27 July 2013

Day 38 - London

I hate writing that today was my last day in London. It does not feel like over a month has passed by; it feels like just a few days ago I landed in Heathrow and was making my way to Chester. But it also feels like four distinct trips: Chester/North Wales, London, Dalkeith/Edinburgh, and Lewis/Harris. The mini-break was so perfectly placed that I'm ready to go for another week or two! Yet I've reached the point where I just want to live and work here, not run around doing touristy things. So I guess that means it is a good time to head home.

This morning I forced myself to get some packing done before leaving for the day...I absolutely hate packing, especially when you are packing to go home. Plus I took way more things than I actually needed and didn't really leave space to bring things home. All the fliers and booklets and goodie bags from the libraries/archives really add up! Although I didn't think I did much souvenir shopping, I have all this to pack:
I decided to pack all the heavy things in the carry-on, because I think my checked suitcase was around 40lbs coming here, and I definitely don't want to pay overweight charges. So note to the nice men of London who will be offering me help on the Tube/train - grab the little one, its the heaviest!

My favorite set of souvenirs were the free ones from the beaches:
The slate came from a road in Wales, the group on the left came from Ness on Lewis, the middle group from a beach on Harris, and the group on the right were from the Thames yesterday. No sea glass, though I do love the blue/white ceramic piece which was most likely a mug (thanks Angus for that!)

After getting most things packed, I went over to visit the Museum of London Docklands. It was on my "maybe-do" list, and I almost didn't go because I thought it would be crowded with tourists, and they just make places like the British Museum not as much fun. I'm so glad I went - I got to ride on a Tube line I've never been on before (Waterloo & City) plus ride the DLR (Docklands Light Rail which is mostly above ground). And the museum was fantastic, really wonderfully put together. It focuses on life in London around the Thames, and how the river and shipping were so much an integral part of what made the city. It also even looked at the slave trade, and presented it all really well - although the US was involved in the slave trade, I've never been to a US museum that really mentioned and showcased it in such an open way. My favorite part was a re-creation of shops and alleys near the docks:
When we visited the Museum of London Archaeological Archive, we got to see the vast amounts of items relating to everyday life in London through the years, and the best items are used in displays like this in the two museums. I also saw this ad; in case I miss my plane, I can go by boat seeing as they have good accommodations:
Then I saw signs for the Sainsbury Archive (http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/Collections-Research/Research/Your-Research/SainsburyArchive/), which I was assuming was perhaps something being sponsored by Sainsbury's, which is a grocery store chain (I liken it to Roche Bros, being of good quality with slightly higher prices, Tesco is more like a Stop & Shop, and The Co-operative food like Shaws). But it was instead the actual archive of the Sainsbury's stores! They had a display showing how food packing evolved over the years:
Love the Mr Men puddings!:
And there were books on Sainsbury's, the store ledger books, uniforms, and a few locked cases. It can be visited by appointment, as there is no money to keep it fully staffed. It was a cool find, and another happy coincidence!

Then it was back to the flat to check-in for my flight (I got a window seat!) and finish packing, which at this time still isn't finished because of course I had to go out to dinner! I went with Michelle to the pizza place we visited as a class the first night, and neither of us got pizza! Then I ran over to Gourmet Burger Kitchen to meet up with Kate, Christine, Jessica, Emily, Catherine, Amanda, and Allison where I had a chocolate milkshake for dessert! 
And of course it started raining, but that led to my fav part of the night - watching Kate splash through the puddles having a ball, and also seeing the reactions of people as they watched her! (Kate I had to write about it, it made me smile and want to do the same except I wasn't wearing flip flops!). 

The rain however did cancel my plans to go wander around the river to say goodbye, except that's okay because it isn't a goodbye to London, it's a "see ya" because I will be back soon. 

26 July 2013

Day 37 - London

Today and tomorrow are completely free days - today was a non-academic day, and tomorrow we are scheduled for our "final exam" which for our class means submitting our research problem statement and research questions, which I spent some time on tonight and emailed them in already so I don't have to think about it anymore! I love researching family history, and that is what led me into the LIS profession, so I decided to combine the two and look into how family historians are perceived and welcomed (or not welcomed) by archivists and librarians over here versus in the US, while also investigating the resources available to genealogists. I found it so interesting that so many little tiny public libraries had family history sections, and how open and welcoming they are to genealogists, because it seems that some archivists in the US almost look down on genealogists, thinking that they are not true researchers. I also discovered that there are so many places that you can use to trace your family history, such as at the British Museum and their records of correspondence or their readers cards.

