Monday, 17 August 2009

The Scottish Poetry Library - 7/28/09

After visiting the Scottish Archives on Tuesday, July 28th, a small group of us went to check out the Scottish Poetry Library (SPL). It was a very nice little side trip and a fascinating library.

It was founded in 1984 and has since built a collection of print materials, tapes, and videos. The SPL specializes in contemporary poetry written in Scotland. The material is available in Scots, Gaelic and English, but historic Scottish poetry and contemporary works from almost every part of the world are present as well. Their collection consists of; Contemporary Scottish poetry, poetry from around the world, poetry for children, poetry on cassette, CD and video, current magazines and periodicals (over seventy of which are current titles), a reading room for members, computerized references and searches, and news cuttings. It also offers facilities for listening and performing, and special children and members' areas. Membership is free for those who sign up, and patrons can borrow up to six titles at one time for up to one month.

The SPL provides access to their holdings through outreach collections and a postal loan service for anyone unable to get to the library. Items can be borrowed from the SPL and mailed direct. A freepost label is included for the return of items.

They also offer an online service for patrons who only know a line or two from a poem but not the title or author. Patrons fill out an online form with as much information about the poem as they can remember and the librarians will help to identify it!

The Scottish Poetry Library offers some of its collection in formats that are accessible to visually impaired readers. Complementary catalogues of these collections are available in large print, on audio cassette or on disc as a word document. A Braille catalogue of poetry in Braille is also available for home borrowing.

I found the Scottish Poetry Index interesting. This is a unique research tool, produced by the Scottish Poetry Library with the help of The Scottish Library and Information Council, which provides access to a multitude of poetry and related material published in Scotland from the 1950s to the present. This tool proves valuable for academic research, and for a reader requiring a more thematic approach. The series is also a useful tool for studying the development of Scottish literary journals and the broader culture of Scotland during this period. It is published in volumes and available for sale from the Scottish Poetry Library. It is also fused with the Library's online catalogue.

You can visit the Scottish Poetry Library at

The Scottish Poetry Library
*Photo courtesy of

Friday, 14 August 2009

Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens - 8/4/09

On Tuesday, August 4th, we ventured to Kensington Gardens to see a production of Peter Pan written by J. M. Barrie. After a lovely stroll through Hyde Park into Kensington Gardens , we stopped to look at the fairly well known statue of the fictional character, Peter Pan (erected in secret overnight on a spring morning in 1912). I soon spotted a white tent sent up and sign that said, "Peter Pan - Straight away". I looked at the white circus-looking tent and thought to myself, "Did I really just pay that much money to see a play in a white tent?" Well, if I may say, a most delightful and pleasant surprise was in store for me!

The venue was a dynamic weatherproof intimate theatrical setup. It housed over 1100 seats, all tiered, with great views for the whole audience. The characters were able to fly freely and the upper walls were a part of the 360 degree projected movie set! The projected scenery was designed by William Dudley, and is the same technology which can be seen in the 3D cinemas and from using the same equipment as the Spiderman films. The first group flying scene with Wendy, Peter, Michael, John, and Tinker Bell was incredible with the addition of a 400 sq. mile view of London as the backdrop. It made me feel as if I was flying with them! It was so amazing and magical that it actually brought tears to my eyes.

Barrie was born in Scotland in 1860. When he was six years old, he lost an older brother in an ice skating accident. His mother was left devastated and Barrie did everything to fill his brother's shoes, including dressing in his clothes and whistling in the same way he did. Barrie's mother found comfort in the fact that her dead son would perhaps remain a little boy forever. Many people think that this scenario could have influenced the famous story.

Peter Pan was first performed in 1904, two years before the story was actually published. Another factor that is thought to have played an important part in Barrie's literary, and even personal life, was the Llewelyn Davies family. Barrie first met George, Jack, and baby Peter in 1897, in London's Kensington Gardens. Barrie was inspired to write about their many playful adventures with the boys. The fate of most of the Llewelyn boys was sad and depressing, especially considering their portrayal in the play. George, died in World War I, Michael drowned in Oxford, and Peter committed suicide in 1960 by throwing himself in front of a fast moving underground train.

