Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Hip Hip Pooh-Ray: On the Hunt for Winnie the Pooh, Round II (22/07/2013 - Present)

Original illustration by E.H. Shepard, found at the V&A
Photo courtesy of their website

Continuing on my hunt of all things Winnie the Pooh, I learned that the V&A Museum is in the possession of some of the original illustrations done by E.H. Shepard. Unfortunately, my e-mails to them went unanswered and I was unable to get to the printing room to see them in person, I did however, find some of them on-line to look at and am currently planning on sending a new e-mail to ask about the collection in general. 

Original illustration
Courtesy of

In the meantime, the New York Public Library (NYPL) currently holds the actual animals owned by Christopher Robin. If time allows for it, I would love to hop on the train and go take a look at them in person. I had the amazing opportunity to see them years and years ago when my uncle brought me in, but seeing them now, after learning all of these new things, it would bring a whole new meaning to this classic creatures. 

Lastly, in my efforts to research everything Winnie the Pooh, I have visited my local library and found several books. I currently possess The Enchanted Places, a memior written by Christopher Robin and a book about A.A. Milne, the man behind Winnie the Pooh. This afternoon, my day off, will be spent lounging by the pool and reading this works. Not a bad way to do some research, right? 

Original illustration
Courtesy of

Hip Hip Pooh-Ray: On the Hunt for Winnie the Pooh (19/07/2013)

Pooh Corner Store

For the main assignment of this class, we have to write an extensive research paper on a subject or concept of our choosing. After much thought, and many ideas later, the notion of writing about A.A. Milne and Winnie the Pooh came to light. With some researching and some creative thinking, I managed to find a few sites in England that dealt specifically with this silly ol’ bear and his creator. Today was my first adventure to find more information. 

Living in England, A.A. Mine based a lot of the 100 Aker Woods on cultivated pine plantation, known as the 500Acre Wood, located in the South East part of the country. To get there from where we were staying would be an hour train ride from Victoria Station to East Grinstead and then a 45 minute bus ride from there to Hartfield, which would land you right in the middle of Pooh Country. After seeing how easy this trip would be, and seeing what a beautiful day it was out, I decide to pack a bag and make my way to the countryside. 

Upon arriving in Hartfield, the first stop I made was to Pooh Corner. Built in 1978, this store has been specializing in all things Winnie the Pooh for 35 years. There is shop and a little restaurant, with indoor and outdoor seating, appropriately named Piglet’s Tearoom. Seeing as it was early in the afternoon, I thought the store would be empty around this time, boy was I wrong. There were at least two school groups in here, each around 15-20 students, and then a few other tourists like me. I spent a few minutes looking in the different rooms and taking a glance at some of the things for sale. There were original Pooh animals, Disney version stuffed animals (yes theres is a difference between the two), books, coloring pages, tea towels, bookmarks and hundreds of other items for sale all concerning Pooh Bear and his forest friends. As I waited for the massive crowds to file out, I did pick up a few items for myself and a friend’s daughter, when in Pooh Country, right? Once things had died down a bit, I had the pleasure of talking to one of the shop owners, who’s name I’m embarrassed to say escapes me at the moment. She told me that store constantly has visitors, including groups like the ones that had just left. She was kind enough to give me a brief history about the store and talked to me about some of her favorite stories and Pooh memories. After seeing the physical store and speaking with the lovely owner, it’s no wonder Pooh Corner has been around for nearly 4 decades. 

