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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.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

V and A

Today we went to the Victoria and Albert Museum and library. Yesterday we went to Stratford upon Avon and saw a performance of The Winter's Tale by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Today's trip to the library was very interesting. The library has reading rooms with balconies looking over the rooms. It also has several back rooms with shelf space. We were taken into one of the special collection rooms and shown one of the original first folio printings of shakespeare and a first draft printing of bleak house with Charles Dickens' actual hand writing in ink making corrections, that is probably the coolest thing I have yet seen on the trip.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010


While in Greenwich I stopped over at the Royal Observatory and was able to see the famous Harrison clocks built by John Harrison as part of the race to find longitude. I had read the book Longitude by Dava Sobel as one of my book review choices. It was interesting to actually see the clocks that I had read about. The about image shows H4, the fourth of Harrison's clocks and the most successful at keeping time. The other clock on display looks like a complex steam engine with so many intricate parts (something like 700 individual hand crafted parts on one of the clocks) it's amazing to think that they were built in the 18th century. The chronometers that came of use because of Harrisons efforts allowed for the Royal Navy to use complex and accurate navigational techniques, certainly aiding in the rise of the British Empire. The main problem in determing longitude for all those years was an inability to keep accurate time, which have allowed the charting of location. Harrison's clocks solved that problem.

London Library

The London library is a private lending library that was founded in 1841. There are 15 miles of books housed in the library, which does not throw away any of its books ( compare that to the total-digital-conversions back home). There's nothing like looking at a book that maybe Charles Dickens looked at. We were allowed to go into the multi-level book section which as you can see has grated steel floors built during the Victorian era. You are able to see down all of the levels of books through the grated floor, which I was told has enticed movie producers to the shelf section to film there. The library allows users who wish to access the library for just one day a daily rate of 10 pounds and an ID.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Prime Meridian

Went to the Greenwich maritime museum and library today and saw some pretty cool stuff from their archives, including THE medical handbook used aboard the HMS Bounty and taken to Pitcairn's island until it's discovery in the 19th century, and I got to touch it...It looked like something straight out of Treasure Island.
Saw the boat that Shackleton sailed from elephant island to south georgia island on his fateful expedition. Seeing the objects for real definitly adds to the learning of the historical background and is a bonus for my own research paper which focuses on the preservation of exploration artifacts. Got to stand on the prime meridian, I have a photo of my feet in the western and eastern hemispheres. Also looked at Harrison's clocks which I will go into further detail in another post and saw one of the old large telescopes in the Royal Observatory.
wanted to also note my trip to dover castle and the white cliffs which was awesome where we also stopped at canterbury. London library is next on the list. Is it just me or everything I see seems to have either London or British in the title?

Sunday, 11 July 2010

London Museum

This is a portrait of Charles II who was King when the Great Fire of 1666 occurred. This incident which destroyed a good amount of early modern London and took close to a half a century to rebuild was part of large exhibition at the museum of london not too long ago. Most of that exhibit has been torn down but some of it remains as part of the main exhibition area. The museum of london is a good place to get the general feel for the layout and historical geography of london (or so my lonely planet guide book tells me).
You can start out with the exhibit on prehistoric London with stone age and iron age tools. Then you can move on to the Roman era looking at some of the mosaics...and of course the Great Fire of 1666. I don't know if the building/rebuilding aspect of london's history was one of the intentional central themes of the museum of london, but appears to be so.
On a side note I went to Hyde Park today ( it was Regent's Park I went to the other day) saw more brits playing softball, a burgeoning trend?? walked and watched a free concert in the park, saw people in paddle boats. Saw princess Diana's memorial which is large circle shaped spring made from granite that everyone was getting their feet cooled off in. Walked on rotten row, a carriage lane built in 1690 (during the rebuilding it appears). And I saw 'speakers corner' which reminded me of union square in manhattan. I feel like london has the same vibe if you averaged New York City and Boston together and had more of the color red. And a previous roman civilization.

Thursday, 8 July 2010



Of course it wasn't actually dawn when we went to the british library, but it certainly felt like it in my internal clock...

While at the British Library, one of the equivalents to our own Library of Congress, I was able to see one of the original gutenberg bibles, the Magna Carta, the only extant copy of Beowolf ( take that decaying gilgamesh tablets ). I also learned from the librarian on our tour that the Magna Carta had been in this random guy's personal collection for several years? what? apparently when Henry VIII dissolved several of the catholic churchs across england the monastaries that were the original archives of important documents including the magna carta let their collections go every which way. Where the Magna Carta went between Henry's reign and it finding its way to this guys collection is unknown. It's like having some guy in new jersey keep the Constitution in a file cabinet in his office.

we were showed the backroom where books are processed from the massive underground collection. The British Library collects EVERYTHING published in the United Kingdom every single year, therefore they are slowly running out of space. Interestingly, the northern line tube runs through the underground archives because the library was constructed after the tube was.