I would highly recomend this production to anyone! It was probably the most magical and well acted play that I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. Information about this production can be found at

Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens logo
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Peter, Wendy, and Micheal flying over London
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Peter Pan - Ciaran Kellgren
Wendy Darling - Abby Ford
Michael Darling - David Poynor

Captain Hook
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Captain Hook - Jonathan Hyde

The National Library of Scotland - 7/27/09

On Monday, July 27th, We visited the The National Library of Scotland (NLS), which is the largest reference library in Scotland. The NLS was established in the early 17th century as a library of advocates and in 1718 they were given a copyright deposit status. The NLS is nationally funded and recognizes a traditional academic user base. One of their many goals is trying to reach out to as much as the population as they can. They accomplish this by hosting outreach programs, offering increased internet services, and housing learning exhibitions.

The collections at NLS are immense with 14 million books and manuscripts, 2 million maps and atlases, 3,000 music scores, 32,000 visual works, and 25,000 newspapers and periodicals. They gain 6,000 new items every week! They have material in 490 languages and the strength of their collection lies in Scottish culture and their manuscript collection.

Unfortunately, we didn't get to look around much as our guide was really focused on getting us to look around in the NLS learning exhibitions that I mentioned above. The exhibition they had going on while we were there was about Scottish emigrants. They had different stations set up that were centered around various people who traveled to the Americas in search of a new life. Each station told a person's story interactively with different tools. Each station held an old fashioned traveling trunk filled with items used to travel with at that time. Each trunk had a telephone where you could listen to letters being read from that particular person. It was an unusual and interesting way of looking at what these people were experiencing during that time. I was really touched by the stories that were being told firsthand through the letters and by being able to touch the things that were in the trunks. I was also intrigued by this exhibit because it was not something that I had ever seen before. In the America's we learn about immigration by seeing exhibits about people who came to the new world. These are basically the same people and the same story, but told with a different perspective.

The National Library of Scotland can be found at

The National Library of Scotland
*photo courtesy of

Edinburgh Central Library - 7/27/09

On Monday afternoon we visited The Edinburgh Central Library, which is a public library located directly across the street from The National Library of Scotland. This was the first Carnegie library that I have ever been to. Carnegie libraries were built with money donated by Andrew Carnegie. Mr. Carnegie was a Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist who funded more than 2,500 public and university libraries.

The Edinburgh Central Library was first proposed in 1868 and then again in 1881, being rejected both times by the Edinburgh Town Council. In 1890, the Central Library finally opened to the public. It consisted of a Reference Library, a Lending Library, and a News Room. Today it has more than 850,000 items available to borrow, free internet and computer services, and several subject libraries. Their art library covers fine art, design, art history, and architecture. The music library holds their audio and dance collections and they have a delightful little children's library. The Scottish Library is a department completely dedicated to Scotland. It holds a myriad of material covering the Scotland's past, present and future.

The folks at the Edinburgh Central Library were very welcoming and hospitable. They took the time first to show us around the building and then sat down with us to discuss more about their institution. I was fascinated with their reader outreach programs, intrigued by their efforts to extend their services to youth in delinquent homes, and very moved by their stories and efforts to gain new readers. This was one of my favorite places that we visited and I really enjoyed the librarians that took time and taught us not only about their institution, but about Scottish hospitality as well.

Some Edinburgh Central Library information can be found at

Edinburgh Central Library
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Edinburgh Central Library (reference room)
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Thursday, 13 August 2009

The National Archives of Scotland - 7/28/09

On the afternoon of July 28th I had the pleasure of visiting my first ever national archives! The National Scottish Archives are government funded specifically to archive and keep the nations records. Their goal is to preserve information, make this information available, and provide knowledge to the general public.

We visited the General Register House, which is the main building of the three located across the city and dates back to the 1780's. The newest addition to the three buildings is the Thomas Thompson House. The two joint buildings, comprising the Thomas Thomson House were built in 1994 and are designed to provide space for the national archives of Scotland. It is more high-tech and provides over 37 kilometres of environmentally controlled record storage, while the other houses a records reception and sorting area, staff offices and a purpose built conservation unit.

The NAS has over 70 kms of records from the 12th - 21st centuries. The organization is split into two divisions. Record Services handles government records, court and legal documents, and collection development. Corporate services takes care of accommodation services, financial and administration aspects. Over the years NAS has had to develop their services and keep up with emerging technology. They have done this by creating their online catalog, housing "virtual volumes", allowing access to Scottish wills from 1500-1901, and digitizing the Church of Scotland records.

