Sunday, August 29, 2010

Maughan Library - 07/29/10

King's College London was founded in 1929 at the Strand Campus. There are several other campuses including Waterloo, Denmark Hill, and St. Thomas, most of these are in health related fields. It is one of the top 25 universities in the world and the fourth oldest university in England.

I visited Maughan Library at King's College and got to view the many amenities it holds that serve its students. It is home to many areas of study including Byzantine and Modern Greek, European Studies, English, geography, music, history, and philosophy. The facility provides audio-visual equipment including VHS, DVD, CD, LP, audiocassettes, and minidisc players. There are PAWS stations with large monitors, large print keyboards, disabled parking, deaf alerters, accessible workstations, page turners. Photocopiers, lockers, ergonomic equipment, and wireless networking are also available.

The collection includes over two million books and thousands of journals. The current building was vacant in the 1990's until it was taken as a library. Basically four libraries were brought into one when the collections were brought to this site. The cost savings of combining four libraries has allowed for longer hours of business. It was officially opened in 2001 after all the renovations were complete, and now it serves 11,000 students.

I visited the Foyl Special Collections Library which holds over 150,000 printed items. Here there are many historic medical collections from the King's College Hospitals, Florence Nightingale Collections which include statistical maps of the deaths and disease that occured during the Crimean War, a Treaty on Surgery dated 1514, a medical students manuscript of notes and recipes from 1607, and a booklet made by a Jew who was held in a consentration camp. This individual was expecting the arrival of the Red Cross and drew inaccurate pictures showing life in the camp not as it truly was, but with coffee houses, a butchery, etc. He did not survive. I was also able to see photographs of the bridge where the allies crossed the Rhine River, documents on slavery and the abolition of slavery, many items on botany and natural history, and a 4th edition Gray's Anatomy.

Conservation is not done in house and typical, basic steps for preservation is followed such as use of acid-free papers and boxes. They are currently trying to digitize collections but due to lack of time and money available, the librarians are trying to choose items that are unique to process first.


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Windsor Castle - 07/25/10

This is the largest inhabited castle in the world. Now a royal palace, this thousand year old structure originated as a fortress. It is one of the three principal residences of Queen Elizabeth II, the British Monarch. The other two are Buckingham Palace and Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The castle was originally built by William the Conquerer who reigned from 1066 to 1087. His original site stood where the Round Tower now stands. It was his son King Henry I who first lived in the castle.

While here I visited the State Apartments, the Drawings Gallery, and Queen Mary's Dolls' House. I viewed King Henry VIII's gate, ate the Queen's ice cream, and took some footage of a marching guard. The apartments were quite ornate but I was most entrigued by the Queen's Dolls' House. The doll house was built in the early 1920's for Queen Mary who was the wife of King George V. It was designed by Lutyens and is a very realistic miniature house. It is filled with many artistic and crafty items of furnishings and many of the items in the house actually work. It showcases the very finest of decor including replicas of items in Windsor Castle, and the curtains, and carpets are also replicas. It is over 3 feet tall, and includes the products of well known companies of the era. The bathrooms are fully plumbed and I was astonished to learn that the toilets flush! Better than all this is the fact that several writers contributed to the display and supplied miniature books to fit the house. Some of these writers include Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who specifically wrote a short story, " How Watson Learned the Trick" for the project, J.M. Barie, Thomas Hardy, and Rudyard Kipling. There were also painters who provided miniature pictures.

The Drawings Gallery had many great items on display including some of Leonardo da Vinci's works, Studies on Light and Studies on Water dated 1510. There were lots of Italian artists presented in the drawings, including drawings by Guercino. Views throughout the estate were beautiful, and unfortuneately I was unable to visit St. George's Chapel.


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Louvre - 07/24/10

What's a trip to Paris without stopping in at the Louvre! It seems whenever I go I am extremely short of time and this is not a place to want to skip over things. The original structure was built in the 12th century. This was the main point of my visit and I went down to the lower levels to the Medieval Louvre where you can find the remains of the moats that were dug by Philip Augustus and Charles V in the 14th century. Originally the Louvre was built as a fortress to help the city defend itself against the Anglo-Normans. The Salle Basse or "Lower Hall" is all that remains of the medieval interior of the Louvre. Vaulting and columns are still present that date from 1230 to 1240.

