Thursday, 9 August 2012

British Library Conservation Studio/Writing Britain Exhibit

 Conservation Studio

This was our last day of visits so it was a bittersweet day because this meant that everything was really coming to an end.  This visit allowed us to gain insight to what the professionals do at the conservation studio of the British Library.  With it being the British Library and know these people really know their stuff.  We were first spoken to about the overall British Library and the materials that come through for preservation.  First off, the British Library is in possession of some pretty amazing things.  They have: rare illuminated manuscripts, original manuscripts of several famous books, the Magna Carta, various gospels and Bibles, maps and so much more.  Just comprehending all of the items in their possession is enough to make your head explode.  Being responsible for all of these treasures can not be an easy task but after literally stepping inside the actual studio, seeing all of the  work stations and the people hard at work one can gain a sense of all the hard work and talent that goes into maintaining the treasured collection of the British Library.,r:8,s:0,i:100,r:1,s:0,i:79

Writing Britain Exhibit 

 This is a link to a video clip about the exhibit

Some of us were fortunate enough to acquire free tickets to the exhibition Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands. (Thank you John Webster!)  This exhibition was AMAZING!
I had the best time going through this exhibition.  Around each corner was something to top what I thought would be the coolest thing to see.  I was really excited to see the manuscript for Harry Potter of course that was obvious.  I would say I was most impressed by the Robert Louis Stevenson manuscript for Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde  and the manuscript for 'Alice's Adventures Under Ground' by Lewis Carroll.  I was impressed by them mostly because they were two authors that kept coming up throughout my visits.  While I was in Oxford Lewis Carroll and Alice were everywhere because of the anniversary.  While I was Scotland I heard a lot about Stevenson because his inspiration for the novel was in Edinburgh.  I really felt that with this last day of class the exhibition really brought me full circle.,r:7,s:0,i:94,r:4,s:0,i:85

Here are some of the things I was so lucky to see!
  • RR Tolkien: original artwork for The Hobbit
  • JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone manuscript
  • John Lennon: draft for ‘In My Life’
  • Daphne Du Maurier: early plan for Rebecca
  • Charles Dickens: manuscript for Our Mutual Friend
  • Robert Louis Stevenson: manuscript for Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
  • Charlotte Brontë: manuscript for Jane Eyre
  • Lewis Carroll: manuscript of 'Alice's Adventures Under Ground'
  • William Blake: manuscript for ‘London’
  • ‘The Seafarer’ from the 10th-century Exeter Book
  • Ted Hughes: notebook for The Remains of Elmet
For an even more detailed description of the exhibit follow this link

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Christ Church College


During our day trip to the lovely city of Oxford, our class made a trip to Christ Church College.  I will admit my knowledge of Oxford  was vague so it made my visit much more exciting and interesting.  I had no clue that Oxford is all about Lewis Carroll Alice in Wonderland. In fact I was in Oxford during the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice in Wonderland; how cool is that? I did not know that Winston Churchill hung out there.  I did not know that J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis liked to meet up for dinner at a pub called the Eagle and Child; this was the location of my first fish & chips experience.  Yes.  Oxford is an awesome place to visit!   

Alter at Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church College is chock full of a vast, fascinating history. The college was originally planned by Cardinal Wolsey; famous for being a chief adviser to Henry VIII.   Several famous people have studied there including John Locke, Robert Hooke and thirteen prime minsters as well.

Ceiling in Christ Church College Library
Our visit to Christ Church College Library was a privileged visit ; a wonderful surprise to say the least.  The library is quite beautiful.  The detail in the building is fantastic.  The ceilings are beyond gorgeous and included detail that I was not expecting which made the experience all the more grand.  The collection housed upstairs, the special collection, is magnificent.  I have never before seen a library with so much natural light.  It was simply amazing.  The shelves and flooring are all wood.  There were wooden ladders lined along the shelves.  It felt like an old-fashioned library and it is awesome to be able to say that I have been inside.  Again it was a welcomed visit and one we were lucky to get.  Thank you Maria Franchini for allowing us to visit.  It was a privilege!

