July 16th and 17th- Blair Castle

For my research project, my central focus is around the functioning of a museum and archives within an operating castle. To study this first hand, I visited Blair Castle in Blair Atholl, Scotland in the Highlands. I was given the opportunity to visit the castle for two days while staying in town at a local hunting lodge turned hotel. My first day at the castle consisted of a brief self-guided tour to get a general understanding of the grounds and museum, and a meeting with the estate archivist, Jane Anderson.

First view of the castle when walking up from the road.

First view of the castle when walking up from the road.

I walked through the museum portion of the castle; however, I was only able to take pictures of the great hall but nothing else inside the castle. The entrance of the castle brings you through the entrance hall were museum guides greeted me and gave a brief summary of the flow of the museum. Then I moved to the first rooms that gave blocked timelines of the family, castle, estate and Scotland as a nation. Walking through the rooms then up the portrait staircase. I was brought to the second floor with many beautifully decorated and furnished rooms from the 17th to 19th century. The castle also had specific exhibit gallery rooms. As of now the rooms were filled with exhibits on World War I, the Jacobites and the Atholl Highlanders.

The Great Hall.

The Great Hall.

Following my tour, I meet with archivist and curator Jane Anderson in the archive rooms in the clock tower. In 2012, the clock tower roof caught fire and damaged the top of the tower. The estate decided to refurbish the tower and turn the rooms into a state of the art archives. My meeting in these rooms went great, and I gained a lot of knowledge and information. Jane was very open about her role and the role of the archives within the estate and museum. The castle opened to visitors in 1936 a few years after the estate became an independence charitable organization. However, the archives got organized and arranged by the 7th Duke of Atholl in late 1800s. The archives include the chronicles of the Dukes’ family, history of lands with records of land purchases and exchanges, Atholl family correspondences from the 17th century and many other records from the last 400 years. By the end of my meeting, I came away seeing how valuable and under used the archives are for their history of the area and Scotland.

Tower in which the archives are located.

Tower in which the archives are located.

Me taking notes inside the new archive study room.

Me taking notes inside the new archive study room.

On my second day visiting Blair Castle, I decided to start by going to the Hercules Garden and the Diana Forrest on the estate grounds. Both places have specific importance to the history of the castle and Dukedom of Atholl. The Hercules Garden has its own mini museum galleries in the apple house and curling house. Both include the history of the garden and house with the development and restoration; activities in the garden over the centuries; and things that happened to the land in the area (hunting, fishing, transportation, lumber). The main garden contained a laminated information page at the entrance about a general history of the garden and the restoration, major plants in the garden and key eliminates and structures. I was lucky when getting to visit on my second day. I arrived early in the morning and the night before had rained a lot, so there were hardly any visitors at the castle.  I got to walk with gardens with no one else and that made for a peaceful time after the craziness of London.

Hercules Garden.

Hercules Garden.

Display in the Apple House.

Display in the Apple House about Life at Blair Castle.

I also ventured through the forrest around the castle.  Up through the forrest there is an old kirk also known as a chapel called St. Bride’s Kirk.  Records show the kirk dating as far back as 1275 then is mentioned again in 1475. Then in 1689 the body of Viscount Dundee or Bonnie Dundee were buried at the kirk after his mortal wound at the Battle of Killiecrankie. The battle was fought between the Scottish Highlanders supporting James VII of Scotland and those supporting William of Orange for the English crown.  The kirk started falling into disrepair in the 1800s once the town of Old Blair moved locations along the river. The kirk shows yet another place at the estate related to Scottish history and importance.

Forrest around Blair Castle.

Forrest around Blair Castle.

Ruins of St. Bride's Kirk.

Ruins of St. Bride’s Kirk.

Concluding my trip through the surrounding area, I ventured back into the castle to view the museum a second time. This time I sought to focus on items from the archives used to support the story being told in the museum. I was able to find many examples of the archive’s being used to tell the castle story. For example in many rooms there were placed copies of furniture and portrait purchases to show ownership and dating of the items in the room. There is also a framed printed copy from 1746 of the outline of the Battle of Culloden on April 16, 1746. Since the family was so heavily involved in the Jacobite uprising there are many items and documents from the period within the museum.

