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!  

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