Christ Church College Library Upper Floor
  Bits of Information
  • The collection is full of early printed books and manuscripts with strength in Hebrew materials.   
  • The library pictured in this blog is known as The Upper Library. 
  •  It is 150 feet long and contains 40,000 books. 
  •  A library was first established at Christ Church in 1562.  Outside the Bodleian Library, Christ Church Library has the largest collection of early printed books in Oxford. 
This is just a small taste of what Christ Church is all about.  You should totally take a look at this link and learn some more!

Tower of London: Watch Your Head

The White Tower

When I fully comprehended that I was actually going to London I immediately knew of places that I wanted to visit.  At the top of my list was the Tower of London.  I have always had an interest in English history.  A key factor in English history is the Tower of London.  It encompasses so much of the history anyone would be foolish to pass over the opportunity to pay a visit. 
View of the Tower from the Thames

 The Tower of London was first built by William the Conqueror in 1078.  The tower has served as both a royal residence but more famously as a prison.  Other things associated with the tower are an armory, treasury, menagerie, royal mint and, of course, the Crown Jewels. It has housed several famous prisoners including  Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I, Jane Grey and Sir Walter Raleigh. Having so many varying purposes makes the tower a fascinating visit.  When I first caught glimpse of the Tower I became so excited that I hardly knew what to do with myself. 

Up the winding staircase which are everywhere in the Tower

Being inside the Tower was just crazy.  In some of the rooms the carvings of prisoners’ names and sayings are still visible.  One of the clearest was carved by another famous prisoner Henry Walpole.   By being able to see carvings makes visiting so surreal and intimate.  These walls actually kept prisoners, sometimes innocent prisoners, trapped either awaiting their death or facing a life of torment in prison.  It is just crazy to know how many lives were lost in the Tower; that people were tortured there. I can only imagine how a person must have felt as they entered the Tower to anticipate their doomed future. 

Traitor's Gate

Of course one of the best things there was the Crown Jewels.  I was not allowed to take pictures inside, however  no pictures would ever show the true sparkle emanating off the diamonds.  They are almost too good to be true and look fake.  But who knows if those are really the Crowned Jewels of England on display at all times.  For my sake, they better have been the real thing!   I still cannot wrap my head around seeing them.  The crowns are inside a tall glass display case in the center of the room.  On both sides of the case are slow moving sidewalks.  It moves just slow enough to take in their brilliance, beauty and ambiance.  I must also mention that entering the actual room was quite the experience.  Never in my life have I seen such a thick vault door.  I mean that door was ENORMOUS! 


Seeing the Tower of London really solidified something for me.  Throughout my life, with all of the books I have read on the history of London, the Tower has always played a prominent role in England’s history.  London revolves around the Tower and holy smokes I actually got to see it in person.  Holy crap I was at the Tower of London.  I was there and it was brilliant!  It was bloody fantastic!

The Tower of London is first and foremost a historic part of London.  Instead of looking at it as a potential tourist attraction look at it in a historic perspective.  

Don't think you will ever make it to the Tower of London? Take a virtual tour! 


Me at Traitor's Gate

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Royal Geographical Society: Whoa Was That Really Awesome!

Entrance to the Royal Geographical Society: A Gateway to All Things Exploring
I am not surprised that I enjoyed this visit since I do have a background.  However I was surprised about how little I knew which only brought new topics of interest to my attention.   
What I enjoyed most about this visit was the stories that were told to us about each item.  I never took myself for someone who would be interested in geographical history.  However seeing the items that were presented left me absolutely engrossed by what I was witnessing at that moment.  I was literally sitting in front of Henry Stanley’s shoes.  The same Henry Stanley who so famously said "Dr. Livingstone I presume".  I was sitting in front of David Livingstone’s hat.  Wow.  I did not expect to see the items that were shown to us.  I expected to see maps and globes, which we did, but then we had this utterly fascinating objects shown to us which made for great surprises.  I would have to say that this was one of my top visits.  I learned a lot and discovered some new areas of interests that I otherwise never would have explored further!  Thank you Eugene for giving a fascinating and informative presentation!