I set out bright and early this morning with Kamilah, Allison, and Liz to hit up Primark before the hoards of shoppers descended. Primark is my new all-time favourite UK clothing store (sorry Topshop, you've gotten a bit too pricey!) However because it is so inexpensive, it gets insanely busy (like waiting over half an hour to get into the fitting room, which is what I did when I went a few weeks ago). Kamilah had the awesome idea to get there right when they opened, and we did just that and it was perfect! I got four things for 30 pounds (which is $45). Then we stopped at Dorothy Perkins, which offers a 15% discount with a student ID card and I found jeans that actually fit and won't need to be cuffed or hemmed, so I had to buy them. I'm not quite sure how everything will be fitting in the luggage, but we'll get to that tomorrow. 

Then I went out to Hampstead Heath, in the north of London. It is a great big park (or heath), with lots of paths for walking, bicycling, or riding. There was even a bathing pond and lots of athletic fields! I started at one end of the park, and wandered all the way through to the other side, spending a few hours doing so. You'd never know you were in London:
I stopped for awhile at Parliament Hill, which has a lovely view of London (you can see St Paul's and the Shard in the center)
Back at the flat, it was time to work on the problem statement. For dinner I went down to the Thames and got a pizza from a little food truck, and just walked along the river absorbing everything. And I finally crossed the last thing off my London to-do list by walking on the beach of the Thames. There were tons of people around, and I'm sure they all thought I was crazy looking for stuff at the water's edge, but I will fully embrace my dorkiness especially when it means getting not only a seashell but also a clay pipe stem from the 18th century! Back then pipes were disposable, so when you were finished you just threw it in the river. It seems they can be pretty common to find, but I only saw one! 

Nothing is planned yet for tomorrow, except the one must-do is packing (unfortunately). 

Day 36 - London: Blythe House Archives

Today we visited the Blythe House Archives (http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/), which are a division of the Victoria & Albert Museum. We were given wonderful presentations by Christopher Marsden, the Senior Archivist, Alexia Kirk, the Archivist of Art & Design, and Frances Willis, the Acting Curator of Children's Literature aka the Beatrix Potter archivist! Mr Marsden began with giving us an overview of the Blythe House. In the 1970s it was given to the V&A, the British Museum, and the Science Museum to share. For the most part, it is a closed storage archives yet they want to facilitate better public access to the store, and are undergoing a renovation to create a better reception area. For the V&A, the Blythe House holds the institutional archives, dating back to 1837 when the Government School of Design was founded, which was the forerunner of the V&A. They also deal with the archives from the Word & Image department of the museum, meaning the prints, drawings, photographs, and library materials. The core records of the archives are museum-related, including loan books, registers logging incoming mail, press clippings, and visual records of objects and the galleries. He also discussed some challenges they have faced, including the difficulty of switching from paper records to relying entirely on digital record-keeping. I think that when everyone began advocating for a change to digital/electronic, it was thought it would cut down on paper usage, when in fact the opposite has happened, and that is true for Blythe House.

Ms Kirk specifically discussed running the Archive of Art and Design, which was set up in 1978 to collect and catalog British and British-based arts and designers. This division of Blythe House accepts the archives of artists and designers and currently hold about 400 separate archives in the collection, accepting between five and fifteen a year. She showed us a few items from certain collections, including these gorgeous drawings of a woman's wear designer from the early 20th century (they look very 2nd season of Downton Abbey to me!):
Ms Willis spoke about the children's literature collection which belongs to the V&A - they have over 100,000 books, 80,000 of which were acquired in 1970 through a donation by one couple who had amassed the collection over a lifetime. And they also have the Beatrix Potter archives, which are the largest international Beatrix Potter collection in the world and are a research hub. The main part of the collection was donated by Leslie Linder, in the 1970s, and the entire collection contains over 2000 items. Since 2006 they also have the archives of her publisher, and hold many long-term loans. Seeing items from the collection were definitely the highlight of the visit for me; I have loved Beatrix Potter books since I was little. We got to see her sketchbook from when she was nine:
And a first edition of Peter Rabbit published in 1901:
Mr Andrew Wiltshire, who kindly arranged for our visit to Blythe House, next spoke about Leslie Linder, who was a neighbor of his, and told us much about his life and times. Leslie Linder is most famous for decoding Beatrix Potter's journals. It was interesting to hear how involved in the community the Linder family was, including opening up a library which was donated and maintained by the Linders. 