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To conclude my trip to Blair Castle, I visited the castle café to have a coffee and cake. I sat outside staring out to the castle grounds and wrote my notes of my visit. My final thoughts concluded that the castle and Jane Anderson were friendly and welcoming. I was impressed with the professionalism of the staff, the beauty of the castle and grounds, and the overall awe of Blair Castle.

Me outside the castle.

Me outside the castle.

July 15th- Edinburgh Central Library

Day two of Edinburgh, Scotland! Our class began this day at the National Library of Scotland. At this location we did not have a tour or talk with any librarians or archivist; instead, we walked through the gift shop and exhibition gallery. This summer the library has put on an exhibit about Scottish food through the centuries. The exhibit was very interactive and showed the diversity in Scottish food not otherwise thought of by common stereotypes.

After the National Library, we walked across the street to the public library of Edinburgh Central Library. For this tour our class broke into three groups. My tour guide, Graham, works with the online and digital library and collections. He took us up the main staircase while giving us a brief history of the library. The library opened in 1890 by Andrew Carnegie. He wished to have open access libraries for the whole of the public. Even though the library was available to the public, men and women had different entrances. The women even had a room with a fireplace for their more “delicate sex.” With the building of the library, Edinburgh became the last large Scottish city to gain a public library.

Entrance to the Edinburgh Central Library.

Entrance to the Edinburgh Central Library.

At the top of the staircase, we walked into the reference library. The room acts as a study area for the public and contains open access computers. Under the domed ceiling of the reference library there only housed one third of the reference collection. After viewing the reference room, we moved to the children’s library. The children’s library used to be in a separate building but in recent years moved into the main building. They took over the part of the building that used to be a computer lab and resource center with technology for those with sight or hearing disabilities. This resource has now been moved outside into the community by giving iPods and resources to smaller libraries around the city. The program has become very successful. As for the children’s library, there are shelved book rooms, a storytelling room and a craft room.

Domed ceiling in reference room.

Domed ceiling in reference room.

Hidden staircase in the reference room.

Hidden staircase in the reference room.

Children's Library.

Children’s Library.

The library also consists of a lending library through the main entrance on the third floor. The library lends about 20,000 items a month through circulation and uses the Library of Congress cataloging system. The library still contains catalog cards because not everything has been placed online.

After the walking tour, we moved to a conference room for a presentation with coffee, tea and cookies. The first presentation was lead by the head of acquisitions. She gave information specifically on the central library. They have over one million items in the library and everything in the library is open to the public. When the library first opened about 10,000 pamphlets were donated to their collection. Some pamphlets go back to the 15th century including information on the Jacobites and golf. The special collections at the library are unique because they are meant for the public not just for preserving the past, but for future use.

The next presentation was from the library system’s Business Development Manager. Her role is distinctive because she does not have a library degree but a business background, therefore, she operates in a more cooperate mindset. In her presentation, she explained some programs that have been developed for the whole library system that are successful and unique. The first being the library’s program for dyslexia. They have partnered with the organization Dyslexia Scotland to form book clubs for ages 8-12. Volunteers trained in reading with dyslexia run the groups. The club’s are successful enough for the library to start forming teenage and adult groups. Another program is Edinburgh Reads and Reading Rainbows for kids ages four. In rainbows, kids are given two books each year then the libraries centered on the books put on events. The library gives about 1200 kids books each year.

The last presentation given centered on the digital and information team for the whole library system. The team has created many digital and online resources and programs for the library. They have developed a library portal for patrons to access all online services. Additionally, the library involves itself in social media to advertise events and sources and to interact with the public. Moreover, the team has set up eBooks, audiobooks and online magazines. The presenter also have us the main goals of the digital team to better themselves for the public. They strive for 24/7 accesses to library services, promoting libraries through multiple channels and to increase use of Edinburgh libraries.

Overall, the trip to Edinburgh Central Library was enriching, fascinating and welcoming. No doubt the public that uses the library also feels this.

July 14th- New College Library, University of Edinburgh

We are in SCOTLAND! After a day of traveling we arrived at the University of Edinburgh to begin an adventure in the new city. Our first day of class in Edinburgh began at one of the university’s libraries, New College Library. This library is located at the center of the old town of the city right off the Royal Mile down the road from Edinburgh Castle. The library acts as the school of divinity’s library.