Dr. David Livingstone is one our greatest explorers of the African continent.  His contributions to exploration encouraged the end of the slave trade, paved the way for discovering the source of the Nile River and allowed the world to know about Africa.  He exemplified the very core of what the Royal Geographical Society was and is all about; “We encourage and enable the benefits of geographical learning and skills, educating people of all ages for life as global citizens in a rapidly changing world.” 

Dr. David Livingstone,r:2,s:0,i:118

One of the highlights of the visit was the presentation of some of George Mallory's belongings.  Mallory set out to climb Mount Everest but disappeared during a 1924 expedition.  It was not until 1999 that his body was finally discovered perfectly preserved in snow and ice.  In order to prove that they did locate the body of Mallory they took some of belongings including his boots, gloves, wrist watch, altitude reader and savory meat cough drops.  However we will never know if Mallory ever reached the top of Mount Everest because the hands on both the watch and altitude were removed.  I got to see all of the aforementioned items.  It was insane that his boots were sitting on a table right in front of my face.  I first thought to myself 'how cool is this?!'  but then it registered with me that the boots were yanked off the body of a frozen dead man.  That is a bit morbid but I got over it. It was so cool to actually see these objects that seem so unimportant are anything but. 

George Mallory,r:1,s:0,i:75

Some Interesting Facts on the Society
  • Founded in 1830 initially as a gentleman’s dining club
  • The goal was to collect geographical items throughout the world.
  • They wanted to encourage travel through gathering and sharing geographical knowledge
  • Some of the items initially collected by the society were maps, portraits, travel souvenirs, scientific instruments and traveler’s personal affects.
  • Their areas of interest were Africa, primarily the source of the Nile River, Polar Regions, primarily to locate the Northwest Passage, Antarctica and Central Asia, primarily Mount Everest.
  • There are about two million items in the collection. A bulk of the collection is atlases and globes
  • Books make up about 250,000 items out of the collection
  • 2013 will mark the 200th anniversary of Livingstone’s birth
  • 15,000 members in over 100 countries
  •     Membership is open to anyone.

  Learn more about the wonderful world of today's geography!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

A Visit to Westminster Abbey: I Was Left Speechless


First off what was really awesome about this tour in particular, the audio tour is narrated by Jeremy Irons.  How cool is that?  I heard his voice and introduction of himself and laughed to myself.  The highlight of the tour was seeing the tomb of Elizabeth I.  It is grand, elaborate and defiantly worthy of a memorable queen like Elizabeth I.  I found it interesting that her sister Mary I is buried beneath  Elizabeth.  I guess it just goes to show who the more important sister will forever be recognized as.  Another highlight was going next door to Elizabeth’s tomb to see the tomb of Mary Queen of Scots.  James I, successor of Elizabeth I, wanted his mother to be remembered despite the fact that she was pretty much the mortal enemy of Elizabeth and by her orders put to death.  He ensured that his mother was directly next to Elizabeth and that her tomb was just as grand as Queen Elizabeth I.  I believe that Elizabeth’s is way better but I am a partial judge.  I must also note the magnificent beauty of Westminster Abbey. I walked in and could not believe my eyes.  I was left speechless it was amazingly beautiful.  It is easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.  There is so much grandeur and importance within its stone walls.  My only disappoint was the absence of the coronation chair.  It was absent for preservation reasons.   Westminster Abbey has played such a large part in English history.  Several monarchs are buried there, William and Kate were wed there and Princess Diana’s funeral was held there.  It is such a grand and wonderful place!  If you ever find yourself in London it is a must see. I can never properly describe my time there.  No words can ever do the beauty justice; nor any pictures.  It was surely one of the top highlights of my time in London and not something I will ever forget.  WHEN I go back I would actually pay to see it again.  

   You should totally learn more!


London' National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery will have a sizable role in my paper for my courses.  They house a large collection of Tudor portraits referred to as the The Tudors.  In the gallery are roughly twenty portraits of either actual Tudor Monarchs or individuals who have a strong connection to the Tudor monarchies; an example would be Thomas Cromwell.  All of the paintings are prominently displayed in beautiful frames which do not take away from the image itself.  Seeing them in person leaves a viewer awestruck at the brilliant color that is still as bright and bold as it was back then.  I was also surprised at the massive size of one portrait of Henry VIII in particular.  It is a full-length portrait, the first of its kind, of Henry standing in his legendary stance.    The picture is absolutely huge and intimidating; literally just like the actual man himself.  Two of my personal favorites were of Elizabeth and Catherine Parr, Henry’s sixth and final wife.   All of the portraits were great to see.  Since I am a notorious fan of all things Tudor seeing the portraits of so many actual people that I have read so much about was personally exciting for me; very exciting.  

