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!

The Central Library of Edinburgh: A Library Ahead of Its Time

Entrance to the Central Library and our lovely guide Vesna Rajacic
This was such a treat to see.  Of all the libraries that we visited I have to say that this was my favorite one.  This library has everything that I would love to have in a public library. I was surprised, not to mention impressed, by their technological advances in the library.  It was delightful to see and really got me excited about all that a library can do.  The Central Library have goals that they want to reach such as their online presence.  They are driven.  They are compassionate.  They genuinely enjoy what they do.  You sense their excitement and it was wonderful to be able to witness it.


 General Details on the Edinburgh Central Library
  • There are 28 total libraries in the system throughout the city.
  •  George Washington Brown was the architect of the library.  The original design used to be three main rooms; reference, lending and newspapers.
  • They provide mobile library services to hospitals, prisons, etc
  • They recently went to self-service with the addition of RFID tagging.  They outsourced the initial transition in tagging materials.  The whole effort took about a year to do.  All new tagging is done in-house at this point.
  • They receive about 200 book requests a week.  The shelves for arrived book requests are accessible to library patrons to retrieve on their own.
  • The library has taken a ‘computerized library’ route.  LCD TVs are located throughout the library displaying library events.  They also have a large interactive directory/map terminal in the entrance.
  • They rely mostly on government funding.
  • They rightfully have the most comprehensive collection on all things Edinburgh and Scotland in the United Kingdom.
  • They still maintain the old style card catalog for the Scotland collection.
  • The music and children’s libraries are located in a building next door.
Inside a Reading Room
Strides in Technology
We were fortunate enough to have a member of the Digital Information Team speak with us;  Alison Stoddart .  Formed about two and a half years ago, the team has made tremendous strides in making the Central Library a strong presence online.

  • They now have a mobile app that allows library users to renew items online.  They are the first in the U.K to create such an app.
  • They provide various online tutorials such as language, driving instruction, etc.  They have found that the public prefers tutorials such as those instead of informative database.  People want to learn something and gain something from it.
  • They began providing eBooks about a year ago via OverDrive.  It is popular but would be even more popular if Kindle owners were able to use the services.
  • In the future they will be providing e-magazines.  It will be introduced soon.
  • I was quite impressed by the addition of e-magazines into their online collection.  I think they are correct in determining that the public will be very pleased with the new addition.  I was tremendously impressed by the digital team.  They are clearly ahead of their time in regard to online services to the community.  They are for sure an example to lead for all public libraries around the world. 
Original tile re-purposed as a wall decoration

Reading Champion Project

The Reading Champion Project is a fantastic program that hopes to bring a love for reading to troubled youth in residential care homes.  Workers provide library access to children that are experiencing oppression, are being stigmatized and ostracized from society.  They focus on reading for pleasure rather than reading for literacy.  They are correct in assuming that along with reading for pleasure follows improvement in literacy.  It is a noble task that those involved are undertaking.  I whole-heartedly admire their valiant efforts at working with troubled youth and striving to instill a love of literature suitable to their interests.   I was very glad that they provided us with this presentation because it was the only one of its kind that we saw throughout our trip.  The demographic benefiting from the Reading Champion Project is often a demographic falling on the back burner for librarians.  However, the Edinburgh Central Library still maintains a strong hand in the admirable endeavor with the hard work and compassion of Niall Walker.

Take a close look at a great library:

Stratford Upon Avon: You Have Entered Shakespeare Land

I was fortunate enough to have visited the lovely little Shakespearean town of Stratford-Upon-Avon.  Admittedly I am not a huge fan of Shakespeare as those close to me know.  However, not even I was able to escape the town’s charm.  It was really neat to see the birthplace of Shakespeare but I was disappointed by the stone lot where he spent his last days.  I am surprised that they have not yet recreated the house in order to present something visual for tourist.  I really enjoyed visiting The Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare is entombed.  The church is really beautiful and I even felt inspired to donate a bit to the stained glass window preservation fund.  If they succeed and acquire all the funds needed to restore the windows to the previous brilliance the church will be even more a fantastic sight to see.  Later in the evening we joined everyone else for a Shakespearean play; a modern interpretation of Twelfth Night.  I was pleased that the Royal Shakespeare Company performed modern interpretation.  I was amused by many of the scenes; primarily the yellow stockings and the drunk getting his pants pulled off.  I think it is safe to assume that losing the pants was not in the script!  I am not familiar with the original rendition of Twelfth Night but it does seem like a rather interesting play.  However I will be honest and say that I truly do not see me ever picking up for pleasure reading! I will not deny that fact. 
Shakespeare's "Death" Lot
Royal Shakespeare Company Theater  Getting Ready for "Twelfth Night"
Check out the Royal Shakespeare Company because they are awesome, dedicated performers.

