01 July 2013

Day 12 - London - Greenwich

Today was the first day of class, and I have to say that it will be the best class I have ever taken, because we don't actually sit in any lecture hall or classroom - instead we get to explore all the different repositories throughout London and elsewhere!

Unfortunately, I have no personal pictures from our time in Greenwich; I accidentally left my memory card in the card reader last night...which will not happen again, because now every morning I will be double-checking myself!

We boarded a Thames Clipper to down the Thames to Greenwich. As we arrived earlier than planned, Dr Welsh gave a small walking tour of the area, pointing out sights to visit during our free time. Then it was onto the Caird Archive and Library of the National Maritime Museum. Visit their website to learn more: http://www.rmg.co.uk/researchers/library/

Photo Credit: http://www.rmg.co.uk/researchers/library/
From their statement of service on the website, "The National Maritime Museum’s Caird Library aims to support and enhance the work of the Museum by making its research resources as accessible as possible. The Museum’s archive and library collections made available in the Caird Library consist of over two million items including modern and rare books, journals, manuscripts, pamphlets, ephemera, and charts and maps" (http://www.rmg.co.uk/researchers/library/caird-library-service-statement#private).When we arrived, we were split into two groups; my group first went to tour the library and the "stores" as they call them, the archive. The library was just newly built, and had a wonderful e-resource area, containing a large format book scanner, a microfilm scanner, a microfilm reader, printers, photocopier, and computers. In this area were microfilm lists and registers, such as Lloyd's list and register of seamen, which were open access for family history research. There was also a group study area and a quiet study area, and throughout were the stacks of open access books, classified according to the UDC, the Universal Decimal Classification, which was originally created based off the Dewey Decimal Classification. UDC is more prevalent in Europe, whereas at home its either LC or DDC. Michael Bevan, who guided us around, said that they use UDC because they have a specialist maritime collection and they benefit from the breakdown of UDC classification. Researchers can either apply for a one day reader ticket or a three year reader ticket, allowing them access to stores where they can request up to three items and look at one item at a time. 

The library has a great online prescence, with many various research guides to help either start the researcher in the right direction or just inform them with what the library has available. They worked with Ancestry.com to digitize items with value to genealogists, and access to those items is free in the library. 

The archive is organized so that similar items are stored together - for example, all the folios are together, all the rare books are together - for better conservation. Then the collection is broken into sections, each dealing with a type of record - for example, Public Records (the Admiralty), Local Records (from the dockyards), and artifical collections, or collections which were put together by someone else and then donated or purchased by the library. Mr Bevan explained that one major goal recently of the archive has been to make the items more accessible by better describing what a specific collection contains. Of course, there is a backlog of unprocessed collections, as is the case in most archives!

Next we were shown a selection of items held in the archive. There were three archive story boxes, so called because all the items were pulled from other collections to create a theme, or story. I absolutely love these boxes! Mr Bevan explained that the archives feel their goal isn't only preservation but also to make items accessible and to educate, with which I completely concur. Archivists should not just be stewards, keeping items under lock and key, but should share the amazing items with the greater public, to make more people excited about archives! 

The themes of the three boxes we were shown were "Pirates," "The Spanish Armada," and "Admiral Nelson." All the documents in the boxes were ready for handling, covered in mylar. And we got to handle them along with the rare books. One of the documents was a letter from 1588, regarding the Armada, signed by both Walsingham and Burghley, who were Queen Elizabeth's top advisors. Then there was a spy book from the 16th century, listing number and types of ships of other countries. There was a book with prints of pirates, a journal of a pirate, and a letter sent home from a seaman who had survived the Battle of Trafalgar. It was so wonderful to be able to see and handle these treasures, and it was great to be in the company of other librarians and archivists, who completely understand it when you totally geek out over a four hundred year old document!

I am considering writing my research paper about archival reference for genealogists here in the UK, or something like that, so I asked who were the users of the library. They said a two week survey was recently done, and the results surprised them because in the two week period there were more academic researchers than family historians, which they thought would be the other way around. One reason it could seem like there were more family historians, is that they take up more time because they need to often be given guidance whereas the academic researchers order the items they need and are on their own. Also, they mentioned that since Ancestry has digitized many items which family historians would be interested in, the trend seems to towards using the records online rather than visiting in person. 

It was a wonderful first visit to a repository, and I loved how we were able to see and handle items from the archive.

After the library visit, I grabbed lunch with a few classmates and then after strolling Greenwich we took a bus back to the flat to get ready for the Convocation and Welcome Reception. The convocation was held in the beautiful King's College Chapel at Somerset House:

Since there aren't many pictures in this post, here are a few  I took the night before, walking back to the flat. 
Today we are heading to the Barbican Library and the library at St Paul's Cathedral, and tonight I am going to see a play!

1 comment:

  1. Would have loved the story boxes too - fascinating! Beautiful sunset pictures! Love you, Mom and Dad :)