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

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

National Maritime Museum

Today we visited the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. In order to get there, we took a clipper ride on the Thames. It is definitely the way to get around London! We got to see traitor's gate at the Tower of London! We also got up close views of London Bridge and Tower Bridge. Once we got to Greenwich, we found out they were filming a movie, so it was an exciting morning, and our tour hadn't even started!
Traitor's Gate

Once we got to the museum, we were able to tour the Caird Library and the museum archives. The Caird Library was very high tech. They had a digital database with ship plans. It was interactive and allowed the viewer to zoom in and examine the plans closely. They also had open access computers and microfilm viewers. James Caird gave most of the documents to the library in the 1930s, although they do still add to the collection today. 

Next, we got to go into the archives. It was noticeably cold, because they have temperature and humidity controls in place to preserve the materials. We also got to see some of the materials of interest that are stored in the archive. One of the items was a letter from Horatio Nelson regarding some unrest among a ship's crew. We also got to see an American signal book which was captured by the British. The Americans had to change their entire signaling system, because all ships used the same book and it was compromised once captured. 

Horatio Nelson's signature 

However, the most exciting thing we got to see was at the end of our tour. Mike Bevan, the archivist, took some of us into part of the archive to see a song written by Queen Elizabeth I. It was so incredible to be able to see something up close that was actually written by one of the most important historical figures in British history. It was so nice of Mike Bevan to take us into the archives just to see this document. 

Written by Queen Elizabeth I

This was a really interesting class visit. It was so exciting to see items from major historical figures. It was fascinating to think of how old these materials are, and how important it is for archivists to properly  handle and store them for future generations. Greenwich itself was also fun to explore. We got to stand on the Prime Meridian and visit the exhibits in the National Maritime Museum. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Barbican Public Library

Today we visited the Barbican Public Library in London. The Barbican is publicly funded by the City of London. Anyone is allowed to borrow books from the Barbican, regardless of where they live. In order to get a library card, you just need to show proof of identification and address.

The librarians at the Barbican provided cookies and juice for us when we arrived. The librarians told us about their jobs and some of the other branches in the City of London. We also got to learn about some of the programs they provide for their patrons. One of these programs was called City Read. Everyone who would like to participate reads the same book and meets to discuss it. They also have a digital inclusion project, which helps technologically challenged people learn to use computers and get online. Finally, we also learned about a health offer, which is a program that offers information on health subjects, as well as therapeutic reading groups.

Next, we were shown the children's library. This was particularly interesting to me, as I would like to be a children's librarian. The children's library also offered programs for patrons. For example, they host a children's reading challenge each summer. This summer the theme was mythical maze. Children could read books with a mythological theme, and answer questions about them at the library. Children get a prize for each book they complete, and a certificate if they read six books. The children's library serves children from birth to 14 years of age. They have reading groups for different age levels, such as 7-9, 10-12 and teen.
The Children's library at the Barbican

Our class also toured the music library. The music library has about 9000 books. They also have about 16000 scores. Patrons can listen to music for free, but they do charge a small fee to take discs home. They also have a piano people can sign up to use for thirty minute sessions. In addition to music, the library also loans out DVDs, for a small fee. The librarian informed us that they do restrict mature material. For example, if a fourteen year old wanted to check out a rated R movie, they would not allow it. The Barbican also has a general fiction section for adult patrons. They also have computers that patrons can use to access the internet. The Barbican was an interesting library to visit, specifically to see the innovative programs they provide for their patrons, both young and old. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

London Archaeological Archives & Research Centre

Today we went to the London Archaeological Archives and Research Centre (LAARC). This is a storage and research center for the Museum of London. The archive stores archaeological material from excavations in London. They also accept donations.

Our tour guide took us through the process items go through once they are excavated. Items are first brought to the archive and stored until funding is available to wash and catalog them. Occasionally, it can take up to six years before items are washed. Buckets of dirt are also brought in from excavation sites and sifted through. Any bugs or tiny items found in the dirt, such as beads, are saved and recorded. In order to save space, the archive doesn't keep every item excavated, but everything is recorded.

Recently, the archive had just gotten some items from an excavation in central London. One of the items was a portion of Roman tiled floor. It was over 2000 years old and still looked beautiful!
A portion of a Roman floor

Next, our guide took us into the storage area where items are stored after they've been washed and recorded. We were able to see how materials are stored and labeled. Our guide also showed us how they are improving storage. Older items are stored in boxes that are not acid free, and can damage them  over time. Volunteers at the archive are moving the collection from the old boxes into new ones. This area of the tour was particularly interesting for me, because I used to work in a museum doing this exact same thing. We also got to see some very cool items from the collection. We even got to touch a brick that still had ash on it from the fire of 1666! Some of the other interesting items we saw included a medieval bone ice skate, a trinket from the crusades, and some Tudor period pewter. 
Touching a brick from the fire of 1666

The Guinness World Record

LAARC is the largest archaeological collection in the world-- and they have the Guinness World Record to prove it! They have over 200,000 boxes in the archive. Each box contains between 50-100 items. The items are organized by the year they were excavated. All excavations are listed on their online catalog. All human remains are stored at the Museum of London, because they have an osteologist on site. Our tour guide also took us into a storage area containing old toys and electronic equipment. They even had an old switchboard from Buckingham Palace! 