After the visit I returned to the flat for a quick nap and then was out the door for a hair appointment! The other day my friend Gracey got her hair colored at a nearby salon and she highly recommended it. I decided to treat myself, and it certainly was a treat as it was the most I have ever spent on my hair and hopefully will never spend that again (unless I am in London, because I would totally go back). 

Then I quickly ran back over the bridge to meet the class to walk to Somerset House for our Research Symposium. Each class was having the professor discuss what they did, and then one student talk about his/her research. Thank goodness for Dr Welsh, we were the second class to go, because Dannie and I were hoping to skip out for a play, but we were going to stay and support our class if necessary. I'm sure it would've been interesting to hear what everyone else had been doing for the month, but we're supposed to be experiencing as much as we can, so the theatre took precedence!

We went to the Rose Theatre, one of the earliest theatres in London which had hosted both Shakespeare and Marlowe, among others. When the Globe Theatre was built, it fell into disuse and was torn down. Another of the many connections on this trip, the Museum of London archaeologists were the ones who dug into the theatre during construction of a new building, and we saw a few artifacts that they found when we visited. A campaign was launched to save the Rose, and the new building was built so that you can see and get to the foundations of the Rose. They currently stage plays around the site, and Dannie had reserved two tickets for us. It was amazing. Super small theatre, very intimate, and so neat to be seeing a show that was held on the same stage 500 years earlier. It was a physical adaptation of Macbeth - so I saw Macbeth two nights in a row, and both were fabulous, each in its own way. The red lights outline the foundation of the theatre - they are currently raising money and hope to excavate and then reopen to productions in 2016:
We stopped for dinner along the Thames, and I had another one of those "I am in love with London" moments, when we looked out the window of the restaurant and saw St Pauls all lit up. I suppose living here, you get used to the city, but I still get the "I am in love with Boston" moments, like leaving a Sox game and seeing the Citgo sign, or when you cross the bridge over the Pike leaving Fenway and see the skyline. 
And the trees along the South Bank have fairy lights!
Going back into the dorms, we met up with other friends and ended up spending the remainder of the evening down by the Thames. I'm so grateful to have met these wonderful women, us LIS professionals are awesome!

Day 35 - London: Middle Temple Library

Middle Temple Library (http://www.middletemple.org.uk/library-and-archive/library/) is a library for one of the four Inns of Court. It was neat to get to, because you walk in off a busy street and there is a warren of passageways, with little gardens, and buildings that you never knew were there off of Fleet Street. Before heading to the library, we stopped to look at Temple Church, built in the 12th century by the Knights of the Templar:
A service was going on, so we didn't go inside. 

Then we headed over to the library:
There is a record of library on site since Tudor times, although it fell into disuse until 1641 with a donation of 4000 personal books, so they weren't all law books. And then in the 19th century the library really developed because so many more legal books were being published. The current library dates to 1958 and is made out of reinforced concrete to withstand bombings. The library is used by law students, barristers, and solicitors. We were able to visit all three floors, and then were taken on a tour of Middle Temple itself, and led into rooms where the public does not get to go, so that was fun. English law is based on precedent, so it is important to keep everything. 
All four libraries of the Inns of Court have specific law specialties - they all collect English law related items, but then rather than duplicate collections they further specialize in various parts of law and foreign law. Middle Temple's collection jurisdictions include EU and US law and insurance and tax laws as subject specialties. In addition to it being a jurisdiction of the collection, Middle Temple has other US connections, such as US law textbooks among other items...including a rare, 19th copy of the Declaration of Independence, which was signed by members Middle Temple:
They had received a donation of US books from the Carnegie association, and have had a close US association since the 18th century. Currently they take part in exchange programs with a number of US law schools. 