Let the journey begin

Pooh Sticks Bridge 
My journey didn’t stop at the store. From there, I went on a hike through the Ashdown Forest to find some memorable sites from the fictional 100 Akers. Luckily, the store had a map that would guide me through the woods and take me to the exact bridge that Milne used as the famous Pooh Sticks Bridge in his stories. If you don’t know what Pooh Sticks is, I highly endcourage you to look up the story and learn, it is adorable! With my “expotition” map in hand, I started a two mile trek through the woods. I won’t bore you with all the details of bushes and trees that were along the adventure, but I will say I had a moment or two where I almost gave up because I didn’t know if I was lost or not. I persevered though and nearly an hour later, I found my way to the famous bridge. There were about  five to six other people there and it looked like a few of them were playing some Pooh Sticks. Once again, if you don’t know what that means, go read the story! Spending some time admiring the scenery, snapping a few photos and just relishing in the fact that I was in the same neck of the woods that Milne used in his stories, I soaked up the peaceful ambiance of the area. From there, I continued on my way and found some other locations used in the classic tales, like the Heffalump trap and Roo’s Sandpit. Unfortunately, as the afternoon progressed, I knew I had to start making my way back to civilization and figure out how to get back to London. Thinking I would find a shortcut, I attempted to find a new way back to the main road that the store was on, and it was a shortcut that took me about 5 miles on a country road. Suffice it to say, I learned an important lesson with that one, follow the map provided! 

Spending a day in the 100 Aker Woods, walking the paths that Christopher Robin and his friends walked and seeing the actual places Milne used in his stories really inspired me to write my research paper. There was a lot of food for thought involved and I can’t wait to start doing some research to see where the paper will go. 

For more information or to take a virtual tour of the woods, check out the store's website:

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Class 13: Blythe House (25/07/2013) 

It is with much sadness that I sit down to write this blog entry. Today’s class is out last in London. After seeing, hearing and meeting so many new people and new things, I cannot believe our time here has come to an end. I swear it was just yesterday that I was getting on the plane at JFK. However, before accepting the fact that this amazing time has come to an end, I will talk about the actual last visit to the Blythe House, an extension of the V&A archives. 

If you’ve been reading this blog post for post, you may recall that my class had previously visited the V&A, Victoria and Albert Museum, a few weeks back. The Blythe House  is an outside storage facility that houses more materials. Originally built to be used as a post office and then a bank, this building was eventually handed over to three national museums, the V&A being one of them. Known for housing the world’s largest collection of Beatrix Potter archive, the Blythe House has over 100,000 pieces of work. But before I get into all things Potter, I’ll talk about some other items in the archive that were amazing. 
Sketch Designs from the collection
Done by Lucile Ltd. 

Christopher Marsden, the senior archivist, began our tour by telling the class all about the V&A archives. We learned about the filing systems, the detailed records staff are encouraged to keep, data protection legislation and what this department does to ensure all FOIL laws are adhered to. There are challenges which are presented to this hard working team like electronic records and the e-registry that has to be created with it. The team is forced to consider what gets kept, where do they have space for physical records, what can get digitized and how is the best way to ensure preservation and continuity. Then there are the issues of preventing a catalogue from appearing on-line, how patrons can have access to search the collection and trying to link the archives with this so that it can all be in one place. There are a lot of things to consider in this department, I don’t think I ever realized it until hearing all of this. 

Another Lucile sketch from the 1920s. 
After hearing about the technical details about the archives, our class then heard from Alexia Kirk, an archivist of arts and design. She gave a look at some of the fashion collections that the V&A has. With a mix of British designs and British based designers, there is a lot of material that needs to be looked after. With a big chunk of materials from the 20th and 21st century, there are records of designers, artists, photographers, etc. that can be found as well. Each year, between 5 and 15 new items are acquired to add to the collection. What’s great about this collection is it really tells a lot about Britain and how it has changed in style and taste over this vast period of time. I have to say, personally, some of these items were my favorites to look at for the day. 

