Friday, July 25, 2014

Harry Potter Studios

Today a small group from our class went to the Harry Potter Studio Tour. This site was exciting for me because I am a huge Harry Potter fan. It was also exciting because I want to be a children's librarian, and it was amazing to see first hand the power that young adult novels can have over people of every age and nationality. In fact, the person that first introduced me to the novels was my elementary school librarian!

The tour starts with a short film about the impact the films and books have had on society. There were clips of huge crowds at book releases. It was incredible to see how important the books were to so many people. There was another short film about the making of the movies, and the tour we were about to start.

We entered the tour in the Great Hall. They had props and costumes set up from the films. The next room was a huge building full of props and sets. They had the Gryffindor Common Room, Dumbledore's office, and Hagrid's hut. Inside each of the sets were costumes and props used in the films. They also had display cases full of props. Some of these included the philosopher's stone, the golden snitch, and Tom Riddle's diary. They also had a display containing all of the different wands belonging to the characters.

The Golden Snitch

The next stop on the tour was outdoors, where they had the Knight Bus set up. It is a huge triple decker purple bus. It was very cool! They also had the exterior of the Dursley's house set up. We also saw a behind the scenes look at the special effects and makeup used in the films. They had some of the prosthetic masks and body parts used on mythical creatures like dwarves and goblins.

They save the best two sets for last. First, they had Diagon Alley set up. It was incredible to be able to walk down the middle of Diagon Alley. The set was huge, and it really felt like you were there. However, the most impressive feature of the tour was a model of Hogwarts. In the films, all of the exterior shots of Hogwarts were filmed using this model. It was huge!
The model of Hogwarts 

All of the sets and props on display at the tour were originals used in the films. They even had the actual wigs the actors wore while filming!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Royal Geographical Society

Today was our last class visit. We went to the Royal Geographical Society. Eugene Rae, the librarian, spoke to us and showed us some of the objects in their collection. They have over two million items in the collection. Personally, this was my favorite class visit of the trip.
The plaque at the Royal Geographical Society

The Royal Geographical Society was founded in 1830. The goal was scientific exploration and geography. Most of the items in the collection relate to exploration. One of the key collections at the Royal Geographical Society is a scientific instruments collection. The society wanted to train people to use the instruments so that information gathered on expeditions would be accurate. They would also loan these instruments out to explorers.

However, my favorite objects we got to see related to exploration in Africa. In the early years of the Royal Geographical Society, the interior portions of Africa were unexplored and mysterious. Specifically where the source of the Nile was located. There had been arguments about where the source was, so David Livingstone set out to find the truth. Eugene Rae had set out some objects relating to this search. In fact, we got to see the actual hat that Livingstone was wearing on his expedition! We also got to see some of the scientific equipment Livingstone used, including a tool used to measure distance above sea level. Livingstone didn't find the source of the Nile, and in fact became very ill in Africa. For this reason, a journalist named Henry Morgan Stanley went into Africa and found Livingstone. We also got to see his hat as well! These items were some of the most exciting things I got to see while in London!
A statue of David Livingstone 

We also got to see some items used by people who climbed Mt. Everest and explored the Arctic and Antarctic. One of the most interesting of these items was a pair of glasses that were meant to protect the eyes from snow blindness. They had a small slit in the front to limit the amount of light allowed to reach the eye. We also got to see Shackleton's hat, which was made by Burberry, which I thought was very neat! Shackleton was an explorer who went to the south pole, and across Antarctica. All of these items are kept in climate controlled storage in the dark. The Royal Geographic Society also has an online catalog along with a picture library online.            

Friday, July 18, 2014

Chatsworth House

Today Courtney and I visited Chatsworth House. It is located right outside of Sheffield, England. This house was used as Pemberley in the 2005 film Pride and Prejudice. It is also said to have been the inspiration for Pemberley in the novel by Jane Austen. This house was incredible to visit as a Jane Austen fan and a library student, because it was like stepping into the pages of a book.
Chatsworth House

This was the most beautiful house I've ever been to! I thought Stowe House was fancy until I saw Chatsworth House. There was a beautiful grand staircase, and every ceiling had a painting on it. The furniture was ornate and richly upholstered. There is also a copy of the famous portrait of Henry VIII by Hans Holbein. In fact, they believe that Holbein himself worked on this copy because it is so detailed.