In general I bemoan the loss of card catalogs but here's the exception. In the mid nineties when the library was designed and built the section in the middle of the great central hall that was going to be set aside for the card catalog was instead, because of our use of computers for catalogs, used to display the King's Collection of about five stories like a central tower in the middle, while black marble below gives the illusion of an eternity of book stacks (though I thought it looked a bit like shots from the inside of the death star). King George III was not that keen of the contents of books, as he was not that keen of a reader but he enjoyed the ornate decorations of some. He bought books from around the world, sometimes entire collections, and eventually grew tired of them and released them to the British Museum as long as they were displayed to the public and were made available as well. I would be interested to know what the content of these books are, but if I were to judge them on their cover I'd say they're quite grand.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

British Museum

Feeling a bit run down after a whole previous day's ambulating the Barbican and Tower of London I quite needed my cuppa before hitting the british museum. To be honest I didn't see much of it, mainly just the ROSETTA STONE, and no not that computer program in the yell0w box that lets you learn italian on your commute I mean the real deal people. Of course many people were gathered around literally squashing up against the glass protecting it, and some were reading from it together? what?
then we toured the museum archives which included the many many years of hand written documentation on all of the minutiae of museum activity stretching back through the years. Then it was onto the reading room ticket holders collection. since the opening of the british library (no longer in the same building) to this day anyone wishing to use the facilities must become a reader. The archive still has all of the cards and documents on all the readers.
the above photo shows the millenium celebration structure that made the outside courtyard section of the museum into one continguous unit.

It was interesting to see the "behind the scenes" element of the British Museum, and to walk around where various professionals at the museum work. It is interesting to see that not only all the things you didn't think you would see, but also how sometimes the behind the scenes looks like how you had imagined it.



The Barbican Center is quite a surreal place to take a stroll. The area had been bombed out during the Second World War save for a church that now sits in the middle of the complex. I found it strange walking on the elevated walkway around the new urban complex that an old church was sitting in the middle of the giant courtyard before I was told of the rebuilding. The complex looks a bit like something out of any of the UMASS campuses (sorry anyone not familiar with massachusetts) so I felt a bit at home. The story goes that the whole complex was designed in the 50s, built in the 60s, opened in the 70s, and moved into in the 80s...more or less. At the complex are apartments, an arts center, cinemas, and a library...

The library is one of the main public libraries in the "corporation of london" and no its not a subsidiary of Burger King. They do not have a 'pin drop' approach to noise control which was nice to see and they had a fancy self checkout that allowed a user to place all of the books being checked out at once and a scanner read them automatically like an oyster card. The older cement construction has led to some difficulties with the wifi services as the wifi simply won't go through thick cement walls.

As I said earlier we went to the music library and saw their large collection of CDs and musical scores. In the UK libraries have to wait three months after the release of an album before patrons can check the item out, while they are still free to listen to a copy at the library.

Going to the library and my stay thus far in England has brought the old luddite in me that hopes there is still a place for music libraries where people can congregate and appreciate music together, and not just in their own homes. While the computer has been very useful for the strengthening of music appreciation there are drawbacks. I always find that computer searching allows for 'direct searching' like if I wanted to find 'In your eyes' by peter gabriel it would be quite easy on itunes. Yet a library allows for the randomization of searching, so that while looking for peter gabriel I happen to find a CD or book on world music, taking me in whole new directions.

THe Barbican Center will play a part in my Research Paper on the Antarctic expeditions. I want to focus on the different aspects of research that students can accomplish at British Libraries and in many ways a public library is a students first line for research. I also want to compare what type of books and materials are available to a student in a typical public library in the United States with those in Britain, so I will probably compare one of the libraries that I use with the Barbican library.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Tower NOT London Bridge

Went to the Barbican library, which I will go into further in another post. It was very nice, they had a music library section with a CD collection that looked a bit like a Borders.

then I walked from Barbican to the Tower of London, passing through a little alley at one point where I bought a sandwich at a shop in the alley...and I passed the site of the London stock exchange from th 13th century to the beginning of the 18th, you'd only know because of a small plaque on one of the buildings, probably not going to be on any tour...

spent around three hours a the tower of london, yes I saw the crown jewels. yes I went on the beefeater tour. I even saw a lady beefeater. yes I saw all the armory in the white tower. I also walked on what I can only describe as an archers wall that makes up the perimeter of the wall. What is interesting about the tower of london for me is that you can see the history of england within the actual architecture. The white tower was initially built by William 'the conquerer' after the battle of hastings and all subsequent additions were designed to protect it. Apparently the moat surrounding the castle held all of london's waste and refuge for centuries? gross. and I officially learned that the Tower bridge is the big fancy bridge circa Brooklyn Bridge and not the london bridge which is basically just some bridge. I also walked half way across the Tower bridge which was pretty cool, i'd still like to see it lit up at night.

Monday, 5 July 2010

St. Paul's Cathedral

July 5, 2010
Greetings ! This blog chronicles my trip to the UK as part of a summer program at the University of Southern Mississippi as part of my graduate work in Library and Information Studies. So to jump right into things today we toured St. Paul's Cathedral and the library, which is usually off limits to visitors. The cathedral itself is magnificent with many memorials to famous British figures, including the Duke of Wellington, as well as a memorial for the US military during the Second World War.
The library itself was very interesting, including a large model of what the original design for the St. Paul's cathedral was going to be. This original model resembles very much the design of the Vatican, so it is no surprise that this was not adopted by the very protestant Anglican church when it came time for construction. We also learned from one of the librarians that the use of OCLC is limited for cataloging purposes because the books are so old most of the information derived from a bibliography can only be part of the final information cataloged at the library.