In 1364 it began to change into a royal residence rather than fortress. In 1527 the Grosse Tour which was the medieval keep was demolished and it soon transformed into a Renaissance Palace. Later Louis the XIV would create a palace 500 meters away (Tuileries Palace) and the Grande Galerie would later connect the two buildings.

Also on my visit I strolled the halls and spent some time looking at Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa and tried to get a few good photographs (nearly impossible with the numbers of people crowding these two items). Wandering through the less crowded rooms was a lot more relaxing and enjoyable. Outside the crowds all sat with their feet in the fountain trying to cool off, I took the chance to take more pictures of the pyramid and outside building.


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Palace of Versailles - 07/23/10

Can you say "grand"? This palace was so large and ornate it is hard to describe how decorative it truly is to someone who has never seen it before. Rooms were enormous and I never knew what color to expect for the next room I walked into. Gold abounded throughout, however, and each room was filled with paintings, beautiful furniture, fireplaces, mirrors, and chandeliers. The windows were beautiful as well and overlooked the estate and gardens below. I don't think there is a "bad" view in the whole place! And the details...each floor, papered wall, moulding, doors, and doorknobs, everything was impecable.

I got a few statistics on the place:

Floor space: 67,000 meters squared
Windows: 2,153
Rooms: 700
Staircases: 67
Paintings in the collection: 6,123
Sculptures: 2,102
Furniture and objets d'art: 5,210

If I was amazed by the size of the chateau, I was even more surprised by that of the grounds. The gardens seemed to go on for miles. There were beautiful fountains and lawns and garden mazes of which I only got a small taste during my time there.

Louis XIV expanded this great estate, making it one of the largest palaces in the world. During the French Revolution in 1789 the royal family had to leave and stay in Paris, furnishings were later sold off. The establishment of a museum at this site was proposed in 1833. Presently political functions do still occur here, including when the Heads of State are regaled in the Hall of Mirrors. Information on the history of the chateau can be found at:

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National Archives of Scotland - 07/20/10

The National Archives of Scotland opened to the public in 1788, and is possibly the oldest archive in the world that is still being used for it's original function. The building was designed by Robert Adam and construction began in 1774. In 1787 the records began to be moved into the completed building.

The NAS is a government agency which includes two divisions, the Record Services Division and the Corporate Services Division, overseen by the Keeper of the Records of Scotland. There are 3 buildings, 140 staff members, 8 websites, and over 70 kilometers of records. There are around 250,000 records and 12,000 visits every year. Records include church records, wills and testaments, registers and deeds, family estate papers, private records, court and legal records, photographs, maps and plans, railway and government records.

Of the three buildings, the General Register House was the first. It opened in 1789 and includes a Historical Search Room where the public comes to access and request records and Scotland's People Centre used for heritage purposes. There is a statue here of King George III, and the librarian joked with us that he was the king that "you Americans got rid of." The West Register House was the next to be built in 1811. It includes the West Search Room and is a 15 minute walk to the other end of Princes Street. The third building is the Thomas Thomson House which opened in 1994. This is where extra materials are stored and has shelving up to 10 feet high. The Conservation Department is located here, as well.

Recent developments at the NAS includes an online catalogue (OPAC), "virtual volumes", access to Scottish wills from 1500-1901, digitization of the Church of Scotland records, the Registers Archives Conversion Project, and the Valuation Rolls Project. Several websites are affiliated with the NAS including:

I got to take a close look at some applications and registers at sea which showed the dates of births, deaths, sicknesses, and types of work performed. I also saw cookery books, letters home, and other family records.

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Dunfermline Carnegie Library - 07/20/10

This library is the first Carnegie Library ever built in the world. Opened in 1883, this library would be the first of over 2,500 libraries with contributions by Carnegie. 8,000 pounds were provided to this building and it's collection of books. A reading room was provided for ladies where only "appropriate" material was available. It is the largest and most used library in the county of Fife in Scotland.

Displays are set up like in a bookstore. and the library includes a lending library, children's library, and the Abbey Room. A portrait of Carnegie, by James Archer hangs in this room. For anyone interested in Andrew Carnegie here is a link from a PBS special: There is also the Millennium Quilt which was sewn by a group of ladies known as the Dunfermline Quilting Circle, it shows the history of Dunfermline. A tapestry and other artwork can also be found here. In the children's library, which opened in the 1930's, windows and bright colors decorate the room. There is storytelling, school visits, author visits, and sometimes the local zoo will bring in small insects or animals for the children to view. Baby and toddler "rhymetimes" are also performed. The Abbey Room used to be the music room, but they have now been discontinued. Instead the space is being used as a place for exhibits. It currently has a large Egyptian sarcophagus and previously exhibited a "local heroes" venue.