Trinity Church
Also I will mention that we were fortunate enough to see a drunken British man wondering the streets of Stratford aimlessly and scaring children along the way at 1 in the afternoon.  It was quite a hilarious site that I felt necessary to immortalize in a photo.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

British Museum Archives

 This was a simple and wonderful tour.  I appreciated that Stephanie Clark was so organized and efficient in showing us what the British Museum Archives are all about.  Being mindful of cramming us all into such a small confined space, Stephanie had our tour broken down into stations; with each station representing an aspect of the archive collection.  It was really surprising to discover that before Stephanie there was no specially trained archivist, no budget and that she works alone amongst a huge collection.    Stephanie has built up the collection. She has made it more organized and presentable to the public, has worked hard to further preserve everything by ensuring that all necessary items are placed in acid free boxes in order to properly preserve everything. I admire Stephanie for all the progress that she has made in making the archives such a prominent collection so that more people are becoming aware of as a result of her vast efforts. I would love to be able to follow a similar career path; to make a difference in the archiving field.

  •     The archive collection contains materials ranging from 1753- to the present
  •     The archive collection contains six to seven thousand photographs
  •     One of the items in the collection is an incendiary shell case that actually fell into the museum and blew up during the Blitz in WWII (also the most interesting piece in my opinion).  My mouth hit the floor when she pulled it out the box and explained what it was.  Such an interesting piece of history that really brought the Blitz to life.
  •     Items from the museum collection were relocated first to underground tube stations and then to stone quarries in Wales in order to save the items in the museum
  •     The museum was still open to the public during WWII with pieces that were not as valuable as other popular, priceless pieces.  These pieces became known as the suicide collection.
  •     In 1854 Roger Fenton became the first employed photographer.  The photos he took were down in stereoscopic view which is an early form of 3-D.  We were able to view such pictures with a device allowing us to get the stereoscopic effect.  This was really cool!
  •     The most successful exhibit of all time was the 1972 King Tutankhamun exhibit
  •     We were able to view the record books of users.  In order to gain access to the Reading Room an individual would have to submit a a letter containing a letter of recommendation along with an explanation of what they wanted to view.  Such records include: Beatrix Potter, Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, and E.M Forrester
  •     Money has finally been allocated in order to construct an online catalog of the central archives.

After our visit with Stephanie, I wondered around the Egyptian collections. I have always heard what a great Egyptian exhibit the British Museum has.  I am so happy that I actually got to explore it and see it for myself.  I have to say that I never in a million years thought I would be able to lay eyes on it but it happened. Despite the disruption experienced in the mummy exhibit by a group of noisy school children it was very interesting and exciting to see everything!  It was amusing to watch all the children clamor about...but I must say the chaperones were a bit exhausted!  I did venture over the Parthenon which was really awesome to see.  I was quite impressed by its presence.  It did not seem realistic to have such an enormous piece of history right before me.  I thought to myself again pinch me is this real?  

Pieces of the Parthenon
Wow that's the Rosetta Stone above.

I seriously encourage you to take a look at all the British Museum has to offer.  It's absolutely insane how much history is in there!  