Finally, the time most of the class had been waiting for, we heard all about the Beatrix Potter collection. Frances Willis, the curator of children’s literature, gave us a brief overview of all the children’s materials which are housed here. With over 100,000 books, the Beatrix Potter is their most famous and widely requested. With most of these materials being collected between 1950 and 1970, this is when the collection started to be developed. There were first edition prints, letters written by Potter with illustration ideas for characters, other handwritten items, pretty much if you name it this archive has it. We learned that most of this collection came from a team of two, Enid and Leslie Linder (more about them in a second). Never having been a huge Beatrix Potter fan, I got swept up in many of my classmates excitement at seeing this amazing and rare items and couldn’t look away. This was truly like being in the presence of greatness. 
Leslie Linder working on the journals.
Photo courtesy of

Lastly, our tour had the distinct pleasure of having a special guest speaker, Andrew Whiltshire, speak to us about the Linders and his personal connection with them. Leslie Linder is most known for being the one to crack Beatrix Potter’s journals. Written in her own code when she was a young girl, it took Linder 10 years to decipher and transcribe much of this author’s childhood. It’s because of him that biographies could be written, films were made and more information than ever was known about this beloved children’s author and how she grew up. Mr. Whiltshire was able to tell us all about the Linder family, their wealth, their interest in Potter and how his own mom knew the family. It was a fantastic personal account that really drew the class to a perfect close. 

Monday, 5 August 2013

Class 12: Middle Temple Library (24/07/2013) 

Middle Temple Law Library 
One of the two oldest globes in England
Opening in 1958, the Middle Temple Library is one of the four inns of court; the other three inns being Lincoln, Inner and Gray, which work in tandem to house various collections. Our class toured the Middle Temple Law Library today.

With records dating back from the Tudor times, this library contains a collection that is immersed in history. Renae Satterley, one of the librarians, was gracious enough to show us all around. We learned about the extensive law (European, American and a small international section) collection that is available, in house and on-line (they use all the usual databases), saw the two oldest globes made in England and library's most unique acquisition, the Prime Minister portrait gallery collection. Before heading to a different section, Ms. Satterley showed us a 19th Century lithograph of the Declaration of Independence, which holds a dear importance to them because five of the signers were from Middle Temple.

After looking at the library, we were brought into an prestigious part of Middle Temple, the Bench Apartments. Considered a high honor, members have to be asked to be benchers. Some well known members include Prince William, the Queen Mother and Princess Diana. Ms. Satterley took us to see the smoking room, the Queen's Room, which had ceiling that matched the design on the carpet, and the Temple Hall.

Double Banner Beams 
 Built in 1570, this hall is special because of the double banner beam roof. Costing twice the amount of money, this type of beam can only be found in 3 other places that they know of. Not only used for dining, the Temple Hall was built to host lectures, events and balls. Best facts we learned today was how one of the hallways was used in the taping of Bridget Jones's Diary, how the Temple Hall was used for the third release of Harry Potter and how it also housed the first performance of 12th Night. Always a sucker for pop culture references, these facts were my favorite to learn today!!

There is no official website, that I could find, for Middle Temple Library. I did check out their Facebook though and it was very informative. It can be found here:
Smoking Room in the Benchers Apartments 

Class 11: British Library Conservation Center (23/07/2013) 

Outside the British Library
Photo Courtesy of

After an amazing and very educational look at Scotland's library and archival systems, it was time to head back to jolly ol' England. Kicking off our last week (I can't believe how fast that went) was a trip to the British Library Conservation Studio.

Housed outside of the British Library, the studio was built specifically to be a conservation department. With skylights placed to filter in the northern light through the roof, an AC system built in and plenty of fire proof cabinets, this is a modern studio dedicated to restoring materials.

Example of book conservation
Photo courtesy of www.

Currently, there 150 million items held here, with some newer acquisitions housed in Yorkshire. Our guide today, Robert Brodie, gave us a glimpse in the life of a conservator and showed us how all these items are treated. Gathered around his work station, he showed us how every item that needs to be conserved has to get an estimated bid, how different committees have to accept/deny the bids and ultimately what happens to an item after the bid is approved. Mr. Brodie showed us examples of binding that needed restoring, re backing on a dictionary from 1649 and a variety of Japanese tissue paper that is used for its fibers to fix items. Conservation is a labor intensive process and just seeing a few examples, I can understand why.