However, one of the best features of the house was the library. It was incredible! The library holds over 30,000 books. The room was converted into a library in 1815. The books were extremely old and beautiful as well. There were also some books that were almost two feet tall. In the library there is also a statue of a veiled woman. It is the Veiled Vestal Virgin by Raphaelle Monti. It is so expertly carved that the veil looks see through, even though it is all just stone. In fact, this sculpture appears in the Pride and Prejudice film!
The Veiled Vestal Virgin

Interestingly, the house was used as a school during World War II for children from London. One of the employees told us that a few years ago an elderly lady came to visit the house. She had actually been a student during the war, and told them one of her friends had spilled some ink in a corner of the dining room. The employees all helped the woman look for the ink stain, and they actually found it!
The ink stain! 

 Another amazing room was the sculpture gallery. It is used in the film, and there are many stone sculptures. Two of the most incredible sculptures are at the end of the room before the exit. They are huge stone lions, and the detail is amazing. There are also sculptures of dogs and people as well.
One of the lion statues

The house wasn't the only incredible part of Chatsworth House. There was also an extensive garden. This garden was similar to Stowe House, because it was man made to look wild and natural. They had several water features throughout the gardens, including fountains and streams. Chatsworth House also has a simple hedge maze.
A portion of the gardens

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Edinburgh Central Library

Today we visited the Edinburgh Central Library. This is one of the best public libraries I have ever been to! They had all kinds of great programs in place for their patrons. The building was also interesting because each of the different departments were separated by staircases off of a main lobby.

When we got to the library, we took a tour of the building and all of the different departments. First, we got to see the reference library. This department is not a lending library. They also still use a card catalog for older books, which was interesting to see! We also got to see the art library, which has some very cool books in it. Some of the books are considered works of art themselves. One of them was covered in fur! The library also has a music section. This department has a piano patrons can use to work on their music.

We also toured the children's library. I was particularly interested in this section, because I would like to work in a children's library some day. They had just finished remodeling this section and it was beautiful! The shelves were all white, but there were splashes of color inside some round reading nooks. I would love to have a reading room like that in my house! They also had a separate room for infants and toddlers. This room had a huge bookcase in the wall that looked like a tree! It also had large murals of children's book characters, such as Abigail the giraffe. There was an arts and crafts room for children and parents to use, in which they offered craft sessions. They also had a teen area in the music department. There was a small bookshelf of teen books and some couches and tables for them to use.
The children's library

The tree bookcase

At the end of the tour, we were served tea and cookies while we listened to a presentation by Jim Thompson about strategies the library is employing to bring in patrons. Some of these programs include a smartphone app, that allows patrons to manage their loans. They also have an interactive map online that tells the history behind local landmarks, and superimposes old pictures and new pictures, so patrons can see how the city has changed. They also have reading groups for children and adults.

Monday, July 14, 2014

National Library of Scotland

Today we visited the National Library of Scotland. This visit was exciting for me, as it was the first site to have a lot of information dedicated to David Livingstone. The library is mostly underground. In fact, the ground floor is actually level 11. Like the British Library, it is a repository library, meaning they get a copy of everything published in the UK. There are 16 million items in the collection. The current building was completed in 1956. Additional storage was opened off-site in 1995.

National Library of Scotland

(photo courtesy of Kim Traynor via Wikipedia)

The National Library of Scotland is home to the John Murray archives. John Murray owned a publishing house that published works by some of the greatest names in history. Some of these authors included Jane Austen, Lord Byron, and even David Livingstone. The James Murray archive holds over one million items including letters and manuscripts. Every single page of the archive had to be individually treated for preservation.

The National Library of Scotland is not a lending library. However, anything can be brought into the reading room for research purposes, even items valued at one million pounds! A lot of the items have been digitized to help with preservation for the future.

One very interesting feature at the library is a small exhibition room where they display some of the books and manuscripts from the archive, along with stories about them. This opened in 2007. This display is interactive and digital. They're even working on a feature that will allow visitors to email copies of the documents to themselves straight from the exhibit.

One of the displays was about David Livingstone. Last year, they had an exhibition completely dedicated to him. Almost all of the materials relating to him are now digitized and online. They have a manuscript written by David Livingstone on display. It was written by him during an expedition to the Zambesi in 1865!