The NAS has several different online tools to help out the patron. Scottish is a website that offers online tuition in paleography for researchers like historians and genealogists who have trouble reading manuscript historical records written in Scotland in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. The Scottish Register of Tartans is a national repository of tartan designs. It is an on-line website database that allows people to search the many thousands of existing tartans and register for new tartan designs. This site also provides links to Scotland's tartan industry sources.

Of particular interest to me was "ScotlandsPeople", which is considered one of the largest online sources of original genealogical information. This database with almost 50 million records to access, allows people to start research and connecting their family histories from the comfort of their home, office, or library. This website offers sections on how to build your family tree, famous Scots, statutory records, old parish records, census records, wills & testaments, and a coat of arms search.

The National Archives of Scotland can be explored at
Scottish can be found at this link
You can find The Scottish Register of Tartans at
ScotlandsPeople can be found at

The National Archives of Scotland
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Interior section of The National Scottish Archives
*photo courtesy of

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Oxford's Bodleian Library - 7/23/09

On Thursday, July 23rd, we took a day trip to Oxford where we were able to tour Oxford's renowned Bodleian Library. The Bodleian Library is the main research library of the University of Oxford. It is one of the oldest libraries in Europe, and is the second largest in Great Britain (the British Library is the largest). It serves as one of the six legal deposit libraries for works published in the United Kingdom. The Bodleian Library opened its doors to students in 1602, shortly after Sir Thomas Bodley received permission to restore the current ailing library in 1598. His main method of collecting material was to have it donated. While he did have funding through the wealth of his wife and his father's inheritance, Bodley still needed to have the gifts of affluent friends and colleagues to build his library collection. He promised that anyone who donated material would have their name written in acknowledgement inside the building.

This great university library (which happens to be used for the Harry Potter films), accommodates a wide range of readers and material, primarily covering the humanities discipline. It is a reference library that does not allow patrons to borrow material. New patrons to the Bodleian Library are required to agree to a formal declaration before being granted access to the library.

Today, the Bodleian includes several off-site storage areas as well as nine other libraries in Oxford including the Japanese Library, the Law Library, the Indian Institute Library, the Oriental Institute Library, the Philosophy Faculty Library, the Radcliffe Science Library, the Sackler Library, the Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House, and the Vere Harmsworth Library.

The current statistical holdings of the library include over 8 million items on 117 miles of shelving! They have a staff of over 400 as well. Some items in its special collections include four copies of the Magna Carta, a Shakespeare's First folio, letters of the poet Percy Shelley, a Gutenberg Bible, and several rare codexes.

Being in Oxford was a great experience for me. It's literary history seems endless and I really wish I had more time to explore all the secrets of the town. I had really enjoyed just walking around the town where Lewis Carroll was inspired to write Alice in Wonderland, and the town so widely used as a backdrop in Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" series (The Golden Compass). Oxford was used to film many scenes from the Harry Potter films and the Golden Compass film as well. We also went to The Eagle and Child Pub which has seen the likes of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis!

Oxford's Bodleian Library can be found online at

The Bodleian Library (interior)
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The Bodleian Library (exterior)
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The Eagle and Child Pub
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The National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum - 7/22/09

On Wednesday, July 22, We had the great pleasure of touring The National Art Library. Our tour was excellent. Another one of my favorites so far! The National Art Library lives on Level 3 of the Victoria & Albert Museum (the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design). It is a public reference library that specializes in the fine and decorative arts. It contains over 750,000 books, and acts as the Victoria and Albert Museum's curatorial department for the art, craft and design of the book. The National Art Library also provides access to many electronic resources, including online bibliographic and image databases.

There are a few self-service reference books shelved in the reading rooms, but the majority of the library material does not circulate and needs to be ordered from the catalogs. Patrons are required to join the Library and obtain a reader’s ticket to consult library materials. The Library consists of two main public rooms, with 108 individual reader/study desks.

The National Art Library has material on many subjects. These include research essential to the work of the Victoria and Albert Museum and its collections, including: prints, drawings and paintings; furniture and woodwork; textiles, dress and fashion; ceramics and glass; metalwork; sculpture; art and design of the Far East, India and South East Asia; history of the art, craft and design of the book. It is also a great source of artist biographies.

The National Library splits their collection into two categories; General and Special. The general collection consists mainly of books on art history, architecture and painting, fine arts, decorative arts, furniture, and fashion. The type of material held in special collection are artists’ letters, book art, calligraphy, children’s books, early printed books, illuminated manuscripts and modern book and magazine design.

