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!

1 comment:

  1. Awww so glad you got our mail and Nana couldn't believe her letter arrived after being 2-3 weeks ago! Fun with Harry Potter - someone else will be jealous. You've had such an educational, informative, adventurous trip! Can't wait til you're home in 5 days. Love you, Mom and Dad :)