26 July 2013

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!

1 comment:

  1. How wonderful!! Two more days til we see you:) Love Mom and Dad