One of the great treasures in the library is the Codex Forster, some of Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks. Some others that we were shown were a Shakespeare's First Folio, an early printed book in the humanist style, a coat of arms book referred to as an Armorial, a literary manuscript by John Keats, Charles Dickens original manuscripts, and some artist books.

Websites to look at:
Victoria and Albert Museum -
Victoria and Albert Museum - National Art Library -

Victoria and Albert Museum
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Victoria and Albert Museum - National Art Library
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National Art Library Reading Room
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The British Museum - 7/21/09

On Tuesday July 21st, we went to the British Museum ( The British Museum is a human history and culture museum. Its collections include more than seven million objects and come from all the continents. It was established in 1753 and first opened to the public in 1759. The museum welcomes over Six million people every year. The museum is funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and charges no admission fee. The day we went was so crowded that I didn't get to really explore like I would have liked to.

Some of the museum's many treasures that I found interesting were a Granite head of Amenhotep III from 1350 BC, a bust of Ramesses II from 1250 BC, The Rosetta Stone from 196 BC, several Mummy's including that of Cleopatra from Thebes from 100AD and The Parthenon Gallery which houses some of the Parthenon Marbles.

The British Museum is a notable target for controversy, especially surrounding rare artifacts that are being claimed by their originating countries. Some of the most famous items that are disputed are:

* The Parthenon Marbles - claimed by Greece
* Benin Bronzes - claimed by Nigeria
* Ethiopian Tabots - claimed by Ethiopia
* Achaemenid empire gold and silver artifacts from the Oxus Treasure - claimed by Tajikistan
* Mold's Golden Cape - claimed by Wales
* Rosetta Stone - claimed by Egypt
* Aboriginal human remains - returned to Tasmania by the British museum.

The British Museum has refused to return these items declaring that the "restitutionist premise, that whatever was made in a country must return to an original geographical site, would empty both the British Museum and the other great museums of the world". They have also argued that the British Museum Act of 1963 legally prevents any object from leaving its collection once it has entered it. Nevertheless, it has returned items such as the Tasmanian Ashes after a 20 year long battle with Australia.

The British Museum does have a Library and Archives department, that unfortunately we were unable to visit. The library and archives department covers all levels of education, including casual visitors and schools. The Museum's many library holdings include approximately 350,000 books, journals and pamphlets covering all areas of the museum's collection. Also the general Museum archives are overseen by this department. The individual departments have their own separate archives. In 1997, the current British Library building opened to the public and split from the British Museum losing their beautiful Reading Room!

The British Museum
*Photo Courtesy of

The former British Library Reading Room at the British Museum
*Photo Courtesy of

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

National Maritime Museum in Greenwich - 7/20/09

On Monday July 20th, we went to the National Maritime Museum (NMM) in Greenwich, England. The museum offers joint library and archival services, modern and rare books, journals, periodicals, maps, charts dating back to the 14th century. The library was founded in 1937 and claims to be the largest Maritime Library in the world. Collection users include academic scholars, legal historians, and people interested in family history. Their collection ranges from various topics including emigration, astronomy, piracy, navigation, voyages & explorations, navel architecture, and merchant & royal navy resources.

Their holdings include 100,000 modern books, 8,000 rare books, and 20,000 pamphlets & periodicals, of which 200 are current. the NMM also holds over 66,000 manuscript records as well as a manuscript database. They welcome between 3,000-4,000 visitors a year and answer approximately 15,000-18,000 questions through their e-library. On average they pull about 5,000 archival items a year as well. A topic of great interest to me is their material relating to pirates. The museum features material covering the many pirates who were active in the 'Golden Age' of piracy from 1650–1720.

The National Maritime Museum's collection webpage is

The National Maritime Museum
*Photo Courtesy of

Edward Treach. AKA Blackbeard
*Photo Courtesy of

The Shakespeare Centre Library & Archive - 7/17/09

One of my favorite day trips so far has been the Shakespeare Centre Library and Archives in Stratford-Upon-Avon in Warwickshire, England. We arrived on Friday, July 17th in the quaint little town packed with lively tourists who come from all over the world to see the hometown of the famous 16th century playwright, William Shakespeare.

We had the unique opportunity of having a guided tour of the Library and Archives. The Library and Records Office holds The Shakespeare Collections which is comprised of combined materials from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The collection is divided into two categories; The Shakespeare Collections and The Local Collections. The Shakespeare Collections consist of printed book materials and the archive of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre 1879–1960 and of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) from 1961 onwards. It also includes translations of Shakespeare in over 70 languages, and many unique documents relating to Shakespeare and his family. The Local Collections includes many archival records, books, photographs and maps relating to Stratford-upon-Avon and the surrounding area. Some of these date back to the 12th century.