Gold Foiling
Photo courtesy of
After seeing the work stations, our group was introduced to Frances and Chris. They took us to a different section where we got to see how books are embossed with gold finishes. We learned all about the differences between gold foils and gold leafs, the amount of years it takes to become proficient in this art and how much skill really is necessary to be able to do gold finishes. Looking at old volumes, I've often wondered how this lettering was done on the spine and on the covers, now I know. We saw the different types of lettering and fonts, the tools it takes to imprint the books, the blocking press which can be used and the different skins which are used on the covers of books. It was really neat to see just how much detail and work went into saving these old volumes and gave me a new outlook the next time I have the chance to hold or see one. Quite a learning experience!!

For more information on the British Library Conservation Center, check out 

Class 10, Part II: University at Edinburgh New College Library (16/07/2013) 

New College Library

Tour two of day two in Edinburgh was spent at New College Library, part of the University of Edinburgh.

Newly renovated
Renovated between 2005 and 2006, this library spans 5 floors and contains 1/4 million books. Shelia Dunn, site and services supervisor, told us all about the library from the stained glass windows, donated and installed 24 years after restoration, to giving us access to the special collections section which had books set out to look at.

Open to students, as well as the public who are researchers or members which pay a fee yearly, the library is open access. With over 52,000 pounds spent yearly on books and on-line subscriptions, the New College Library prides itself on its collection. Stacks found on lower floors are open to students and they are allowed to search through them and take books off the shelf. Such a common thing to us, this piece of information really stood out to me. It seems like so many of the places we went to and saw required readers to request items and then wait to get them. But here, it was different, and honestly, a breath of fresh air to hear that.The New College Library was a beautiful library to walk into. Ms. Dunn was very informative, gave us a folder full of the history and other information about the library and gave us a chance to look at some really books in their cased off room. It was a great way to end day two in Edinburgh.

Class 10, Part I: Edinburgh Central Library (16/07/2013) 

Entrance to the Central Library 

Day two in Edinburgh found our class at the Edinburgh Central Library. Built in 1890, this library is all about its patrons, keeping up with their needs and constantly changing and improving their services to move foreword. Over the years, the library has won numerous awards, including the Booksellers Best Library Service (2012), the CSE and the IIP. In 2012, the Central Library scored a 97% in customer satisfaction, the highest rank in over 45 years. And after today's class, it's really no wonder why they are such a prominent and driving library.

The main reason, in my opinion at least, the Edinburgh Central Library ( is so successful is because of the staff's dedication and commitment to meeting all the needs of all the patrons. From changing hours and days of operations to offering ample amounts of workshops to patrons of all ages and skill range to increasing the number of staff members who are trained to offer at home book delivery service, this library will try its hardest to improve all ranges of services offered. In addition to services, the Central Library works diligently at keeping current with a digital presence for public library. By using Twitter, Facebook and offering access to sites like Our Town Stories and Your Edinburgh, the library is able to connect with users on a personal level. It gives the community a sense of being involved and allows them to participate and have their voices heard. The Edinburgh Central Library is gearing themselves to change and grow with their readers, and the times. They encourage learning, being involved in the community and telling/making/sharing stories all over.

Reading material on children's
services offered.
Another aspect of the Edinburgh Central Library that blew me away was their efforts to get kids reading and involved in the library. From their Reading Companion Project, which is geared towards bringing the love of reading and libraries to children in other care homes and improving poor literacy skills, to the Summer Reading Challenge, which has seen an increase in members and participation over the years, this library dedicates themselves to getting children into the library. The best program, again to me, that we heard about was called Glitz Lit. Drawing from the fact that teen girls are drawn to magazines, fashion and the likes of that, the library created a program based around these ideas. Books that went with this theme were included but it felt more like a social gathering than something held at a library. This idea really stuck with me, and I defiantly will keep it and draw inspiration from it in the future. I just loved the concept.