New College Library.

New College Library.

Me outside the doors to the New College Library.

Me outside the doors to the New College Library.

The librarian who guided us through the library began with the history of the library and building. The story began with the breakdown or destruction of the Church of Scotland. One third of the ministers walked out and started the new Free Church of Scotland. The new organization needed a college to train ministers and started the New College and formed the library. The library had to start from scratch and asked for many donations. They requested items from women, authors, publishers and private individuals. The building for the library was built in 1846 but originally acted as a church before becoming the college library. The building became a library during the unification of the church in 1929. By 1936 the library opened in their current building. At this point, the New College went under the University of Edinburgh and the New College Library became one of the largest theological special collection libraries in the United Kingdom. The library still has the original 1930s furniture through out.

The library started with strong protestant support and items but now the library provides information on a wide variety of religious studies. However about 40% of the items are not cataloged leading to one of the bigger issues for the library. The books are mostly cataloged by Library of Congress system since 2002, and just started using Primo. In the Funk Reading Room, we observed some treasures of the library’s special collections. This included a Book of Common Prayers from 1637 and Calvin: Institutes of Christian Religion from 1536.

After viewing the objects in the reading room, we moved to a tour of the library. The main room of the library contains no desktop computers or group study rooms. As of right now the library believes this is to be a good thing since no other library offers that type of peace and simplicity. Yet our guide did mention that there are talks of changing that in the future. I personally would like it to stay the same since other school libraries do offer the computers and rooms, why not keep a library simply books and tables for studying.

The open stacks were next on our tour. The shelves of the stacks are structural elements of the building and therefore cannot be moved. The fixed shelves hold up the ceiling to the floor above. Below the open stacks are the closed stacks of the special collections. After viewing the open stacks our morning at the University of Edinburgh’s New College Library concluded.

Following our tour of the library, I made the choice to go visit Edinburgh Castle. I walked up the Royal Mile at which the castle sits atop. The castle is one of the major tourist attractions of the city and the lines were long and the spaces crowded. However, I still greatly enjoyed seeing the castle. Within the walls housed the Scottish royal jewels and many Scottish exhibits. After viewing these, a friend and I went to the castle tearoom and had a traditional afternoon tea. This completed a delightful trip to the castle.

Entering Edinburgh Castle.

Entering Edinburgh Castle.

Dog cemetery at Edinburgh Castle.

Dog cemetery at Edinburgh Castle.

My afternoon tea at the castle.

My afternoon tea at the castle.

July 9th- National Maritime Museum Archives and Library

To reach our location of the National Maritime Museum our class took the river taxi down the Thames to arrive at Greenwich. Greenwich used to be the location of the Greenwich Palace the birthplace of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. The palace is no longer standing instead the National Maritime Museum stands in the same area along with a university.

Stone marking the placing of Greenwich Palace.

Stone marking the placing of Greenwich Palace.

Once we arrived at the museum we were escorted to a meeting room to go over the functions and collections of the library. The librarian showed our group a certificate of offices (master mariners). This is a great resource for family history with the physical description, address and ship occupations listed. Additionally, he showed rare books including a children’s poem about the arctic and Inuit people and another book titled “People of the Eskimo” by an anonymous author. There were also bound handwritten journals that are unique since there are no other similar writings for the time. The journal describes a journey from Plymouth to London by boat in the 17th century.

Entrance to the Museum.

Entrance to the Museum.

Original copy of a master mariner certificate.

Original copy of a master mariner certificate.

After viewing the rare items, our guide moved to the online archives to show the funeral documents about Admiral Lord Nelson and used some objects to tell the story. Nelson won the battle of Trafalgar but left the field mortally wounded. Online he showed scanned sketches of the funeral with a large procession in which lasted days. The librarian also explained why the items were chosen and showed a wide variety of items and stories. This concluded our first portion of the tour in the meeting room.

Documents related to Admiral Lord Nelson.

Documents related to Admiral Lord Nelson.