A local histoy room provides the private collection of Erskine Beveridge, a manufacturer from Dunfermline. Family and Local history research is also available. Maps, books, slides, and pictures can all be found here, as well as newpapers, census papers, and a mining memorial book. There are 28 staff members, who for the last year have been ttrying to get everything catalogued and placed online. This would provide access at home, as the material in this section of the library is for reference only and cannot be borrowed outside of the library.

The special collections department opened in 1922. It holds the Murrison Burns collection and Robert Henryson Collection. I was able to view lots of great items here including works by Thomas Aquines from 1471, a 4th edition of Milton's "Paradise Lost" from 1588, Shakespeare's 2nd folio, as well as some of his poems, and Chaucer's works dated from 1602. There are also several graduals, books of hours, two Wedgewood busts of Burns of which there are only ten in existence, and a pontifical from Florence dated 1520. It was a great collection and the librarian was very enthusiastic about her job!

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Central Library, Edinburgh - 07/19/10

This library, located close to the Royal Mile, is quite large. It stores more than 850,000 items including books, periodicals, cd's, and audiobooks. Aside from the main library there is a fine art library that houses information on art, design, and photography to name a few. There is also a reference library, the central lending library, a learning centre where computers are available to patrons, and a resource centre for diabled people. The library has developed an online site for the community where local events, activities, and web resources can be located. Also information on health services, education, and advice support groups are found here.

The Edinburgh Room has a collection of over 200,000 items that deal with the history and life of Edinburgh. You are not able to check this material out of the library, as it is reference only, but access at the library is available. Proof of identification is all that is needed for viewing rare items. The collections include several biographies including Alexander Graham Bell. Manuscripts include letters, diaries, minutes, and recollections of various Edinburgh residents. There are also maps of the city that date from the 16th century to current times and literature that includes works by Arthur Conan Doyle, JK Rowling, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Sir Walter Scott. There is information on newpapers, religion, and theatre, as well as an image collection. The Scottish Library contains information on Scottish lineage, and there is a heritage website that includes the heritage image collection. Any and all information on Scotland in general can be found in this portion of the library as well.

For preservation the librarians try to keep the climate stable. The use acid-free papers and boxes, and any conservation measures are done outside, as opposed to in-house. Typically, spines that have been damaged are redone in a style and color close to the original.

The staff are trying to raise the profile of the library and have created a newletter to which 2,000 people subscribe. There is also a blog, "Tales of Once City" and they try to post daily. Twitter is also used and a "mystery photo" which is posted gets a large response from the community. Author events are scheduled, they try to have one event every month, from both emerging and distinguished authors. There are also many reader groups affiliated with the library.

Interesting link from libraries web page:

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National Library of Scotland - 07/19/10

Prior to the National Library of Scotland was the Advocats Library which was established in 1689. By 1710 the first copyright act was created, establishing that the library would obtain a copy of every book published in Britain. The library not only receives books by legal deposit, but also makes purchases. The library was officially given to the country and became the National Library of Scotland in 1925 by an Act of Parliament. Collections include rare documents and manuscripts and online journals. There are 14 million books and manuscripts, 2 million maps and atlases, 300,000 music scores, and 25,000 newspaper and magazine titles. Every week over 6,000 new printed items arrive. In the archives are several of Scotland's best authors from the 20th century including John Buchan, Hugh MacDiamid, and Alasdair Gray.

One of the large exhibits on display is the Murray Exhibit. It includes letters between Murray and many famous people, several of them writers. There are letters from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Walter Scott, a funeral oration of Byron as well as a chart of Byron's relatives. There are also letters to Murray from the Duke of Argyll and Heinrich Schiemann.

Other exhibits include Scotland's Story, an overview of the National Library of Scotland, and the last letter of Mary Queen of Scots which was written to her brother-in-law who was the King of France. This letter was written on February 8th, 1587 just six hours before her execution. Also on display was a special exhibit "Swing through Time", following the creation and development of the game of golf. This game began in the middle ages and used to be a "short" version which died out temporarily. Scotland later designated areas which emerged outside the city streets and this allowed for the "long" game that is played today.