I have never really visited art museums in the past so it is quite mind-blowing that I have now visited two of most prominent art museums in the world; The Britain's National Gallery and the Louvre. Visiting such great art can be intimidating and overwhelming.  I cannot help but feel that I did not spend enough time admiring the actual artwork.  How do you properly visit an art museum? I feel a bit ashamed that I did not appreciate it all more while I was there.  However that only provides me with more reasons to go back to London....which of course I am all for!   

Here's s the art I saw with my own two eyes!

This is Elizabeth I's coronation portrait. 
                                                    Queen Elizabeth I, by Unknown English artist, late 16th - early 17th century (circa 1559) - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

The portrait below is very important because it is the first full-length portrait of a monarch.  It was painted by Hans Holbien.  He was Henry's favorite painter and painted several portraits for the family during his lifetime. 
                                                              King Henry VIII; King Henry VII, by Hans Holbein the Younger, circa 1536-1537 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

One of my personal favorites in the Tudor Gallery. For a long time it was thought to be a portrait of Lady Jane Grey but is in fact a portrait of Catherine Parr.  It is my favorite because when I saw it the bluish-green background immediately sucked me in. The detail that can be seen in the gown is insane.  So much effort and talent went in to making this gorgeous image of Catherine.  From what I have read about her she made vast efforts to bring together and reconnect the broken family of Henry VIII.  It is also said that it is because of Catherine's influence that Mary and Elizabeth were put back in to the royal line of succession. 
                                                            Catherine Parr, attributed to Master John, circa 1545 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

This is known as the 'Ditchley Portrait'.  It is breathtaking.  It also clearly symbolizes a lot.  If you notice the background there is both a sunny and stormy sky.  She is standing on top of a map of England.  Elizabeth reigned for quite a long time.  She did witness stormy events during her reign such as several plots to overthrow her from Mary Queen of Scots, religious turmoil, and the ever famous Spanish Armada.  She brought her country to victory and ruled over England with a mothering hand. 
                                                  Queen Elizabeth I ('The Ditchley portrait'), by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, circa 1592 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London

Take some time to appreciate some of the art!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

National Records/Archives of Scotland

Front of the National Archives Building

This was an  interesting visit because it allowed me to compare archiving between Scotland and England.  The main difference is the huge strides that Scotland has taken to digitize as much as their collection as possible.  It is interesting to see the eagerness that the Scottish have in making their collections easily accessible online.  Even the United States seems to lack the eagerness the Scottish have.  It was very interesting to gain such insight.  

Inside the Archives building

Bits of Information
o   Available government records go as far back as medieval times; 1130 being the oldest document.
o   Overall payment for access to the records is required but in the 1840s access fees were waived for certain areas of research.
o   Record collections include death, birth and marriage certificates, court records and a huge range of parish church records.
o   There are about 3 million entries on the online catalog.
o   Wills and testaments can be accessed online.
o   They are close to adding about 400,000 more items that have been digitized.
o   They have received a lot of help from Mormon missionaries in helping them digitize the collections.
I wish that we could have spent more time viewing the digitization area. It was awesome to gain a peak at least because the machine is huge.  The way it operates was really awesome to see as I have never seen the actual digitization process before. I have learned that Scotland has made tremendous strides in the area of digitization. I applaud their efforts to blaze the trail of digitization in archives.  As our tour guide stated, many people access these records and if they can spare the cost of what could prove to be an expensive trip to Edinburgh (although a great city) would be a tremendous convenience to people everywhere.  

As I have already mentioned, their innovation and eagerness to keep up with the times and digitize is just incredible.  We should all look to the Scottish when it comes to digitization.  Bravo.  

Visit their website for more information.  They have and do so much more then I could ever properly convey!