We then went the Caird Library reading room named after Sir James Caird, the found father of the museum. The room is both staffed by archives and librarians. A third of the books are shelved in the library and the rest in storage. The shelved books are open access and others have to be ordered down along with manuscripts. The library contains both a library and archives catalog. There is access to ancestry, which has now scanned many master mariner certificates that can be searched and read. Their archives tend to get merchant related items whereas the National Archives receives Royal Naval items. In general the library and archives gets about 200 written and 100 calls enquires a month. Our tour of the Caird Library and their back stacks concluded the tour of the National Maritime Museum Archives and Library.

Beautiful day in Greenwich.

Beautiful day in Greenwich.

July 8th- Magna Cart and King’s College Library

This summer the British Library is offering a special exhibit on the Magna Carta. Attending the exhibit was not apart of our required course but an optional visit. Since I LOVE, medieval English history, I had to attend the event. The exhibit started off with historical documents and artifacts leading up to the signing of the paper. Following information on King John and the Barons who pushed for the document, the exhibit moved onto the changes made to the Magna Carta over the subsequent centuries. Then the exhibit showed how the document influenced other governmental pieces such as the Declaration of Independence. The library obtained from the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson’s personal copy of the Declaration of Independence and the state of Delaware’s copy of the Bill of Rights. Nowhere in the exhibit were there security guides except next to these documents. Interesting that the two copies of the Magna Carta had no security yet the Library of Congress had the borrowed American documents on guard. In general, the exhibit was very interesting and included a lot of information spanning a wide range of time.

Opening banner about Magna Carta (no photos were allowed within the gallery.)

Opening banner about Magna Carta (no photos were allowed within the gallery.)

Following the optional trip to the British Library, our class meet at King’s College Maughan Library and Special Collections. Like many other of our tours, King’s College divided our class into two groups to better move through the libraries. My group began with the history of the building and library. The doors to the new library opened in 2001, however, the building had been around since the 19th century. The building originally housed the National Archives but like many other buildings, became too small. The archives moved in the 1980s and left the building vacant until King’s College purchased the location for one of their libraries.

Outside view of the library.

Outside view of the library.

The clock tower was originally built to hold water since the building used to house all the national archives. Fire was a real threat and taken very seriously.

The clock tower was originally built to hold water since the building used to house all the national archives. Fire was a real threat and taken very seriously.

We entered the library through the staff entrance and were shown a corridor with what used to be small rooms filled with archives. Each room has been remolded inside for staff use but the original case iron doors hang next to the door entrances. These doors and the small rooms were designed to help prevent the spread of fire. A single room at the end of the corridor has been maintained in the original design with the solid steal and sleet shelving and big windows. The architecture did a good job at converting the building combining a mix of old and new. Not just in the corridor but throughout the building. There remain red titles along many walls and cast iron staircases with large windows. There have been some walls dry walled, painted or removed for more space and lighting.

The small archive rooms with the original case iron doors hanging on the walls.

The small archive rooms with the original case iron doors hanging on the walls.

The functioning academic library contains a reference area, meeting rooms, laptop rentals and three different student rooms. One of these rooms is the Round Reading Room. The room modeled after the British Library reading room originally at the British Museum. There are additionally smaller areas of studying on the second floor. To end this portion of the tour, we moved to the Weston Room. The Weston room is the oldest part of the building with a structure they’re dating back to the 13th century. The building used to house documents from the courts and at one point the structure acted as a chapel. Presently, this part of the library houses the exhibition gallery.

Round Reading Room.

Round Reading Room.

The second part of the tour took my group over to the special collections of the library. The collections contain 180,000 printed items with strengths in theology, science, medicine, exploration, literature, history and travel. The special collections librarians showed us a few of their more prized items. This included a copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle, a history up to 1493. A copy of the 1522 Halberstadt Bible with hand colored illustrations. We were also shown some American related items. The Charters of the Providence of Pennsylvania signed by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. Additionally, we were shown the special medical collection. This includes items of sciences, psychology and medicine. The earliest items come from the 15th century regarding natural sciences and plants but mostly the items come from the 18th and 19th century. The collection includes a copy of Andrew Jenner’s book on smallpox with his signature and a copy of Culpepper’s Medicine with notes inside the book from the original owner.

