate area, placed on the shelf for someone to pull. At that time, the person pulls the book and puts it into a red box with a barcode on the box, scans it, and sends it to its appropriate room. Once it's scanned a person knows it's on its way to them. The goal of the library is to have 90% of all requests filled within 70 minutes. But it often takes 2 days to process some items. After an item comes to you, you may reserve to use it for 3 working days. After that, it goes back to wherever it came from in the depths of the basement (or one of the four off-site storage facilities). At that point, the researcher would have to fill out another request and the 70 minute to 2 day process would start all over again. I would love to tell our patrons they had to wait 70 minutes for a book....AND that they couldn't check it out!

Interesting sidenote: apparently a person kept coming into the British Library and request Harry Potter. After she'd finally requested it for the last possible time, someone told her she needed to go to a public library. I said, "Well the public library's copies are probably all checked out...that's why she comes here. HP is always here, and she could just read it while she was here, come here everyday for 3 days and finish it." (I thought that was pretty funny.)

Some other things I found interesting from the British Library tour:

  • There are 1200 seats for researchers in the building, and 298 in their largest reading room-- the Humanities reading room.
  • The basement beneath the library is 24 meters long, the deepest basement in London, and actually is 4 floors of nothing but movable stacks of books.
  • If a disaster would occur, the british library has a contract with surrounding markets (the supermarket kind) to utilize their freezer space while they wait for proper preservation facilities.

King George III's Collection

They also have this amazing (what looks like a piece of art) book tower viewable outside of the reading rooms that is created out of 80,000 volumes of books from King George III. Apparently he created his library by appearance as opposed to by subject/interest, so it's a beautiful collection, but there are some strange titles within it. The 80K volumes make up 6 floors of books, which were donated by King George IV, who was not as keen on reading as his father. There were two requirements regarding use of this library: It must be a working collection, and it must be on display. I thought that was pretty clever. Because it is very difficult to display 80K volumes of incredibly old books, they created this tower, and it is made of glass, so all books can be viewed from the outside. Evacuation from the tower can only be done through the roof or the basement, so only qualified and trained individuals can actually get in the tower to retrieve an item.

Items on the shelves are still categorized by size/appearance, and are actually categorized that way throughout the British Library, thanks to a man named Sir Anthony Panizzi. He introduced the size sorting concept to the library, and also spear-headed the library becoming a legal depository for all published information in England. So as the collection grows 8000 items per day, they are continually being placed on shelves based on size. So strange, but understandable, as they are obviously VERY concerned about space.

Treasures Gallery

This was amazing, and I had very little time to appreciate every piece I wanted to see. Here are some highlights:

  • Shakespeare's First Foliio (worth at least £3.11M)
  • Only surviving document with Shakespeare's signature on the world.
  • Leonardo DaVinci's Sketchbook
  • Handwritten version of Alice in Wonderland
  • Galileo's sketchbook
  • Gutenberg Bible (stunning)
  • Magna Carta

In addition to these items, the Library was having an exhibition in which they were currently in possession of the remaining piece from the Dead Sea Scrolls. It honestly looked like a piece of trash I would otherwise throw away...but I was glad I got to see it. How many people get to say that in their lifetime??

Turning the Pages

There is a multi-million dollar contract between Bill Gates and the British Library to digitize their most precious items in order to provide access around the world to all who would like to view some of their treasures. This is actually a very cool software they use, here's where you can check it out. I'd seen it a long time ago, and actually spent a long time perusing Blake's notebook online. It's worth a look. I thought it was interesting that the guide also mentioned (in addition to the digitization efforts) the continual effort of the library to be future-oriented and forward thinking in technique (technology). It reminded me that though this library is very much a cultural heritage institution (and very museum-like) it still very much exists for their users/researchers. They work to fit the needs of their patrons as any other library would. I thought it was really neat...and I want a card now. :o)

I was pretty disappointed that I didn't get a chance to see the Conservation department. It was closed that day. Apparently they have an exhibition hall within the Conservation department that is open to the public, so I'm hoping to get back there and possibly utilize that visit as one of my 3 "extra" places to see aside from those we attend for class.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Oxford and Stratford

Oxford and Stratford-Upon-Avon

Our bus left at 7am sharp, and we embarked on a day trip to Oxford first. Oxford is a college-town, and incredibly OLD college-town. It's busting at the seams with tourists right now, and the bulk of the people walking around the streets are pretty young. I loved this city. Because we're visiting Oxford again later next week, I decided to shop a little bit instead of going to see all of the touristy sites within the hour and a half we were there. So I sat down with my friend Rachel and had a Tomato, Basil and Cheese Pasty-- mmmm (they're these tasty little Hot-Pocket-like things they have here, and they're delicious). So that was my breakfast/lunch for the day. Then I walked around with Rachel some more, found a hair-dryer (finally) and took a few pictures of Oxford. Most of the pictures are just random things I found pretty. Next time we get to Oxford I'll be seeing the Bodelian Library, so I'll have more historic-type things to report on that day.

After the light shopping (we were able to leave things on the bus) we got back ON the bus for another 2 hour trip from Oxford to Stratford.

If you know me well, then you know that I own more Complete Works/Anthologies of Shakespeare's plays than one would probably admit publicly. I just love it all so much...well, that's not entirely true. I never liked (or read) the Histories...just the Tragedies and Comedies, because they're a lot more entertaining.