Collections, some of which are also digitized, include letters and early works of Robert Louis Stevenson. You can view the whole, original manuscript "Kidnapped" online. Also present are some very early books and prints including the Chepman and Myllar prints. There are works from Henryson and Dunbar, and very early romance and lyrical poetry dating from the middle ages as well.


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Oxford, Bodleian Library - 07/16/10

This library opened to scholars in 1602. It had a slow start before opening and was not until 1545 that it was rescued by Thomas Bodley of Merton College. The first library at Oxford opened in 1320 and in 1439 Duke Humphrey donated a large number of books forcing the need to create a new library. Oxford did not have a lot of money, but Bodley who had married a rich widow provided funding for this library. He also brought some 2,500 books for a new collection from him and other donors. The first printed catalogue came in 1605. In 1610 an agreement was set up that the library would receive a copy of every book published in England and registered at Stationers' Hall. This would lead to an ever growing library and future needs of building growth. Three to four thousand items per week still come to the library. Books were never lent to the readers and even King Charles I was denied a request to borrow books. The library has continued to grow and expand, adding several buildings and underground book stacks.

In the early days of the library books were chained to the lecterns, and there were no chairs for sitting or candles to see and read. They were afraid of fire causing destruction. There were very limited hours to access the library due to lighting and the cold during the winter, as no heating was available. The books were chained on the front covers and not on the spines like in the Harry Potter movie, and were actually placed on the shelves backwards with the spines facing inward. For any Harry Potter fans out there this link is fun and shows many film sites (including the Bod):

In the 19th century the chains were removed and are instead placed under an alarm system. For preservation purposes humidity and temperature are controlled and many items placed in boxes with acid free paper. Books are cleaned only every ten years. On our tour we were able to see the conveyer which currently transports books under Broad Street, this is to be permanently shut down as of August 2010. Famous manuscripts that are held at this library include the Magna Carta, a Gutenburg Bible, Shakespeare's first folio, and the Ashmole manuscripts.

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Sunday, August 8, 2010

V&A Museum/National Art Library-07/15/10

The National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum is a public reference library. Like many of the libraries in London, you must first register to become a user. After that use of the reading rooms is made available. The library mostly covers material dealing with art, craft, and book design.
During our tour we were shown preservation techniques that are used with the collections. Items are placed in acid free cardboard "boxes" and acid free covers, envelopes, and ties are also used. Other plastic envelope covers are used for individual papers and pages. Again, I was amazed to find the small amount of conservation efforts used with these collections. They use "preservation rather than conservation" as much as possible. Also there is no temperature control efforts taking place!
We also were shown the Dewey Classification that is used in two of the reading rooms. Paper requests are made and the staff picks up the slips every hour and retrieves the documents. There are a large number of periodicals including Sotheby's and Christie's records, letters of Elizabeth I, and materials on the Great Exhibition.
Some of the amazing items I saw here include William Shakepeare's First Folio, a proof copy of Dicken's "Bleakhouse" (of which I turned the pages), letters of John Everett Millais and William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones (I studied some of these guys in an art history course on the Pre-Raphaelites!), and other works by many artists and composers. Codices of Leonardo da Vinci are also in the library, but you must make a special request to view these and a librarian who "guards" these makes the decision if it is okay to view (we were not special enough!).

Most of the collections are on the online catalogue and can be found at:

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Stratford-upon-Avon - 07/14/10

While visiting Stratford -upon-Avon I visited three of Shakespeare's Houses and Gardens. The first was Shakespeares birthplace, where I watched a show on his life and works. they exhibited several artefacts that he owned as well as some writing including his First Folio. After the exhibit I toured the Tudor house where he is believed to have been born. Garden's surround the area that are so beautiful, and live performers act out portions of his plays.

Next I visited Nash's House and New Place, which is where Shakespeare died in 1616. Nash was the first husband of Shakespeare's granddaughter and New Place was the house next door which Shakespeare bought in 1597. It has been rebuilt but original portions of the house remain. The house is decorated with many typical furnishings and decor of the 16th and 17th centuries. The estate has remained and now contains an Elizabethan knot garden that was in 1919 with planats that would have been known by Shakespeare; it overlooks Guild Chapel. There is also a large Mulberry tree and it is said to be a cutting from an original tree that Shakespeare planted. There is currently an archaelogical dig, and items from the time of Shakespeare are still being found to this day.