I touched briefly on it earlier, but another facet of the Central Library that really stands out is their digital and informational team. With only about 6 staff members, this team is responsible for all the virtual services available at the library. They contribute to the webpage on the council site, manage events and on-line booking reservations, manage over 50 e-resources, maintain various social networking accounts, like Twitter, and even produces some of their own videos which are published on YouTube. The Central Library was also the first library to offer a mobile app that allows users to connect. Just typing that all out alone made me tired, I cannot imagine how these amazing staffers can keep up with all of this. It really is remarkable.

Example of student artwork
that can be found throughout
the library
As if learning all of this wasn't enough, our class was also fortunate enough to get a tour of the library. From seeing the reading rooms to looking at some manuscripts and archives, over 500 years of printing material was on one table in front of us, there was just so much to see and experience. Most notable was the various pieces of artwork strewn out all over the building. When I asked about them, I learned that they were pieces of artwork by students of the Fine Arts College. To me, this truly signified just how much the library tried to reach out and connect with its patrons.

More student exhibitions
The Edinburgh Central Library was truly a one of a kind experience to me. From the wonderful group of librarians we had talk to us to the folders full of information given to us to the amazing tea provided for us (who doesn't love a good cup of tea) this library was a unique and special day that I will not soon forget. If I had to pick a favorite, this would certainly be it.

Class 9: National Archives of Scotland (15/07/2013)

Photo courtesy of NAS website

After studying in London for a little over two weeks, the time came for our class to venture outside of the city we had grown to love and explore. Luckily, our LondonAway trip had us set to visit Edinburgh in Scotland. Having visited here last year, I was personally stoked to come back to this amazing city and learn about some of the libraries and archives.

Our first stop in Edinburgh was the National Archives of Scotland ( Margaret McBryde, the education officer, showed us all around this magnificent building and taught us a little bit about its history. For instance, the National Archives is a newer name for the building. It was originally called the National Records of Scotland (NRS), but due to a merger with another company and being in the midst of a transitional time, the name has been changed. Additionally, this building is only one of three that house records. Where we were was the archives that the public can come into and request materials, the other two are where records are stored.
Entrance into the National Archives

After learning about the history of the building, Ms. McBryde gave us a PowerPoint presentation about what happens in the National Archives. This department is responsible for all types of registration, like marriages, deaths, immigrants, etc., and statistical functions for the Scotland registry, including demographic information and census data. Also found here, physically and on-line, are records about all family histories having to do with Scotland. The archives do offer multiple on-line resources and workshops available for the public to use. There are even 2 hour free sessions made available to help patrons look up and use electronic records. Ms. McBryde gave us a few examples of the databases available, like the General Registrar Office of Scotland and the Scottish Archive Network, that can be used by anyone. I was tempted to use some of these resources and look up information on my grandfather that was born in Scotland just to see how all of these sites worked. It was pretty amazing to learn about all of this.
 Later on in the tour, Ms. McBryde let us examine and look at a bunch of historical records. In front of me were old deeds, church records, maps and plans, court/legal documents and other pieces of paper from hundreds of years ago. There were papers from the Jacobite Rebellion, the will of Robert Burns and a document from 1673 that served as evidence that golf was played in Scotland around this time. The oldest record on site is believed to be from 1120 and is from King David I. There was also a document from 1673 that served as evidence that golf was played in Scotland around this time. The coolest thing, in my opinion, were the criminal records that we saw. There were examples of old school mug shots (which also serve as early examples of photography) and records of how prisoners made it overseas to new places. There used to be a system used where each criminal came with a receipt and that was what was presented after they got to where they going and became proof that they reached their final destination. Seeing those was really cool.
Photo courtesy of NAS website

Our class concluded with a brief tour around the actual building. It was on this walk that we learned about how patrons could access archives, how they acquired reader's tickets and what rooms they were allowed to use to search for information. Overall, this tour was so informational and had so many fantastic things to learn and see. Ms. McBryde was an amazing educator and I couldn't be any happier with our first day in Edinburgh.