Victoria and Albert Museum: The National Art Library

Our tour guides were Sally Williams and Francis Willis.  Both are wonderful ladies and Francis especially was very generous in allowing us to touch and handle items from the special collections. It was a great gesture!  The fact that I can truthfully say that I have carefully flipped through the pages of a tortoise shell bound Bible in which only 20 are known to be in existence is an awesome honor.  It was amusing to see the artist books; once I had reach a full understanding of what they are.  I can say that I have turned the pages of an original Charles Dickens manuscript.  How many people can say they have done that?  Fan or no fan of Charles Dickens, that is just incredible.  No one can deny the great footprint that he has made in literature. I have never actually seen anything of the sort before.  I especially enjoyed the creativity in the 'Dirt Book'.  The pages were so original, tangible and colorful.  The 'Book of Nails' was just utterly amusing.  Some may think that something like that is not art but they would be gravely mistaken.  That is just plain creative and I could easily argue that the said person is jealous that they did not think up the idea themselves first.   The visit was just great and the National Art Library is in great hands with Sally and Francis. It is obvious that they enjoy what they do each and every minute of every day.  I really appreciated the hands on aspect that came along with this visit.  I was greatly surprised that we were allowed to touch everything they showed us.  These were classic, historical pieces.  I was allowed to touch the pages; to flip through them.  Wow.,r:21,s:0,i:140

The National Art Library serves a dual purpose as a public reference library and curatorial department for the actual museum.  One of the more impressive materials in the special collections belongs to the Forster Collection.  The most famous part of the collection is original manuscripts of nearly all of Charles Dickens books.  I was fortunate enough to be able to flip through the pages of Bleak House; corrected proofs.  Dickens and Forster were great friends and Dickens relied on Forster’s input in regard to his writing; thus the manuscripts being in his possession.  Great care and efforts were made in order to preserve the condition of the manuscripts.  This link will take you to a description of the Forster Collection accessed through the National Art Library Online Catalog. 
I must say that the National Art Library Online Catalog is very, very impressive.  I would have to say that it is the best one I have ever used personally.  I also like that the fact that articles and other libraries are linked to the catalog as well.  The online catalog available to the public would not be possible without the National Art Library Heritage Project. 

The following link does a great job at providing a comprehensive description of the library’s overall collection.  It is quite vast and I would never come close to giving it justice with a simple description.

General Bits of Information
  •     About 1 million books are in the collection
  •     No items are ever weeded out of the collection
  •     The library is teamed up with the Painting and Drawing collections making them the largest department in the museum
  •     A large portion of the collection acquisitions are gifts/donations. For example the well-known Forster Collection which includes Charles Dickens’ manuscripts. 
  •     60% of the collection is foreign language
  •     The special collection ranges from medieval items to the present and consists of about 4,000 'art books' meaning books that are created by actual artists meaning them to be pieces of art
  •     The Forster Collection of 18,000 items was donated.  Several Charles Dickens original manuscripts were part of the collection.  Most of these items are prized possessions of the library.
  •     The library was built in 1884. The physical building mostly has not changed.  There are still the original shelves.
  •     The original library itself was first at Somerset house
  •     The conception of the library originated from the Great Exhibition at Hyde Park in 1852
  • The library houses a large collection of children’s books dating back to the 16th century.  These number about 100,000 books.  The Renier Collection comprises over 80,000 books.  The collection contains major authors and artists along with various genres. 
  • The National Art Library has the world’s largest collection of Beatrix Potter drawings, manuscripts, correspondence and photographs.  A large portion of the collection was generously given to the V & A by Leslie Linder; a Beatrix Potter scholar. 
 After our tour, I was able to wonder around the museum.  Having a huge interest in everything fashion, I went through the fashion exhibit.  I could look at dresses all day long and be happy.  If only the ball gown exhibit was free. I did visit the History of Jewelry Exhibit extensively.  It was very interesting and awesome to see such great examples of jewelry throughout history.  As most people know I love fashion especially jewelry so I was very much a kid in a candy store.  The displays ranged from necklaces, rings, pendants, crowns, bracelets and much more.  The way everything was displayed was like a timeline so it was really neat seeing the evolution of jewelry.  The link will lead you to a description of the exhibit I saw along with photos of jewelry that I was lucky enough to see! The article is quite fascinating and does a great job illustrating what I saw in the exhibit.  It was actually great reading through it.  It took me back to when I was actually looking at it all!

I can’t stress it enough.  The V & A is rich is history; especially the library.  I was very surprised by what the National Art Library was in possession of.  I honestly believe that if I were to begin working there I would just roam around for days in absolute awe of all the items in the collection.  They are housing some of the greatest representation of literary history.  This library is a perfect example of a library greatly benefiting from the generous donations of others.  