The final stop was to Halls Croft, where Shakespeare's oldest daughter and husband Dr. Hall lived. I was able to walk through the house and examine books and various medical equipment as well as the furniture and paintings from the 17th century. Again, there was a beautiful garden filled with flowers and herbs that were mentioned in notes by Dr. Hall.

Unfortuneately, there was not enough time for a visit to Anne Hathaways Cottage, but perhaps another time! I did take a quick look at the public library (almost got ran over by a man on a bicycle right in the doorway... I guess he thought it okay to coast through the doorway into the entryway). It was small, but bright inside and user friendly. A few patrons were making use of the computers and internet. If I had more time I would have checked into the information on local studies and family history that they have available. Information on the library can be found at:

In the evening we saw "A Winter's Tale" at the Courtyard Theatre. The performance was okay, but there is definitely something to be said about seeing a Shakespeare play whilest in Shakespeare-land.

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London Library-07/13/10

What can I say about this place...if I were spending ample time in London I would definitely be paying the 32.90 pounds per month for membership (who needs a gym membership when you can have this)! Simply an amazing ambience with great historical value. Located at 14 St James's Square, members are able to peruse items including rare books dating from the 16th to the 21st century, as well as special collections and journals. The library was founded in 1841 by Thomas Carlyle and has continuously served as an intellectual home to many great writers. A few of my favorites who have "lived" in these walls include: Arthur Conan Doyle, George Bernard Shaw, George Eliot, T. S. Eliot, Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, and A. C. Grayling. Here are a few fun sites to some of these writers:

Like a Sherlock Holmes mystery, the building itself is a maze to be solved, as various stairs take you up various levels of various portions of the library. There is the main St James's building, the Central Stack, the Back Stacks, and the TS Eliot House. For such a small looking building on the outside, there is quite a large area to be discovered inside.

During the library tour I was amazed to see how little was available to preserve the materials here for such a great collection of rare books. The rare books used to be down in the basement where the pipes were located, conditions were too dry, and there was no preservation department. They now have a very meager but cleverly designed conservation room with pull out cupboards and storage and a large work table. There are places to store skins and vellum for the books, carts with wheels that can be moved around easily, and a large filter to help rid particles in the air (for health reasons rather than for the books).

Any book from the 1700's onward is in the regular collections, but anything dated before that is not on the main shelves. In the process of reorganizing the collections (specifically moving the rare books out of the basement) a lot of work was done. 85,000 books had to be moved to arrange an area for periodicals; 35,000 rare books had basic conservation procedures done; and a total of 14 kilometers of books were moved in a fairly recent project. They spent 4.5 years to clean the whole library, and then due to a building project that had to be done they have had to start the cleaning process again. The librarians literally have to dust and clean each shelve and each book housed there.

From the special collections I was able to see Shakespeare's 4th folio, medical essays that had been on the ship Bounty, a book of Henry VIII's which was bound in London and included what he wrote in regards to Martin Luther, a 1st edition of Charles Darwin's "Origin of a Species" and some of his other works, and a proof copy of Lawrence of Arabia's "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom".

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Greenwich Maritime Museum Library-07/12/10

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The National Maritime Museum houses the main museum, the Royal Observatory and the Queen's House. It became a World Heritage site in 1997. The museum was established by an act of Parliament in 1934 and was opened to the public in 1937.

Visiting the Observatory included viewing Astronomy Centre, Flamsteed House, and the famous sea clocks of John Harrison. Here I stood over the Prime Meridian of the World, at 0 degrees longitude! Just the climb up to the obersvatory proved to be worthwhile, as the view over the city below was magnificent. I also touched "the oldest thing you'll ever touch", a rock that is 4.5 billion years old.

I paid a quick visit to Queen's House and saw the Tulip Stairs. This is a spiral staircase that has no central support column, the first of it's kind in Britain. There are many paintings throughout the House, some portraits, some seascapes. The House was completed in 1638 and was a summer house for Queen Henrietta Maria the wife of Charles I.