The thing I found most interesting about the library is that they have no classification scheme. The founders of the library wanted it to be a "gentleman's library" and not have labels on the spines of books! So the books are all shelved in alphabetical order by author and the journals by title. Everything is in the catalog, but shelf-browsing for similar titles just cannot be done with this set up. The other libraries use the Moys Classification Scheme for Law Books, which makes more sense to me, however it would definitely be a huge undertaking to have to label and re-shelve thousands of books. 

Members of the royal family are invited to be honorary benchers (the Inns of Court are run by their members, but since there are so many, you are nominated to be a bencher, who makes the decisions) and one of the current benchers is Prince William. Also important for me to note, some scenes from Downton Abbey were filmed here! The rooms are definitely atmospheric, including what was formerly the Smoking Room for the benchers:
After our visit, Dr. Welsh our professor treated the whole class to lunch at the Old Bank of England pub!
It was so nice, and it was a good ending because we all ate together our first night in London, and here we were all together again near the end.

In the afternoon I did boring housework tasks, like laundry! And then in the evening I went out with a few friends to Camden, where I had not yet been. We saw a version of Macbeth which was so fun and then after wandering out we decided to see the Simon Pegg movie, The World's End, which won't be released in the US for at least a month. Allison, who has most definitely met the most celebrities while over here (I think is up to at least 22?) had gone to the premiere of the movie and seen its stars!  It was funny and a really wonderful night out. 

24 July 2013

Day 34 - London: British Library Conservation Centre

The day began with me picking up some mail that had arrived when I was in Scotland - I had three things waiting for me:
Which when opened turned into:
And I had totally been craving Goldfish just the other day! We had a discussion today that the UK is really lacking in cracker selection - or we just haven't been to a big enough grocery store to find a good selection. 

Our visit today was to the British Library Conservation Centre (http://www.bl.uk/whatson/permgall/conservation/) (We could not take pictures inside)
A lot of the time people use preservation and conservation interchangeably but there is a difference: preservation is when you conduct preventative care, to make sure items do not deteriorate any more but keep them in their present state, whereas conservation is the active repair and restoration. Rob Brodie, a conservation team leader, led us on a little tour and a discussion about the centre and the work they do. They are in a purpose-built building, which opened to them in 2007. Because it was built for conservation purposes, there is so much natural light with nothing on the ceiling to block it out. In the British Library located in London, there are over 150 million items; there are millions more newer items in storage offsite. The Conservation Centre only deals with the core collection in London, since it is older and more in need of repair. 

Each office of the library prioritizes what they want done, and then the conservation teams comes up with estimates based on how many hours it will take, often giving more than one option. The best treatment is given to items which will be used the most, or to items which are going on display to make them look nice or hold them up well in stands. Running repairs, or repairs that come up when readers mention a damaged book, are also figured into the budget. Mr Brodie passed around many different weights of Japanese mulberry paper, which is used to help strengthen and repair pages. He had brought out a few different items which had been conserved and then one item which was undergoing an estimate. 

Then we were taken over by Chris and Frances to the gold finishing studio, where they described to us how both gold foil and gold leaf finishing were done on bindings, such as cloth or leather. Being a gold finisher is a very tricky task, and there are fewer and fewer people who know how to do it and do it well, because if you mess up, the entire book will need to be rebound. Also, finishing is less used as they try to save the original binding and work it into a rebound book. 

After that, I went to visit the Wiener Library for the Study of Holocaust and Genocide, where my friend Jess will be interning in October as she is moving to London (yes I am extremely jealous!). We were taken on a tour of the library by Toby, and it was a very interesting specialist library. I think the thing that interested me the most about it, was how Alfred Wiener started collecting items pertaining to the Nazis during the 1920s, because he realized how bad they were and wanted to spread the word to the people in Germany to let them know what this party was all about. He and the library moved to Amsterdam and then finally to London, where the collection still grows and does not just focus solely on the Holocaust, but any instances of genocide in the world, like the Armenian genocide and Darfur. I also found it interesting that the library still subscribes to German magazines which glorify the SS (and also surprised that there are even still such magazines), but as Toby said it is important to record these things and to have it available for research in the future. They had an exhibit on the Kinderstransport, where Jewish children were sent to live in the UK prior to the war starting, and it was very moving because it personalized it for me by presenting items that had belonged to these children. 