July 6th- St. Paul’s Library and the National Art Library at Victoria and Albert Museum

My trip to St. Paul’s Cathedral began by climbing up the southwestern staircase. Our tour guide, Librarian Joe Wisdom, started by informing our group that BBC’s television crew might get in the way since they were setting up for filming the next day. Due to the filming, there were electric cables and lights all over the second floor we toured. To truly begin our tour, we walked through the upper gallery with framed pictures and a wall of shelved stones from earlier parts of the cathedral. Joe Wisdom mentioned the cathedral was not set up as a museum in the legal sense but they still tried to operate as a museum in regards to preservation and handling of the artifacts.

Me on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral.

Me on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

After walking around and viewing the cathedral from the second floor, Librarian Wisdom brought us to a room with a very large-scale rendering of the original cathedral design. The original model was very unpopular in England and ended up not being built. The clergy desired a more classic cross cathedral design instead of the new architectural dome design.

The last stop on the tour of St. Paul Cathedral was the cathedral’s library. Joe Wisdom talked about the environment or the need to look at the envelope (location/storage) of the collection. The gutters and drains of the building can impact the collection if something happens so the librarians needs to pay attention to every part of the surroundings. Additionally, Wisdom discussed the conservation of the library. He showed us how to properly grab books from the shelf and to not pull from the top of the binding but instead to push the books next to the desired text and then grab it in the middle. As for cataloging, the big books were on the bottom and the small books on the top, and then the books were organized alphabetically.

The tour of the library concluded our visit of St. Paul Cathedral; we then moved over to the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum. My group started with the “treasures” of the library. Many of the books were rare because of their age and publication genre. There was a 1589 book about Tailoring. The book was the first book published on the subject. Prior to the book, tailoring was a mysterious trade yet the book shined light on the topic. There was also a 1500s New Testament book with white satin cover and amazing detailed pages. Through the treasures portion of the tour, our guide explained that there is an estimated 1 million books in the collection. There are still some items not stored in proper archival boxes but they are slowly switching over.

One of the rare treasures at the National Arts Library.

One of the rare treasures at the National Arts Library. Published 1833.

The second portion of the tour gave the history and functions of the library. The reading room and center room are open to the public during certain hours. The strength of the collection is around decretive arts and design. Not really information about painting but items around such as furniture, textiles and silverware. The library is Britain’s leading public arts and design reference library, however, if the item is very rare the user needs to write-in a reason to why they want to use the item. The library does have a wide range of visitors from students, auction houses, writers, and artist. All the people are welcomed.

Reading Room at National Art Gallery.

Reading Room at National Art Gallery.

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As for the history of the library and collection, it all started in 1837 when the library for the government’s school of design opened. In 1852, the library moved locations and in 1884 purpose built rooms for the library were created that are still used today. After giving the brief history and functions of the library as a reference center, we moved through the stacks and offices of the library. That ended our trip to the National Art Library.

July 3rd- Arundel Castle

Many of my days are spent traveling with my class and touring institutions with other students. However on Fridays we have research days in which we are to travel to institutions related to our research paper or spend time researching about our topic. Originally my topic focused on the functioning of archives and museums with the institution of a historical castle. I wanted to case study three castles: Blair Castle, Cardiff Castle and Arundel Castle. However after discussions with my professors, I realized that studying three institutions would be too large of a paper and narrowed my topic to the study of the archives and museums within Blair Castle in Scotland. Even though my research plans now only required a visit to Blair, I still desired to visit Arundel Castle in the south of England.

This trip required for me to travel first by the tube system and then by the National Rail. The National Rail was a little tricky but I arrived at the small yet adorable Arundel station. I walked from the station up to the castle through the quant retire-aged town of Arundel.

Train station at Arundel.

Train station at Arundel.

River side view of the town.

River side view of the town.

To start my castle visit, I first went up to the castle restaurant and ate an amazing jalapeño quiche with a small salad. Then I decided to purchase the Gold Plus ticket that allowed me to see all the open room’s of the castle. Since the castle is still owned and lived in by the Duke of Norfolk’s family, there are limited open times and locations. Some of the castle is permanently closed and no pictures are allowed inside except for the castle keep that is completely open to the public as a museum exhibit.

First view of the castle when walking up the hill from the street.

First view of the castle when walking up the hill from the street.