At the museum itself can be found several galleries and exhibits including collections of ship models, the uniform coat (with bullet hole) that Nelson wore during the battle off Cape Trafalgar, and explorations of the world and oceans to name only a few. It is in the main museum that Caird Library is housed. It is possibly the largest maritime museum in the world, and includes materials on emmigration, navigation, piracy, voyages, and exploration. 12 staff members work in this publicly funded library. It contains four miles of shelving, houses 8,000 rare books, and has an archive catalog of 70,000+. Here I got to see a list of crew members and their positions on the HMS Caledonia. I also saw a weighted book, a tactic used where lead shot was placed in the spine of a book, so that it would sink rather than leave important information in the hands of the enemy. I also got to see and feel a series of little books made from the wood, which rumor has it was of the Royal George which sank. They are small volumes with leather bindings and silk ribbons and tell the accounts of the loss of the Royal George which sank in 1782 right in the harbour with the families of the sailors on board, killing 900 people. The highlight for me was viewing a book called "Buchanon's Domestic Medicine", written and used byBuchanon who was the ships surgeon on The Bounty (from "Mutiny on the Bounty")!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The British Library-07/08/10

What a day! Unbelievable. I came on this program with the hopes of seeing maybe one or two illuminated manuscripts (hopefully) and with the illusory dream of seeing the Pearl manuscript (pretty sure it wasn't going to happen). On this tour I got to see a massive number of illuminated manuscripts on display in the treasure room at the library. The little gem pictured above is from the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and although not the Pearl poem, it is the very manuscript (of the Pearl poet) that I had hoped to see. The manuscript Cotton Nero A.x actually contains Sir Gawain as well as three religious poems: Pearl, Cleanness, and Patience. I was awestruck and still cannot believe I was staring at this manuscript. It is unknown who the "Pearl" or "Gawain" poet was, but the manuscript became part of the Cotton collection. It is Sir Robert Cotton and the history of his collection of illuminated manuscripts that I will be doing my research paper on for class.

And then there was the rest of the treasure room...where do I begin? I saw the oldest and only known surviving copy of Beowulf; Common Place Book of John Milton; Jane Austen's "Volume the Third"; Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre"; a copy of the Gutenberg Bible (1454-55); Wordsworth's "Poem of Childhood"; many missals, psalters, and book of hours; the Codex Sinaiticus from the middle of the 4th Century which contains the Christian Bible in Greek and is the oldest complete version of the new testament; copy of the Revelation of St. John; a manuscript notebook of Leonardo da Vinci including studies of mechanics, notes on arithmetic, and notes on architecture; the original Alice in Wonderland (plus a Russian version, Walt Disney version, Salvador Dali version--interesting); Mendellsohn's "Wedding March" , Schubert's "An Die Musik"! This list could go on and on! (See more at: ). The exhibitions rotate and some items are at locations other than the British Library.

The library opened in 1998, it basically broke off of the growing Reading Room of the British Museum. It was amazingly built as part of St. Pancreas tube station and the Northern line actually goes through the middle of lower levels of the library and can be heard down in the basement. You still must apply for a reading card as you did back in T.S. Eliot's day (see previous post on British Museum), but once excepted you pretty much have access to anything you want, this fact I find astonishing. There is a mechanized system that brings items selected and delivers them to various reading rooms, depending where you are or which reading room you are using. Although no books have ever been lost on this massive belt system, rare books are not placed on these but are rather delivered by hand to the desired room.

Outside in front of the library are many sculptures including one of Blake and Newton that represents art and science. There is also a tree dedicated to Anne Frank.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

British Museum-07/07/10

This was another great day! Our group split up into smaller sections for our tour of the archives, so we began by checking out the museum. There is so much in the museum, it was hard to choose what best to look at and be sure not to miss. The Rosetta Stone was a necessity and was close to the front of the museum (see picture above--image available from ). There were so many people trying to get pictures of it, a little bit tricky to maneuver through the area (worse than getting at the Mona Lisa, Kate). The stone is marked with an inscription dated 196 BCE. It was rediscovered in 1799 during a French expedition to Egypt.

The British Museum was established in 1753 , beginning with the 71,000 objects collected by Sir Hans Sloane. Items in the collection included books and manuscripts, prints and drawings, and some antiquities including coins and medals, and natural history collections that have since been moved to create the Natural History Museum. The original site was at Montague House, a 17th Century Mansion, but this was eventually replaced by the new building which now stands. I was able to view several exhibits and items including: Egyptian sarcophogi mummies, Mayan bloodletting, the Enlightenment Room, and a very old copy of a Chinese scroll that is apparently the oldest landscape scene in existance, the original copy no longer exists. The mountain scene on it reminds me of a picture on one of my books on writing (Cameron), I will have to compare the pictures.