Also one last addition.  I do have to mention that the food trays in the food court area (which closely resembled fine dining) were really pretty.  I never would have thought I would actually describe a food tray as lovely and delicate but apparently the V & A can even make a food tray a piece of art! If only they were a free token of my visit to the museum. 

Friday, 13 July 2012

My Daily Routine

Most of our class visits take place in the morning.  Since we all know that I am a heavy coffee drinker, I was bound and determined to find good coffee near where I am staying.  I refuse to do anything 'American' while I am here so no Starbucks, no McDonalds, no Burger is ridiculous that they are even here!  So I have discovered the best latte ever at a little truck stand across from Waterloo Station called Tyrerion Coffee (I actaully think I am spelling that wrong so correction will come in the future).  He is a kind gentleman and really knows how to make some darn good coffee!

Also there are bakerys and food stands everywhere and today for instance I had a fantastic chocolate crossiant.  Think I may have to get another one tomorrow it was so fresh and soft and full of dark chocalate goodness my mouth is drooling right now just thinking about it. 

So I wake about an hour before we leave go run some errands and get my coffee.  Unfortunatly my guy is only there at the end of the week so I replace him with Ro Mo which is second best.  We board the tube for our destination.  8 am is absolutely the worst time to travel the tube. One morning we packed in like sardines on the Bakerloo line but luckily that has only happened once really so no complaints.  It could be worse.  We could be packing in like sardines on the metro in Paris where every smells nasty all day long!  More on Paris later it is a bit of a sore subject. 

My absolutely favorite place to eat in /London is Pret.  It is a natural food cafe that is a chain which works out great for me because they are EVERY WHERE! It is mainly a sandwhich place but they have coffee, soups, salads, fruit, and some breakfast food.  I have ate there numerous times in several different locations and they have not disappointed me once.  I have had many different yummy sandwhiches and I have loved every bite.  I have also discovered sea salt and cider vinegar 'crisps' and cannot stop craving them.  The States better have some variation of them or my stomach will be very upset and disappointed.

London Library: God Bless You for Having a Book Written by Henry the VIII

The London Library was an interesting place to visit.  I can honestly say that I have never been to a library like the London Library.  The London Library is strictly a subscription library.  It is extremely private library institution but membership is open to everyone.  A factor that makes it unique is the construction of the building.  The original library was housed in a London townhouse.  As the library has grown overtime expansion has been needed.  Expansion has occurred several times since it was founded.  About eighteen months ago expansion and construction was completed and which allows for 25 more years of growth and a new conservation studio.    
The library houses over a million books.  These books range from 16th century to present day.  One of the stands out pieces from their 16th century special collection was Assertio Septem Sacramentorum written by Henry VIII and published in 1521.  The title roughly translates into “Defense of the Seven Sacraments”.  The purpose of the book was to defend the seven sacraments of the Catholic faith against Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation.   In recognition of his efforts the Pope declared Henry VIII the Defender of the Faith.  Soon after Henry VIII was looking for a divorce from Catherine of Aragon his first wife.  When he was not getting the results he wanted he broke from the Pope and become head of the English Church; also marrying Anne Boleyn.  



·         The London Library was founded in 1841 and is now the largest private lending library in the world.

·         They are an independent library and entirely self-supported

·         There are about 7,000 registered members

·         The collection ranges from the 16th century to present day

·         There are about one million books in the collection and 15 miles of shelves

·         97% of the collection is available for loan

·         There are about thirty thousand rare books within the collection

·         2,500 periodical titles

·         There are roughly 8,000 new books a year added to the collection

·         Having a policy of ‘books do not become redundant just because they are old’ means that no books are ever weeded from the collection

·         They have created their own cataloging and shelving procedures

 Previous London Library members include

§  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

§  Bram Stoker

§  T.S Elliot (also president of the library from 1952-1964)

§  Virginia Woolf (listed her occupation on her application as ‘spinster’

§  Agatha Christie

§  Winston Churchill

§  Henry James

§  Charles Darwin

§  Charles Dickens