My self-guided tour first took me to the castle keep that included displays of life in the middle ages. The displays included that of a lady-in-waiting and the guards’ room. The keep was amazing and was in great condition. I enjoyed getting to walk-up the narrow twisting staircases. My feet could barely fit on many of the steps. I was excited to explore so much of the keep whereas other castles such as Warwick greatly restrict the movement of visitors.

Photo of the keep from the outside.

Photo of the keep from the outside.

Inside view of the castle keep.

Inside view of the castle keep.

After thoroughly exploring the keep, I moved onto the Great Chapel, hall and library. All three were exquisite with beautiful stain glass windows in the chapel, two massive fireplaces in the hall and oak paneling in the library. In the hall there was a visiting collection on family crests and 3D models of many famous families. The library was beautiful but unlike other “museums” many of the items where still in use. Two of the desk had modern phones and framed family photos of the Duke and Duchess. Moreover there were other current photos placed along with more historical photos throughout the castle. I found this really interesting with the mixture of ancestral history and the modern family.

Finally, my tour took me to the bedrooms. Many of the bedrooms are still used as guest rooms by the family. However, each is still decorated in the 18th and 19th century styles with bath features from the time period along with the wallpaper and furniture. One of the bedroom suites displayed an exhibit about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s stay for a week during their reign.

After I finished my tour in the castle, I went to the castle café and got an iced coffee. I then took my coffee and sat on a bench in the castle gardens. My train back to London did not leave for another two hours so I decided to sit and read for a while. By far one of the most relaxing reads as I sat in the garden with a few of the English flowers and the castle to the left of me. Following my reading time, I strolled through the Rose Garden and the Earl’s Garden.

View from my bench while reading in the gardens.

View from my bench while reading in the gardens.

Some roses planted in the Rose Garden.

Some roses planted in the Rose Garden.

My trip to Arundel was a much-needed time of relaxation away from the chaos of London. I appreciated the beautiful rooms of the castle and the historically interesting keep. I also enjoyed my time reading in the gardens. I felt as though I were in a British television set.

View of me outside the castle.

View of me outside the castle.

July 2nd- British Museum and The Royal Geographical Society

On this Thursday, we once again split into two groups for our tours. Since I joined the second group, I had the opportunity to walk around the exhibits before the guided tour of the archives. The British Museum contains a large Egyptian exhibit, which did not disappoint. There were many large statues of pharaohs and sphinx. There were more mummies than I have ever seen in one location including two full rooms of mummies with their sarcophagus’. Additionally, I visited the medieval exhibit, which was not as enjoyable as the Ashmolean Medieval exhibit. There were lots of church related artifacts but no real big pieces. Furthermore, I went to the Enlightenment gallery that once contained the King’s Library now housed at the new British Library. There room retained the look of a library with shelved books and artifacts found during the Enlightenment period.

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Enlightenment Gallery.

Enlightenment Gallery.

After viewing the museum, I joined back up with my group to tour the central museum archives. Each department within the museum contains their own archives, but everything goes through the central archives first. The central archives’ archivist brought us down to the storage rooms of the archives. At first glance the archives were organized beautifully in gorgeous bound books, however, the archivist would later tell us the books are damaging to the materials and not a good dell of help with organization. There are many random bound documents each organized into a different system each couple of decades.

Doors to Central Archives at the British Museum.

Doors to Central Archives at the British Museum.

Along with informing our group of the archival system, our tour guide also gave us a brief history of the archives and the museum. Hans Sloane was the first collector of antiquities to donate to the nation. Along with two other collections, Parliament created the National Museum. Eventually, the Montagu House was purchased and the museum placed within their walls. Over time, the museum expanded and remolded to fit the growing collections. All this information can be found in the first records of the archives. The museum also formed a Trustee group. They had to agree on every purchase or donation. At first all went into the records as antiquities. Therefore, there are many records labeled antiquities. The archives also contain the trustee meeting minutes, letters and purchases.

Following our guide’s brief history, she moved onto the current state of the archives. They have yet to digitalize any of the archives and have only had an online catalog for the past 18 months. Both processes cost a lot of money. Additionally, the archives have no formalized organizational system. They’re random and multiple ways of recording. Some series have been divided and other bound books are missing information that is found in other areas. In general, the archives are an important aspect to the museum but are in need of more staff and support to weed through the mass amount of information.