In order to request materials at the library, one must have a reader's card. Anyone in the world can join the library. All that is required is proof of home address and name. In addition, patrons are allowed to sign up for a reader's card online. Members can make paper or digital copies of almost all the materials at the library. The only restriction would be if the item was too delicate to be copied. However, many items are digitally available online with a reader's card, which can make research easier.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Kew Botanic Gardens Archive

Today we visited Kew Botanic Gardens Archive. The collection contains 300,000 books, 5000 periodicals, and 200,000 illustrations. Almost all of these are about botany or Kew itself. They also have a conservator on staff. One of the main conservation projects they do is to repair tears and folds in the images. They also try to decrease the amount of acidic glue and paper touching the illustrations.

When we got there, we saw some books with gorgeous illustrations in them. One of the books was from 1370! I was amazed at how vivid the colors in the illustrations were, since the book was more than 600 years old! The book was about using plants for remedies. It is written in Latin, and most of the cures described are terrible ideas and would not work. Some of the books show plants from the Americas.

The book published in 1370

An example of the incredible illustrations

Beatrix Potter also came to Kew to research fungi. We got to see her signature in the visitor's log! At the time she researched at Kew, all the professionals in the field were men. The director was patronizing towards her because she was a woman. For that reason, she stopped coming to Kew to research. The collection contains two illustrations done by Potter, and a letter written by her. 

Beatrix Potter's signature 

We also got to hear a lecture given by Andrew Wiltshire. He discussed his family's connection to Beatrix Potter. It was very interesting to hear. He also talked about Beatrix Potter's journals, and how they were written in code. The coding wasn't deciphered until 1958 by a man named Leslie Linder. Andrew Wiltshire grew up in the same town as Leslie Linder, and their families were connected through several different links. Andrew Wiltshire was very captivating, and I enjoyed hearing about Beatrix Potter, as I was not very familiar with her life.

After the lecture, we were allowed to tour Kew Gardens and Palace. They were stunning. We walked around a greenhouse that had plants from different ecosystems. The orchids were gorgeous. We also got to see inside Kew Palace. It was a lot smaller than I imagined it would be. It seemed more like a large house than a palace. We also walked on a treetop walkway, which was scary! It was neat being up in the trees looking down, but I don't like heights!

Orchids in the greenhouse

Kew Gardens was a great class trip. Andrew Wiltshire's lecture was interesting, and I enjoyed seeing the plant illustrations. I also enjoyed exploring the Gardens themselves! 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

British Museum Archives

Today we visited the British Museum archives. The archives didn't look anything like what I expected. I was expecting a huge archive, instead, it was very small and compact. However, even though it was very small, they had temperature and humidity controls in place in order to protect the collection. The archive was very interesting to tour. The British Library actually has some of the collection, as they used to be in the same building. Primarily, most of the manuscripts in the collection are stored at the British Library. The British Museum opened in 1759. In the archive, they have all of the records for every year the museum has been open. They also have employee records and excavation records, especially excavations funded by the museum.

They also showed us one of the coolest things I've ever seen. They actually still have the shell of the bomb that hit the British Museum during the Blitz in World War II! We learned about methods they used to protect their collections during WWII. They moved the most valuable items to underground tube stations, so they would be protected. They also stacked sandbags around items that couldn't be moved. Less valuable items were put on display, so if they were lost it wouldn't be as devastating to the collection.
The bomb shell

A photo of the damage sustained in the Blitz

Our guide also told us that visitors in the early years of the museum had to apply in order to come in. The tours only lasted an hour, and visitors didn't get to see much. Since security was so tight, only 4-5000 people were allowed to visit the museum a year. Today, the museum gets 6.8 million visitors a year. 

Although it isn't open to the public, we got to see a sample of the records for the reading room. Our guide showed us where Bram Stoker had signed the reading room records. Other famous authors such as Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolf had also signed the records. We were also able to see photographs of the reading room, which was completed in the mid 1800s. 

Bram Stoker's signature

After our tour, we were allowed to wander around the British Museum. Here, I was able to see the Rosetta Stone and one of the Easter Island statues. These were both major highlights of the trip. The museum was way too big to see all in one day! 

the Rosetta Stone