Class 8: British Museum Archives (12/07/2013)

The British Museum 

Skeletons, Mummies and Bones... Oh My!! This morning was all about the British Museum and exploring our way around the various exhibits going on. Personally, I’ve always had an interest in ancient Egypt so the third floor was right up my alley. From jewelry, sarcophagi, hieroglyphics  on clay tablets and mummies (yes, that’s right, actual mummies) I spent most of my morning browsing this floor. However, seeing these awesome artifacts wasn’t the only reason for our class coming to the British Museum on this gorgeous day. In fact, we were here to meet with Stephanie Adler, the one and only archivist who works in the British Museum Archives ( 

Minutes kept during meetings
in the 1800s. 
What Ms. Adler took us through today was what it’s like to work where she works. From looking at old ledgers of minutes that were kept during library hours to complaints made by patrons centuries ago to staff records and requests made, the history of this building is all in this room. In addition to all of these volumes which have survived over the years, there is something like 12,000 photographs which have to be catalogued and stored. These photographs include floor plans and set designs for exhibitions that have been in the library and swatches of color that have been used for wall paint and carpeting. In 1850, the museum employed its first photographer, so that gives just a slight idea as to how old some of these photos may be. 

Storage space for various pieces
of the collection
On this behind the scenes look, Ms. Adler also gave us a look at where items are stored, showed us the massive cabinets where plans and bigger pictures are stored and let us look at the Records of Round Reading Room, a ledger book full of names of patrons that used the library. Among the signatures were Beatrix Potter, and one of my personal favorites, Thomas Stoker, aka Bram Stoker. She even had part of a bomb that landed in the museum during WWII. 
Ms. Adler showing us a book
used in the Round Reading Room.
Bram Stoker was one of the signatures!! 

Up until 2000, all the records kept in these archives were physical copies. Slowly, the collection is becoming more digitized. As of right now, documents are scanned as they are needed and not real effort is being made to speed up the process. It was only in May of this year that the archives even got a catalogue which can be accessed. And while this may prove frustrating to some people, I think there is a lot that can be said for this. There’s so much history and so much connections which can be made by seeing and touching these things in person. It’s special and keeping the collection like that makes it stand out. That’s what left the most impression on me after this tour was finished and we went about our day. 

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Class 7: Royal Geographical Society Library and Archive (11/07/2013) 

Mr. Rae showing a map of the Nile River
Founded in 1830, the Royal Geographical Society and Library ( has over 2 million items in its collection. 1/2 million maps, 2,000 atlases, and 1/2 million images are just a few items that can be found in this building. Our class had the pleasure, and honor, to get an up close and personal look at this amazing archive.

Eugene Rae, the principle librarian of the Royal Geographical Society, was kind enough to tell us a little bit about the history of the society and how its run. Because this society is founded on the belief and ideals of its members, it is a library that relies heavily on donations and efforts from outside contributors. And while most of the items which can be found here are donated, the society does have to be selective in what they can accept. Space is limited and only objects which have a strong connection to the society, or one of its most famous members, are accepted. 

For items already in the collection, there is no classification scheme in place. Materials are given a shelf marker. There is an on-line database available, and the staff is working hard to digitize many items. At the moment, there is not enough funding to keep up with the digitization efforts, so things are added as they are requested/needed. 

Hot and Cold
A small sampling of items we got to see 
What really stood out about this tour was how Mr. Rae had various materials spread out around the table for us to look at. From a compass used by Charles Darwin to an Arabian coffee pot to a Burberry Helmet to a fox collar used in the arctic, this table was like taking a historical trip around the world. From hot to cold climates, he took us on an adventure from what it was like to try to explore the Nile River to the top of Mount Everest. His knowledge and passion for all the stories he told and all the items he held was truly amazing. Looking back, this was my favorite tour of the trip. It was just that fantastic. 
An Arabian Coffee Pot 

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Class 6: National Art Library at the V&A (10/07/2013)

Behind the Scenes
Seeing the National Art Library at the V&A
Class today was held at the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum. Built over 150 years ago, the V&A was built to be used as a practical library. Over time, the exhibitions housed here garnered more public attention and interest and a new building (this building) moved to a new location to meet the needs of the public. In 1858, the doors to the V&A were open to the public and now, the museum sees over 30,000 visitors each year. Our group was privileged enough to not only walk around the museum a bit, but to also get a behind the scenes  tour at the National Art Library ( ) from Sally Williams. 