The tour of the archives was very interesting and covered the history of the museum itself. There are archival materials for governance, staff, finance, exhibitions, and reading room records. I saw photographs taken by photographer Roger Fenton, including pictures of damage to the museum during WWII and saw a shell (very large) that had landed in the building (see for more information on Fenton). I also got to see some very old photographs of zoological objects. The pictures remain at the British Museum but the actual objects are at the Natural History Museum.

The highlight for me would have to have been seeing the records of writer T.S. Eliot that are in the archive. "Readers" to the collections had to have references and an application approved before they could use the resources at the museum. The archive has his original request for a reading card, a very formal letter; his index card, #B7009; and signature.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Barbican Library-07/06/10

Today I visited the City of London's Barbican Library. At this site is perhaps the oldest public library service in England, known as Guildhall. There are several historical sites and ruins in the surrounding area including the church where Milton is buried.

Information on Guildhall can be found at the link below:

The rest of the center is very modern, it opened in 1982; with conference rooms, theaters, and a cafe. The outdoor areas are filled with flowerbeds and fountains.

The library includes the Main Library, Music Library, Children's Library, and Art Library. The first thing I saw in a display cabinet of the Music Library were vinyl records and pictures of...(guess who family)...Adam Ant! I took a couple of pictures. The music library also has a really great reference book. The librarian here stated that a lot of visitors come here trying to locate a song and actually try to sing it to him if they don't know the name! Funny. Anyway, he called the reference book an "up-down" book as you start with the first note then decide if the next note will be up or down from the first, and so-on until you derive at the song you were trying to locate (not sure of exact details). In the Art Library they allow mostly new artists to display their work for 15GBP per month. The library, in return, gets 20 or 25% of sales. I enjoyed the Children's Library as well. It had it's own glass door to the outside of the center making it very bright and cheerful inside, especially with all the colorful chairs and books, and the dangling planets that hung from the ceiling. There is a program partially funded by the government called "Book Start" in which every child that is born in this "city-within-a-city" receives a book bag from the library to get them started reading, as well as two more packets as they age.

The highlight for me at the Barbican Center was actually the theater show we saw later in the evening, "Nevermore: the Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe". It was amazing, theater meets Poe meets Tim Burton...There was not a large variety in the musical portion, but it was well suited and some portions quite powerful for this dark performance. I hope to read some reviews on what others thought of the musical and would love to get my hands on the score if available somewhere!

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St. Paul's Cathedral Library-07/05/10

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The above picture is an example of a psalter, similar to one I viewed at St. Paul's Cathedral library. This was very exciting, my first "in person" illuminated manuscript! The room was quite small and smelled wonderful (musty smell of old paper...nothing quite like it). We got to sit on benches and chairs in the library while our guide, the librarian Joe Wisdom (that really is his name) spoke to us about the library and the church. We viewed several other rooms on this level of the church and saw where some stone cleaning is done by volunteer students (overseen by the conservetor). There is one room, which is fairly empty, that they are unsure what it was originally used for. I inquired about it being a scriptorium, but due to the date that the church was rebuilt (after the Great Fire) printing had now begun, so they do not believe it was a scriptorium. I did get referred to the College of Arms ( ) that were still "hand script writing" at that time, so I might have to pay a visit if I get a chance. I also got to see the geometric staircase (I believe used in Harry Potter?) which was really great.

The Cathedral was beautiful, as well. I did not have time to climb to the top or to the Whispering Gallery, but did go down to the crypt. The crypt has a series of pictures that shows a timeline of events that have taken place in the cathedral. A few of my favorites include: 1621, John Dunne (poet) becomes Dean of St. Paul's; 1666, Great Fire of London; 1940, Blitz, Churchill declares St. Paul's must be saved; and 2001, after 9/11 becomes place of mourning. One other interesting item in the crypt was a memorial to the Korean Vets ("let them not be forgotten by God"). Possibly NATO was involved in this war? I was unaware and will have to check into.

A Cathedral has been at this location since 604AD, the current one is the fourth (after the Great Fire of London) and was designed by architech Christopher Wren. It was built from 1675 to 1710 and still holds an organ from 1695 which Mendelssohn played.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


(This is a great site for searching for manuscripts!)

"to light up"

As I prepare for my study abroad I cannot remove from my mind the numerous written "histories" that will be so close at hand. Ready to lose myself in illuminated manuscripts (as well as many other types of literature), I find myself "lit up".

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