Their collections are currently organized using a unique in-house system slightly resembling the Dewey Decimal system. They currently own approximately 50,000 books and pamphlets and about 250,000-300,000 photographs and digital images. About 1,000 of their books were printed before 1700! Included in their collection is a First folio of Shakespeare's works! Besides their regular employees, they benefit from the help of anywhere between 15-20 volunteers. In addition to their printed material they offer various unique databases, which are available for researchers use. They have a Cemetery Burials Register from 1881-1964 which contains 11,134 entries and can be searched by name, date and age. The Police Charge Books database from 1863-1880 holds recorded details of those arrested in the town, what crimes and misdemeanors they were charged with, and how the cases were dealt with. These details can be searched by person, crime, age, gender and date. Others include The Stratford Borough Workhouse database from 1819-1834, the Stratford Union Workhouse from 1884-1895 and 1903-1906 and the Smallpox Census from 1765.

We were given a tour of the four stacks in the basement area of the building. Stack 1 held a collection that really caught my attention. Is was titled "The Bram Stoker Collection". Apparently, unbeknownst to me up until this time, Bram Stoker was a business manager in the Lyceum Theatre for Sir Henry Irving, and was his friend and secretary for nearly 30 years. The collection housed in Stack 1 consisted of anything relating to Bram Stoker and Henry Irving during that time at the Lyceum theatre. It included menus, play reviews, and prompt books among other things.

You can find out more about this collection at The Shakespeare Centre Library & Archive

Shakespeare's Birthplace
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The Shakespeare Centre Library & Archive
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*Photo courtesy of

Monday, 20 July 2009

The British Library - 7/16/09

On Thursday, July 16th we went to The British Library. This beautiful building is the equivalent to the United States’ Library of Congress. It is a fully functional copyright library that grows 12.5 kilometers every year! Their collection consists of 14 million books, 920,000 journal and newspaper titles, 58 million patents, and 3 million sound recordings. They receive a copy of every publication produced in the UK and Ireland! The British Library serves business and industry, researchers, academics and students, in the UK and world-wide. Each year nearly six million searches are generated by the British Library online catalogue, and roughly 400,000 visit one of the libraries Reading Rooms. They issue about 300 new library cards everyday!

Some interesting collections that the library houses is their philatelic collection which includes 8 million stamps and other philatelic items A very noticeable collection is contained in a tall glass tower in the center of the foyer area. It is called the King's Library Tower and consists of books collected by King George III who reigned from 1760 to 1820. Other great treasures in the British Library include Shakespeare in Quarto, William Caxton's two editions of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the Gutenberg Bible, The Magna Carta, some Renaissance Festival Books including 253 books about festivals and ceremonies in Europe from 1475 to 1700, and a Sample of Malory's Arthurian manuscript. Some of my favorites included some Beatles manuscripts, a very old copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy, and some original Lewis Carroll Alice and Wonderland things. They also offer these computer type machines that use Turning the Pages™' software to leaf through some of the greatest books including A selection of Leonardo da Vinci sketches, Images from Alice's Adventures Under Ground Written and illustrated by Lewis Carroll, Mozart's musical diary, Codex Sinaiticus, an early work form Jane Austen, and many more. The British Library also house the largest book in the work. It is the Klencke Atlas from 1660.

I found the book retrieval process fascinating! The reader picks which books he/she wants to look at from the online catalog. The information is then sent to the basement and is then put on a little train system to travel up to over a mile long journey to the patron who awaits in it one of the reading rooms.

We also had a tour of the preservation and conservation studio. This too was phenomenal. I don't think that people realize what steps are taken to conserving and preserving old books and manuscripts. The tour seemed rushed and short, but I was glad to at least have a small glimpse of what they do.

In all this was a fascinating experience. I have never been to visit the Library of Congress in the United States, but it will now be a major priority for me!! To see the workings of a national library was amazing and I'm grateful for the opportunity.

Link to The British Library

Exterior view of the British Library
*Photo courtesy of

Interior view of the British Library (King George III collection)
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Museum of London - 7/15/09

On Wednesday, the 15th of July, we visited The Museum of London. We sat down for a presentation with Mr. Joe Cotton before being able to walk the museum. Mr. Cotton is a Senior Curator (Prehistory) in the Early London History and Collections department of the Museum of London and he gave us some insight as to what the museum is all about and what it took to create the exhibits.