With over a million items in its collection, the National Art Library is known for its strong and extensive range of materials. Access is closed, but users can get a reading card and request, on-line, to see materials. Services are available to take photographs, scan documents and photocopy books for readers. The National Art Library does use databases, but they are only available on site. The staff is trying to make the catalogue available to users at home, but it just hasn’t been done yet. 

Ms. Williams took us to the stacks to see the 11,000 periodicals and thousands of books housed at the library. We learned how books were shelved by size, saw how periodicals were bound together in volumes and get an overall sense of what working for this library was like. Due to the importance of their materials, we learned about how close their relationship is with book conservation is and all about their preservation efforts. 

In order to preserve materials, the library does encourage readers to use electronic periodicals and fact sheets, that they provide, to limit handling materials or requests for the wrong items. What’s interesting though is despite these attitudes, the library is only just beginning to digitize its collection. There are about 200 hundred books available on Google Books, but there really isn’t enough resources to speed the process up. 

Original Picasso artwork 
David Coperfield
Written in Charles Dickens's own hand
After learning about the library’s collection, Ms. Williams took us to see some amazing books. Spread out on a table was a facsimile of DaVinci’s code book, pages of David Coperfield written in Charles Dickens's own hand, Picasso artwork and a rare first edition book binding of The Mystery of Edwin Drood from 1972. These items were just among the thousands of other rare items that can be found in this library. Poems hand written by Keats, more Dickens’s manuscripts, the world’s largest collection of Beatrix Potter material, Shakespeare folios and the original drawings of E.H. Shepard, the illustrator of Winnie the Pooh, are just a few names and examples of what else can be found in the special collections of this magnificent library. It is such a great place and there is nothing I wouldn’t give to have a week to spend just looking at some of these things, it would be amazing. 

Friday, 2 August 2013

Class 5: The London Archaeological Archive Center (08/07/2013)

Entrance to the Mortimer Wheeler House 

The London Archaeological Archive Society, LAARC, is housed at the Mortimer Wheeler House. It is one of three departments located in the building and it is only open to those that make an appointment to see materials beforehand. What's interesting about LAARC is that with over 25 thousand pieces in its collection, they are constantly loaning out items to museums, companies, exhibits, etc. so there is always something different going on in the building. Our guide, Dan Nesbitt, showed us all around today. 

Before talking about the tour, here is a bit of history we learned about LAARC. It is the world’s largest archaeological archive, and even holds the Guinness Book of World Record for it. They have a small staff and rely heavily on support from their amazing volunteers. In fact, their volunteer program is widely recognized, has received numerous awards and serves as a model for a lot of other organizations. First time volunteers are signed on for a ten week project, and once that’s completed can opt to sign on for a longer term. LAARC believes in the 4 motifs of curating, researching, leadership and learning. They are constantly reaching out to teach others in the community and garner interest in their efforts. It’s no wonder this association is world renowned. 

Original Model of the
Telephone Booth
One of the first rooms we went into was a toy room. From Furbys to board games to dolls, this room was filled with hundreds of collectibles from over the years. What really stood out was the red telephone box. This was the original model that G.G. Scott designed to create the winning design of the telephone boxes that are still on London streets to this day.  In a different room, and inaccessible unless you part of some magician’s organization, was an original Psycho. A psycho is those glass boxes with a fortune teller in them, usually found at fairs or carnivals, that gives a fortune on a slip of paper. Only those belonging to an organization are allowed to see this piece of history and learn how it works. I may or may not have considered changing careers for a hot second to gain access to this item. 