Some of the bound documents at the Central Archives.

Some of the bound documents at the Central Archives.

Next on the agenda for the day was the Royal Geographical Society. This “tour” contained a very different structure to our other activities. The society had our whole group sit around a large table as the society’s librarian spoke to us of the collection and his job. As with other organizations, he gave us a brief history of the library and society. The Royal Geographical Society was founded in 1830 to form support for the science of geography and people going out on explorations. The collection now contains 2 millions items after donations and the many supported explorations.

The Royal Geographical Society.

The Royal Geographical Society.

To give us the stories, the librarian organized his speech by first those explorations in the cold then those in the heat. The cold aspect consisted of adventures in the artic. The British in the 17th and 18th century were trying to find a passage way through the North Artic. To illustrate the stories, he showed us maps, photos, and artifacts from the explorers. By the 1920s, the societies main interests lie in Mount Everest. Once again, he used items from the collection to tell the stories. This included a shoe from the explorers and a set of goggles. As for the hot stories, they began with the desire to find the source of the Nile River. These events were told through the pictures, maps and artifacts related to the explorers and places. Throughout the whole time many items of the collection were shown to us but we were not allowed to take pictures of the items.

The uniqueness of the librarian’s job at the Royal Geographical Society includes acting as archivist, curator and researcher. The librarian gets to meet and work with actors to writers on projects dealing with the explorations. Additionally, he works with cruise lines on historical information about places the ships visit. Even though the society does not support explorations anymore, they give out grants to people working with indigenous people and books and maps are continually being added to the collection.

By the end of the day, I realized that both the librarian from the Royal Geographical Society and the archivist from the British Museum had to know the history behind the collection to fulfill their job duties. Both positions were heavily connected to artifacts within a museum collection.

July 1st- British Library and London Library

To start this day, our class traveled to the King’s Cross station with the famous Platform 9 3/4th.  I got to take an individual photo with the baggage cart and owl.  There was also a Harry Potter gift shop with many fun items for Harry Potter fans.

Platform 9 3/4.

Platform 9 3/4. I’m in Slytherin.

After traveling with the class on the tube to the British Library, we split into two groups to begin our tours. The building we toured opened in 1997 after 36 years of construction to act as the libraries’ new home outside of the British Museum. The building became the biggest public building of the century. Prior to the libraries current location, the British Library was housed in the British Museum but quickly ran out of space. By the 1990s the humanities collection was the only part of the library at the museum. The rest were scattered throughout London. The new location at first handled all the collections however the library eventually developed another storage area in Yorkshire where half the collection is currently stored.

Once our tour guide led us through the early history of the building and the reader’s membership room, she brought us to a back sorting room. The room housed one of many machines that transported books throughout the library. There are miles of conveyer belts with boxes for people ordering books from storage. The scanning system brings books to where it needs to go, however no rare books or damaged books are used on the system.

Following the transportation and sorting system, we traveled to the King’s Library. Originally gifted by George the Fourth from his father, George III’s large library collection. However, the gift came with strict rules. The collection had to always be shelved where the public could see the books. Due to the stipulation, the collection is now housed in a six-floor glass tower in the heart of the library. The glass library stores 100,000 volumes from the King’s collection and the Thomas Cranmer collection.

King's Library.

King’s Library.

Me in-front of the entrance to King's Library.

Me in-front of the entrance to King’s Library.

Once viewing the King’s Library, we watched a short film on the library then went to the outside reading room. To finish our tour, we went down to the Treasure Room. This room showcases rare and historical pieces owned by the library. This includes the writing desk of Jane Austen, a letter from Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII to Cardinal Wolsey and the Lindisfarne Gospels. The exhibit also contains a computer system that shows the books on display and every page can be zoomed and read through the computer. The treasure room concluded my trip to the British Library.

After a quick bit to eat, we headed over to the London Library. The library was established in 1841 as a membership research and lending library. Our tour started in the main room and along the staircase with a brief history of the library. Thomas Carlisle founded the library after dissatisfaction with the British Museum Library. He wished to have a library that allowed for research and lending. Even though Carlisle did not have money many of his friends were influential and gave willingly to the library. The library quickly ran out of space and moved to a house at St. James Square. Over the centuries, the library acquired the neighboring buildings and added and remolded to expand the building. In 2004, the library started a long remolding process along with a new arts collection room.