LAARC was a very interesting class. It was exciting to see that the same preservation techniques that my small museum used were also being used by a major archive. It was also fun to see some of the items they had on display and learn about the processes museums go through when building their collections. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

British Library

Today we toured the British Library. The British Library is a National Repository Library, which means they get a copy of everything published in the United Kingdom. For this reason, the collection grows by about 3 million items each year. The British Library was actually a part of the British Museum until very recently. In fact, the current building was opened in 1997. 

The British Library has eleven reading rooms and 1000 members of staff on site. There are an additional 1000 employees at the off-site storage areas. The library's collection contains both print and digital resources. In addition, there are eight million stamps! 

Outside the British Library

Our tour guide first showed us a model of the British Library's main building. Interestingly, more of the British Library is underground than above. The books are stored in a temperature and humidity controlled area underground. However, since the collection is so large, there are multiple off-site storage areas around England.
The model of the British Library.

Our tour guide took us behind the scenes to learn how the books are brought out of the stacks for patrons to use. When a patron requests a book, a ticket is printed. At this point, a member of staff retrieves the ticket and the book, and leaves a duplicate ticket on the book's shelf, marking its spot. The book is then placed on an automated track. The library has 1.2 miles of track throughout the building. A book usually spends about twenty minutes on the track before being delivered to the reading room. At this point, the patron is notified that their book is ready for use. 

Our tour guide then showed us some of the reading rooms throughout the library. These rooms are divided by subject. We got to see the business reading room. Here, they encourage patrons to meet with successful business professionals in order to network or get advice on starting companies. We also were able to peek in a window at the humanities reading room.

Another interesting part of the British Library was a feature called the King's Tower. It was a large glass case in the middle of the library. It contains books that were owned by George III and given to the library by George IV. He stipulated that the books had to be seen and accessed by the public. Although patron's need special permission, the books are available to use for research. The glass in the case is lined with a special fireproof gel. In the event of a fire, the gel would burn for eight hours, giving the books time to be rescued.

A view of a reading room and the King's Tower.

My favorite part of the tour was the treasures room. Here, they had some of their most valuable and interesting items on display. For example, we saw the Magna Carta, Jane Austen's writing desk, and some drawings by Da Vinci. However, my favorite item on display was Elizabeth I's prayer book! This was one of the best tours yet. I had never toured a library of this scale, and it was interesting to see some of the behind the scenes work that goes on.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Stowe School Library

Today we went to Stowe House, which is now a boarding school. It was gorgeous! I wish I could go back in time and go to school here!
This is a picture of Stowe House from the front. 

Carol Miller, the librarian, gave us a tour of the school and told us about the history of the house, as well as her duties and tasks as a school librarian. They also provided tea and cookies for us, which was so nice! 

Stowe House sits on 1000 acres and has 400 rooms. It was owned by the Temple-Grenville family until the 1920s, at which point the family could not afford to maintain the house. They sold the house and all of the possessions inside. The new owners wanted to open a school. In 1923, the first class of 99 boys started school at Stowe. The school is now coed. 

The school's current library started as a ballroom in the 1730s. In 1797 it was turned into a one room library. The library serves about 780 students ranging in age from 13-18. It is open from 8:30am until 9:30 pm during the school year. The library is most heavily used by students in their last year of school. It is also very busy during exams. 

Unfortunately, the library does not have any books that were original to the house. However, this spring, they were able to obtain some books that were at Stowe in the 1800s. The bookcases and fireplaces in the library are original to the house. 
Stowe School Library

Stowe School is trying to restore the house to look like it did in the 1700s. The ceiling in the library is plaster, and was beginning to crumble. They had it restored, and had 23.5 karat gold leaf installed. It was interesting to hear about the variety of tasks the librarians perform. Not only do they help the students with research, but they were also very involved in the restoration of the library. They are also in charge of acquisitions.
The restored ceiling in Stowe School library.

After the tour of the house, we were allowed to tour the gardens. The gardens are maintained by the National Trust and are still undergoing restoration. The gardens were stunning! There were huge monuments and temples everywhere. Most of the monuments looked Greek or Roman in style. My favorite monument had busts of historic British figures, such as Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare. 
A view of the gardens from the back of Stowe House.

I expected the gardens to be manicured and plotted out, but they were very wild and natural looking. Overall, Stowe was beautiful, and one of my favorite visits. 
Some of the vegetation in the garden.