The Museum of London is an urban history museum that opened in 1976. It encompasses the archeology of the early history of greater London. Located near the Barbican Library which we visited the day before, it is easily accessible from two underground (tube) stations. They have three sites and employ 150 archaeologists. Annually they welcome 4,000,000 visitors, half of them being Londoners, and the other half consisting of students and tourists.

The exhibits are in chronological order and start from prehistoric London leading up to Medieval London in the 1550’s. They are currently constructing an exhibit which will encompass that time period through to the present. They also have a wonderful exhibit that teaches Museum patrons about The Great Fire of London in 1666.

The Great Fire of London began on September 2, 1666 during the night. A small fire broke out in a bakeshop on Pudding Lane. At this period in time, most London houses were dangerously flammable as they were constructed of wood and pitch. There happened to be a strong wind that night sending sparks to neighbouring buildings. The citizen fire fighting brigades attempted without success to contain the fire with their buckets of water from the river. By 8:00 am the next morning the fire had spread halfway across London Bridge. Only sixteen people were said to be lost in the four day blaze, but the property loss was great. Some 430 acres, as much as 80% of the city proper was destroyed, including 13,000 houses, 89 churches, and 52 Guild Halls. Thousands of citizens found themselves homeless and financially ruined. The Great Fire changed the face of London forever.

Joe Cotton was in charge of the prehistoric London exhibit which was fascinating. According to a general public survey of about 2000 patrons conducted by the museum, Londoners had no knowledge of Pre-Roman London. It just wasn’t in their curriculum. His job was to make the general public aware of the prehistoric existence in London. He did this by using four ideas that surmise prehistoric life. First is the Climate. The museum examined what climate change had to do with the backdrop of a pre-roman world. Next we look at the river Thames., They have some spectacular finds on display that were pulled out of the river from flint arrowheads to weapons and pots. Patrons are then meant to look at the people who existed in London before the Roman empire. By examining the evidence on display, patrons will be able to see them as really existing and how they lived. Lastly, we can examine the legacy that these people left behind by seeing the history beneath London, the archaeological finds that proved prehistoric existence in this area.

Link to the Museum of London

The London Museum
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Painting depicting the Great Fire of London in 1666
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Sunday, 19 July 2009

The Barbican Center - 7/14/09

On Tuesday, July 14th, we visited the Barbican Library. The Barbican is a fully functional lending library with books, audio books, videos, DVDs, CD-ROMs, music CDs and scores available.

The library is part of what is called the Barbican Centre and is located in the north of the City of London, England. The Centre hosts classical and contemporary music concerts, theatre performances, film screenings and art exhibitions. It also houses three restaurants, and a conservatory. The London Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra are based in the Barbican Centre's concert hall as well. The site for this beautiful demonstration of Urban planning is situated in an area which was badly bombed during World War II.

It was a very comfortable, friendly public library just like one would find in the United States. The books were classified by category using what appeared to be a variation of the Dewey Decimal system. They had several graphic novels and comic books along the walls as to stick out and perhaps catch a passing young adults eye. I also noticed a small desk that was manned with a person to help city residents with their tax/tarrif forms and other various government forms and information. Above it was a sign that read "City Residents Information Desk".

The Barbican has several specialized libraries within it walls which I found very interesting. They have a children's library, which has various materials and programs for children of different age groups. The art library houses different forms or art based materials including films, plays, and TV shows. My favorite and probably the most fascinating library (seeing as I spent quite a long time wandering about) was the music library. This held biographies of all different types and genres of musicians from Madonna, Bob Dylan and Elvis to Mozart and Chopin. It also held audio and video of what seemed like anything and everything related to music. It housed shelves upon shelves of sheet music categorized by instrument, genre of music, and then several categorized by artist. Some of my favorites that I noticed included Radiohead, Richard Ashcroft, Hank Williams, Prince, and the Rolling Stones. There were also listening booths which held CD and cassette players for users to listen to certain things onsite. Another interesting thing was a silent piano. It allowed patrons access to a piano with headphone plugged in so that only the user could hear what was being played.

It was nice to see a working British public library, and if I resided in the area, I'm sure much of my time would be spent there!