Front of London Library at St. James' Square.

Front of London Library at St. James’ Square.

Our tour, next, brought us to the back stacks. These were amazing “classic” stacks with short ceilings, the old book smell and close shelves. Our guide gave use more information about the library and their system. Once a book is in the stacks it is never sold for money. Therefore the library only acquires hardbacks or on very rare occasions paperbacks with a dust jacket. Their electronic catalog only includes those in the collection from 1950 to now. The library uses Primo, a discovery system for online cataloging. The library did not originally seek to collect rare books but some have just been donated or simply because of the age have become rare. The library receives about 8,000 new items each year.

Back Stacks.

Back Stacks.

Overall, both libraries were great experiences. The two vastly different libraries each proved valuable lessons on how libraries function both privately and publicly. Whereas the public library, British, does not lend out their books, the membership library, London, does allow members to check out material. Both places provide their patrons with a wealth of materials ranging from a wide variety of topics and genres.

June 30th- Oxford

My great enjoyment in getting to go to Oxford cannot be explained. The knowledge capital of the world contains one of the largest and most famous libraries, the Bodleian Library, along with many famous colleges. After a two-hour bus ride, we arrived in Oxford and I started my day with a mocha and Danish from a local restaurant. Following the breakfast, I meet up with my class to start the tour.

I was really excited to start the tour as my class walked through the Bodleian courtyards. The guided tour began in the hall, which acted as the room in the Harry Potter movies. A major theme throughout the tour was the relationship between the Bodleian and Harry Potter. The guide chose to point out other relatable areas or items to the franchise. Even the whole of Oxford seemed to make the connection as I toured the Balliol College, the school chose to point out that their great hall acted and inspired that in the movies. Besides the Harry Potter associates, the tour guide mostly gave the history of the library. She guided us through the beginning years of the library and then through the following centuries. Most of the tour did focus on Thomas Bodley, the man who helped create the library as it is today. Even though I would find the history entertaining and fascinating no matter how the stories were told, I enjoyed the tour ever more with the excitement and passion of the guide. She livened up the stories and the characters involved.

Bodleian Courtyard.

Bodleian Courtyard.

A brief summary of Thomas Bodley life begins with him becoming the first Greek professor at Oxford. Followed by his change in profession from professor to spy for Elizabeth the first. Bodley achieved great success as a spy and was appointed ambassador to the whole of Europe for England. He made a lot of money and by the time he retired Bodley wanted to use his money to restore the moldy, sad library at Oxford. Bodley’s money went to the restoration and remodel of the physical building while his appeals to friends and relations filled the shelves of the new library.

Now the library contains 13 million items along with the largest Hebrew collection outside of Israel. One million of those 13 million items have been digitalized. Their collection does and will continue to grow as the library obtains a copy of every book published in the United Kingdom. This averages 2,000 books a WEEK. That is a crazy number of books being cataloged and sorted each week.  Below is a video from the University of Oxford telling of the Bodleian’s struggle to maintain the vast collections and their process of over coming the challenges as a 21st library:

Following the engaging tour at Bodlein Library, we were freed to explore Oxford on our own. After an hour and half lunch, a group of us decided to go see the Ashmolean Museum. The University of Oxford’s arts college operates the museum. Ashmolean includes a wide range of items including many time periods and events. One such gallery included ceramics of all sorts. The gallery presented the artifacts chronologically showing the development of ceramics in Europe. Additionally, the galleries included Roman and Greek sculptures, Medieval England and a secluded area for Italian art.

Balliol College courtyard.

Balliol College courtyard.

Balliol College hall.

Balliol College hall.

Both the Bodlein Library and Ashmolean Museum were spectacular visits, and to end the charming visit to Oxford, I toured Balliol College. The college of philosophy lies on beautiful grounds with a small garden courtyard followed through a gate by a larger courtyard with trees and a café. The street outside the college is busy and chaotic yet once I stepped through the college gates the atmosphere changed immediately. The tranquil quiet of the college concluded beautifully my day at Oxford.