Shakespeare's Birthplace
We started off at Shakespeare's birthplace, which is really neat. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures of the inside, so you'll have to take my word that it's a lot bigger than you'd think. The house is recreated to look as it would in Shakespeare's day in the 1500's. The inside walls are covered with painted fabric for insulation, and the ceilings are painted with lye to prevent the wood from deteriorating, so they were why.

In addition to the regular house-portion, there was also a loft-room for apprentices (John Shakespeare-- William's father) was a glove maker and would have had apprentices living with him. Another neat thing about the house was that the front door was wide enough for a carriage to bring in carcasses for John to skin and make gloves from. The front door leads directly to the back door, where he could unload the truck of dead animals, and begin tanning the skins. He used sheep and rabbit fur, which had to soak for 6 months in huge tubs of urine (gross & surely smelly) in the backyard before the pores would shrink up, and it would be good enough to make pretty leather gloves/goods from. John's business was also located in the house, and the front window where his "office" is located would have shutters that horizontally to create a counter and an awning. That way, customers could stop as they walked down the street to purchase his products. It was pretty neat.

Hall's Croft
The next stop we went to was Hall's Croft, a house where Susanna (Shakespeare's daughter) lived with her husband (a doctor). The house itself is also beautiful, though the garden was breathtaking. I took more pictures of flowers than anything else at this place. It was absolutely amazing. We also learned something interesting about her husband, Dr. Hall. He created a remedy for scurvy-- that included three different herbs steeped in warm beer. It worked for people because the herbs he chose had high ascorbic acid content, which is Vitamin C. Apparently the richer folk got scurvy quite a bit, because they gave the healthy (cheap) foods such as fruits and vegetables to the peasants, and kept the white-bread and red-meat for themselves. So, the malnutrition would often lead to scurvy (like the type pirates supposedly had) where those afflicted would lose their hair and teeth and become very very weak and ill. Because Dr. Hall used so many herbs, there are many flowers and herbs around the house in beautiful arrangements, and they smell fantastic. In the backyard, the scent of the different herbs can be overwhelming! Also, there was a friendly garden kitty who loved getting his picture taken.

Nash House/New Place
The Nash House is also called New Place. After Shakespeare became wealthy from his plays, he purchased a beautiful country-style house with many bedrooms and gardens and a courtyard that was located conveniently in-town. After he died, it was purchased by a jerk who had problems with his taxes, and tore it down to avoid having to pay more taxes on it. Now, only a church and small portion of the foundation are seen here, along with a Mulberry tree, that is likely a remnant from those Mulberry trees that Shakespeare had in his courtyard, before his death. There is a stunning Knott-style garden that can be viewed through a covered hallway of orchids. Again, breathtaking flowers/landscaping! Upstairs there was a collection of Shakespeare's Completed Works, all behind glass of course. I noticed little papers in the corners of the displays that measured the humidity, and also air filters in the back of the display in order to keep the books in good-condition. Then I noticed that one of the books looked VERY similar to my own copy of the Complete Works of Shakespeare (that my brother bought me for christmas) and I wondered, it the same one? So I sparked up a conversation with a person "standing guard" there and he mentioned that I could contact one of the librarians for the Shakespearean Complete Works Archives. I think my eyes glossed over and I know I got really excited because I immediately said, "I'm in school to be a librarian!" like an idiot. I guess I should've known they would have particular librarians for this sort of thing...but in Stratford, dealing only with these books?! It was like finding out that I could potentially become a millionaire or something. To think that a job opportunity like that exists...well I was floored. So I plan to contact them at some point, and see exactly what it is they do there. And also find out if they know how much my own copy of Complete Works is worth....not that I'd ever part with it.

Trinity Church/Shakespeare's Grave
Perhaps my favorite/most important destination on this trip was Trinity Church. I have to say, that I had an overwhelming sense of sadness and appreciation as I walked in, and I wondered if Shakespeare would laugh at the fact that he's now buried beneath the stones where preists now stand to preach. The same people who called his plays blasphemy...irony at its best. I have many photos from this church, and will try to post them here in a way that looks decent. I particularly love the quote on his headstone, and was able to get a re-print of it that I plan to frame and hang in my house.In addition to these lovely things, I was also able to have some time to stroll around and have lunch at a place called Caffe Uno with two friends. We had a LARGE lunch (we were starving) that included dessert. I would've felt guilty had I not walked for 8 hours that day. Phew! My feet and back were killing me! I was glad I brought a backpack to shove all of my gift shop purchases in.

And lastly, perhaps the most pivotal point of the evening, as a class we attended a 7:30pm showing of Macbeth in the Swan theatre by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Never in my life have I seen anything like it. Macbeth wasn't even one of my favorite plays, however I was on the edge of my seat and hanging on every word. It was thrilling and exquisitely performed. At one point I realized that I have memorized a 40 line soliloquy by Macbeth in undergrad and as he was speaking aloud, my mouth started moving. I can't believe I remembered that much of it! "If it were done, when 'tis done, t'were well it were done quickly..." Wow. At any rate, the play finished and we were piling on a bus again at 11pm, arriving back in london at 1am, and I was finally asleep by 2. Talk about exhaustion! But every minute was worth it, and so far it's been my favorite part of the trip. (of course I couldn't take pictures of any of that!)

Monday, 9 July 2007

This will be my reflective journal for LIS 580/587 through USM British Studies Program.