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Tuesday, 3 August 2010

So Long UK !!

Well I'm writing this back in Maine. This was quite a whirlwind trip and it lived up to my expectations. I really feel like I got to experience Scotland and especially England. I saw so many museums and libraries I have trouble remembering them off the top of my head. I learned about new practices at libraries that I want to incorporate into my own career in America. The book prescription was probably the most fascinating to me. The Edinburgh central library allows people to take books out on mental and physical health with a doctor's "prescription". For my three extra visits and blog posts I went to the Tower of London, the Royal Observatory, and the Globe Theatre. This is a program that I would be interested in being involved with here. So for seeing the UK and learning about library operations this was a very educational experience.

King's College Library

Our tour of the King's College library marked our last library tour, certainly bitter sweet. We went all through the library seeing the reading room and the special collections area. We saw some of the old slate bookshelves that now sit empty. Most of these slate bookshelves have been replaced but it was interesting to see a room that still contained them to see what the library looked like in the past.

Royal Geographical Society

The Royal Geographical Society was a particular treat for me because it related to my paper topic, the collections relating to Shackleton and Scott's expeditions to the Antarctic. The RGS was formed in the 19th century in order to promote exploration and geographical mapping. The current president is Michael Palin, one of the monty pythons he has done many travel documentaries including one in which he traveled around the world in eighty days.
Some highlights of the tour include seeing the lecture room, the 'map' room which used to be used to look at maps but the new reading room fulfills this task. We were able to look at some very interesting artifacts, such as George Mallory's boot which was found on Mt. Everest. We saw one of Shackleton's balaclavas that he wore on one of his expeditions and some provision pouches from Scott's expedition. This tour will certainly add to my research.

I'd like to take the time here to go into my research project a little as it relates to our trip to the Royal Geographical Society. I am looking at the material available in regard to the British expeditions to the Antarctic, specifically those conducted by Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton. As a history major and general history buff I have always been interested in the tales of the great age of exploration. This was a time when people decided to go and walk across a giant continent of ice just because nobody else had done it before. Scott was not successful in his attempt to be the first to the South Pole and died on his return. Shackleton had his ship sink on the way to his crossing of the Antarctic but was successful of getting his party back to safety (some of those who had planted provisions along the second leg of the journey across the Antarctic sadly perished).

My project will look at what materials are available in both secondary and primary source material and how this material is organized. I also want to look at what is available to the public at a lending library such as the Barbican, to see what is initially available to students. In addition I would like to compare the differences between British and American sources when pertaining to these subjects.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Globe Theater

As one of my additional posts I will describe my trip to the Globe theater. I went to see Henry IV-Part I which sounds dry but is really interesting and exciting (it is shakespeare afterall) and apparently is one of the best loved histories. Shakespeare wrote four plays that are sequential, Richard II, the two Henry IV plays, and Henry V which I didn't know. Going to see the play performed as Shakespeare had intended really opened my mind to how the plays were actually supposed to be seen and experienced. The first thing that I noticed was how the audience was actually a direct part of the performance, I was in the standing section (only £5 a ticket) which while difficult on my back occasionally for a three hour play, brought me into the full immersion of the story. This was the original 3D. Forget Avatar. The actors walk among you to get to the stage and there is a ministage inset to the crowd where action also takes place. Second humor plays a much larger part in the telling of the story. While we traditionally break his plays into either tragedy, comedy, or history (and also the so called problem plays and the Tempest described as a romance) so much of what happened even when it was serious elicited laughs. It just shows that people wanted to be entertained and to see a heightened version of reality, and this usually was followed by comedy. I had very dimly heard of the character of Sir John Falstaff but now am fully acquainted with him and the man who played him was brilliant. Now I want to read all of the four sequential plays and see them performed. huzzah!

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Dalkeith Dunfermline Scotland Libraries- Part Two

This is the Dalkeith Palace where we stayed while we were in Scotland. This manor house was constructed with parts of a castle that stood in the area that had been destroyed. It really is something else, its like as if you went on a tour of a big palace still decorated with old paintings and then were allowed to stay overnight with basically no one there. It was at times very spooky and very cool. In the basement was a pool room and a TV room which I described as the "Ultimate Man Cave" because well it pretty much was a cave.
We also went on a tour of the first Carnegie library in Dunfermline. Andrew Carnegie was as most know a Scottish born immigrant to America who made a vast fortune and then gave it all away building libraries. The libraries speak for themselves and they are really elaborate. The Dunfermline library also specialized in geneology which with the masses of immigrants from the nation over the years has caused many people to visit around the world to research their own past. Of course we were told that records are usually scarce for those in the 'lower' tier of society.
Finally on to the Scottish National Archives which has a massive metal sculpture of Wellington rising on his horse directly in front. Incidentally nearby is the apparently "largest monument to a writer in the world" made for Sir Walter Scott. Anyway the National Archives are again rich in architectural splendor and idiosyncratic history. For one thing I learned that the stone construction of the original building was smoothed over later on in the front, while additions that sealed in parts of this stone kept it in its original form. As part of the tour we were able to look at some original documents and copies, including a poster for emmigrants to Canada, South Africa, and Australasia.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Scotland Libraries - Part One

I am indeed no longer in the nation of Scotland, but back in London. While a part of the country we know as the United Kingdom Scotland from what I saw in four days is distinctly its own nation. Our first visit was to the Scottish National Library where we walked through their various exhibits on Scottish history including an extensive one of that famous Scottish pastime golf. The Scottish landscape is ideal for the game of golf with its vast open spaces.

Then it was on to the Edinburgh Central Library right across the street from the Scottish National Archives. The Edinburgh Central Library is the public lending library for the city of Edinburgh, unlike the Scottish National Library which is a copyright library. The Central Library was funded by Andrew Carnegie and houses both a music library section and a large reading room. The library has branched out to other spaces surrounding the original library in order to accomodate its own growth.

Friday, 16 July 2010


Went to Oxford today by train, starting from Paddington station. Walked around for awhile before taking a tour of the oxford university reading library, both new and old. This image shows the original reading room which we walked through. We looked at an example of the original way books were stored, i.e. chained to the books. The way the books had to be clamped with the chain meant that in order to save space when shelving the books had to be faced with the binding facing towards the bookshelf wall, therefore numbers were written along the pages facing outward, probably easier visualized than explained, but it was interesting nonetheless. We went through a tunnel that connected the old and new library and saw the large conveyor belt that runs all through the underground of the oxford library allowing books to run from one section to the other to fulfill requests. The library does not allow users to take books out and this tradition extends far back. Charles I had an early experience with the limits of monarch power when even he was refused by the librarian to take a book out of the library. He was given some concessions and there remains two cubical walls that run along what are usually open benches where the King could read his books.