Link to the The Barbican Center

The Barbican Center
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The Barbican Public Library
*Photo Courtacy of

St. Paul's Cathedral Library - 7/13/09

On Monday, July 13th, we were given the rare privilege of touring the library at St. Paul’s Cathedral. We bypassed a throng of people waiting in line with purchased tickets in hand to glimpse the inside of this exceptional London landmark. The Librarian, Joe Wisdom, led us through a large set of doors and into a stairwell with an ornate set of spiral stairs leading to the upper level of the massive cathedral. (These are the same spiral staircase that can be seen in the various Harry Potter films!)

194 dizzying steps later we arrived at the top floor of the cathedral. I have to say, that climbing this magnificent staircase was a bit unnerving, due to the fact that there were no visible means of support. They were just sticking out of the wall! This upper level reminded me of a backstage area of a great theater, with unused treasures strewn about. One interesting thing that I noticed were the set of keys being carried around by Mr. Wisdom. It was an ancient looking key ring with several oddly and uniquely shaped keys. They reminded my of something that a sheriff would have carried around in the wild wild west. I couldn’t help but wonder what other doors and hidey holes they would open.

When Mr. Wisdom opened the door to the St. Paul’s Library, I felt like I had stumbled several hundred years back in time. We were shown into a small, quaint, but quite crowded one room library. This room appeared to be a fantasy, right out of the movies. The antique books were shelved against the walls, and there was a comfortable looking fireplace tucked away to one side. There were several busts and paintings of men whom I’m sure held some significance to the cathedral at one time or another. Tucked away in the corner of the room, hiding behind several old beautifully bound books was an old, outdated computer that appeared to be very out of place among this great collection. The masonry around the upper walls was intricate and full of various library symbolism including depictions of grapes, skulls, wheat, and books.

The collection is theologically based and consists of 20,000 bibliographic items and 13,500 physical volumes. These consist of prayer books, biographies, philosophical works and religious studies. I did catch a glimpse among all these old and ancient books of the bright red cover of a “Who’s Who 2006”, which along with the old computer, rather stood out like a sore thumb. One item of special interest that Mr. Wisdom pointed out was a late 12th/early 13th century book of Psalms.

As fascinating as this collection is, it is not the original, as that was lost in the Great Fire of London in 1666. I was a bit disappointed that we were unable to wander around more. We were confined to this little roped in area at the entrance way. I do understand though because of the delicacy of this rare collection, and I was thankful that were able to see it at all.

Link to St. Paul's Cathedral

Link to St. Paul's Cathedral Library

St. Paul's Cathedral
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St. Paul's Cathedral Library
*Photo courtesy

Monday, 13 July 2009

First Weekend in London

I cannot begin to describe how fascinated I am with the city of London. I feel like I have
experienced so much already and its only our forth day here and we haven’t even gone on our first class outing yet!
On Saturday, after recovering from a nasty case of jet lag, I embarked on my first London away tour. I was signed up for a literary pub walk, and it was fantastic. We went by several well know pubs along Fleet Street on the north bank of the Thames river. Some of the visited places included the Punch Tavern at 99 Fleet Street, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese at 145 Fleet Street (a 17th century pub which welcomed the likes of Dr. Johnson, James Boswell, Voltaire, Thackeray and Charles Dickens), and my personal favorite, the Black Friar at 174 Queen Victoria Street. This Pub was built in 1875 and is absolutely beautiful both inside and out.
On Sunday, we went to the Camden Markets. I have never been in a more crowded place. But it was captivating non the less. Camden Town overflows with a variety of colourful markets, shops, restaurants, bars, pubs, clubs, theatres and cinemas and attracts huge crowds of Londoners and
tourists alike. The Camden Lock Market, by the canal, was originally a craft market, established in 1974, but now has a much wider spectrum of goods on sale. My personal favorite was the Camden Stables Market which has a total of around 500 shops and stalls. The market once housed a listed Horse Hospital, formerly used to care for horses injured pulling canal barges. Its cobble stone streets, brought me to a world of savoury smells from every ethnicity imaginable and very stylish fashion and unique jewelery. I will go back to shop more toward the end of my trip when I have a better grasp on my finances!

This afternoon we will have our first library outing to St. Paul’s Cathedral library. I am very
excited about this as my main academic interest lays in special libraries.

The Punch Tavern
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The Cheshire Cheese
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The exterior of the Black Friar Pub
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The interior of the Black Friar Pub
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Camdon markets
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Camdon Markets
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Camdon Markets
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