On a completely different note, tonight a group of us LIS students went to the Harry Potter Studios! When touring literary places, there is no one better to be with than us LIS people! It was a short train ride form London, where we were picked up by a special bus:
And then driven directly to the studios out in Leavensden. I have to admit that the tour was quite pricely, but it was definitely worth it, even if you are not a crazy fan. What struck me the most was just how much work went in behind the scenes to make the movies - you don't think about it when watching them, and you can't appreciate all the little details until you see them up close. I took a bunch of pictures but will just post a few:

The cupboard under the stairs:
Dumbledore's office:
The Hogwarts bridge:
Privet Drive - we tried knocking but the Dursleys were ignoring us:
And the model of Hogwarts Castle which was used in a lot of the close up film shots:
It was really fun and the gift shop had anything you could ever think of Harry Potter related - I was good and refrained from any purchases. 

Walking back from our bus stop in London, we had a great view of the London Eye all lit up in red, white, and blue Union Jack colors in celebration of the Royal Baby:
We only have two more days of classes and two free days, and then I'll be saying goodbye for now to London - I don't think I'm quite ready to leave, although I am more than ready for a home-cooked meal!

22 July 2013

Day 33 - Back home to London

That's fun being able to say I'm back home in London - it does feel like home after almost a month here. It was a bit of a long day getting back here, and when I finally walked out of Waterloo station I was happy to be back on the South Bank. And then I ran into Kamilah and Maegen on the street and really felt like I was home - when you run into friends on the street, it's finally your city.

I didn't take many pictures at all today, so here a few Waterloo photos from earlier in the trip:
With my window open, I can hear the trains squealing down the tracks and it reminds me of the T. It's actually a nice, soothing background noise and doesn't bother me at all. 

And a last few pictures of Ness taken from the bus this morning on my way to the airport:
I lied - there are trees! Just in random clumps:
Oh and I can't forget the news of the day - the royal baby boy is born! Everyone in my class is so excited about it; a few had been in London all day, tracking the news and posting FB updates for those of us still traveling. I did hear some shouting in the street when the news was announced, but I kinda thought there would maybe be church bells ringing or something. It is exciting to be in London for this!

Tomorrow is a return to library visits, beginning with the British Library Conservation Centre which I am wicked excited about!

Day 32 - Lewis

Four blog entries in one day- whew! I am officially all caught up once this one is posted.

I keep reminding myself that my purpose of coming to the Outer Hebrides was for some alone time and to enjoy the quiet, away from the hustle and bustle of London. And then I find myself talking to sheep and bees, so clearly I don't do well with alone time! (Yes for some reason bees kept following me around on my walk, I think it was the CVS sun cream which I did remember to put on that was attracting them!)

This is the view from my window of the B&B, it basically is what all of Ness looks like:
After a late breakfast, I went on a walk to the Butt of Lewis, the most northernly point on the island. This is an actual road, not a pathway, wide enough for one car:
The Butt of Lewis:
I found a nice place to sit and read, write, and lay in the sun for awhile:
The coastline is stunning, I will say that. There are some beaches, which are more hidden than on Harris:
I wandered back along the cliffs in a giant loop. It was mostly just me walking, but at one point there were a few people looking in the water and a woman called me over. They had just sighted a basking shark:
They are vegetarian sharks, eating plankton. That was really neat to see!
I'm pretty sure the entire town was at the beach today:
I decided to not go actually on the beach, and just stayed on the machair, as there is already quite a bit of sand in my suitcase and I don't need to add anymore!

I'm sure Ness is quite lovely but if you visit I would recommend starting in Lewis and ending in Harris, so you don't feel let down. The one highlight was tonight's dinner - at the B&B they do offer dinner, and I seem to currently be the only person staying here tonight. In the morning Louise asked me what I liked, as she didn't have dinner planned yet. I mentioned a few things, and I did tell her I was a picky eater (or fussy eater as they say here) and that I had some microwavable rice if she didn't mind me using her microwave to heat it up. She said she'd think of something and to come down at 7pm. My dinner was chicken and rice and homemade granary bread! With vanilla ice cream for dessert. And chicken & rice has been my fav meal since visiting Nana & Papa in Florida when I was four, so it was a good ending to the day. 

Tomorrow will be another long travel day - bus to Stornoway, bus to the airport, fly to Inverness, fly to London, train to London Bridge, and tube to Waterloo. I'm hoping to be back at the flat by 8pm, and then the last week of classes starts up on Tuesday!