Leather boot used in Shakespeare's
 time and plays 
After looking at toys, Mr. Nesbitt took us all around the facility. We learned about prehistoric flints, arrowheads and whatnot, which are among the oldest items in the collection, we saw how mud was sifted to find items that have been buried and got a behind the scenes look at the processing area. It was in this area that another staff member, Graham, gave us a first hand look at how items are processed and showed us old pieces of lamps, pewter tins, needles and shears. The most awesome piece of history we saw was a cannon ball in a bucket. Mr. Nesbitt told us that one of these had been found at every Shakespearean theater excavation site. Found in 2008, these balls were believed to be used as props during shows to create different sound effects. Another Shakespeare artifact we saw was a piece of a leather boot believed to have been used during his shows.
Outdoor Area
Full of dirt waiting to be sifted
In college, my roommate was studying, interned and ultimately worked as an archaelogist for the New York State Museum. I remember her telling me about what she had found at various sites, and I’m not going to lie, more often than not I wondered to myself how in the heck can someone find this interesting? Well after today, I can now understand. Looking at animal bones, pieces of clothing, old glass from the 19th century and thing else our glass saw today, I was fascinated by it all. It’s such an interesting world to see what has survived over time and learn about how life used to be. 

For more information on the London Archaelogical Archive Center, please check out their website,  or give their blog a read,

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Class 4: The British Library (04/07/2013)

Bench at the entrance
of the British Library 

Today's class took us to the British Library, the national library of the United Kingdom. Housing over 200 million items, this library is also home to the world's second largest map collection. Our guide, Nigel Hobbs, led us all over the library and showed us some really neat behind the scenes areas.

Before even starting the tour, we learned about the library's collection and collection development. The most interesting thing I learned was about the copy right laws. Due to these laws, the British Library is required to retain a copy of any published material, like books, magazines, newspapers, etc., which are published in the UK or in the Republic of Ireland. Weekly, the library receives hundreds upon hundreds of new material which needs to be catalogued and stored. It's because of these guidelines, the British Library is forced to be quite selective in what materials it acquires from other parts of the world.
Overall view of the British Libray

Besides the collections, we learned about the physical make up and design of the library. Only about 40 years old, this building is relatively new. At the time it was considered an eye sore and there was a lot of negative feedback once it was constructed. In addition to this building, the library also has items in three other buildings, which anyone can access, either through requesting materials or having documents e-mailed to them.

Inside of the British Library there are 11 reading rooms containing seats for about 1200 patrons. Anyone over the age of 18 can register for a reading card as long as they have a need or specific reason to access the collection. Patrons are encouraged to apply on-line and pre-register and then come into get the card once it is done. Passes can be given for up to one year. What was really awesome was learning that one reader the library served was Johnny Depp! How amazing would that have been if he was there the same day we were?

From there, Mr. Hobbs took us to see the inner workings of the library. We saw the mechanical book handling system (MBHS), which is how materials are disturbed throughout the library. There are over 3,000 routes a book can take with this system to get to the desired destination. It's how requested materials get to where they need to be and it's an efficient system. Then there is the King's Library, which is the massive column of books contained in a glass case in the middle of the library. There are over 85,000 books which were left by King George IIIV in this room. He donated these books under some conditions, which include that the books be seen by the public and they be available for use by anyone that needs them. The British Library still honors his requests to this day.

Lastly, the coolest part of the tour was seeing the Klendke Atlas. Well over six feet tall, this atlas is the world's second largest one made. Just standing next to it was very impressive.

Klendke Atlas:
The world's second largest atlas
View from the bottom:
Looking at books left by King George
Learning all about the British Library, it's materials, the collections and how the MBHS worked was really interesting. Mr. Hobbs was a great tour guide who knew a lot and gave our group a lot of inside knowledge and facts throughout the visit.

If you want to learn more about the British Library, please visit their website: