Sunday, 19 August 2007

Just for Fun and our last evening.

Our Last evening (Aug. 4, 2007) together "The Mad Hatters" Thanks Ladies.

Just for Fun

I just wanted to add a picture journal of our mini break in Ireland (thanks for the memories Nancy) I did not do an entry for every day, I covered our class trips and a few additional trips. So this is just a few extra pictures from our travels. Enjoy, I did.

Dublin, Ireland

Dublin-our first night we splurged and stayed in the Clontarf Castle Hotel. Oh the luxury (It's only downhill from here)

Killarney, Ireland

On the ferry back to England, just kidding we'll be landing in Wales of course!!

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Guildhall Library August 3

Photo courtesy the Corporation of London

Our final class visit on Friday August 3 was to the Guildhall Library. The Guildhall is also part of the City of London libraries. It is however a reference library dedicated mostly to the history of the city of London. It is the oldest public library in England founded in 1425 by the bequest of Richard Whittington. The library provides free research assistance if it is not too involved for example lasting less than 20 minutes. However, if someone wants further assistance for example to research family history the library will provide it for a fee of 50 pounds per hour.

My thoughts

It was a nice ending to the program. One thing the library has that I found most impressive is the "Collage" database that provides access to graphic works that can be ordered over the Internet. The database can be searched by place names, artists, or themes. On site is also a very good bookstore. Due to limited luggage space though, I was forced to only look and not buy.

Barbican Center Library August 2

Today was our first class trip to a public lending library, finally. The Barbican Library is part of the Barbican Center in the City of London and is the major lending library for the city. It opened in 1982 and serves the City of London or the "square mile" (the heart of Britain's Business Center). The library is open to all the public but its main patrons are those who live and/or work in the City of London. The library employs 44 staff, 36 full-time and houses a collection of over 200,000 books and other materials. Amazingly, the library averages 1200 visitors per day. Our visit today, included the main library, the Music Library and the Children's Library.

My thoughts

I was so happy to finally visit an actual lending library and have a scheduled tour. I've enjoyed the other libraries but have been anxious to visit a "real" lending library. The librarians were of course wonderful. Very informative and even provided packets with information on the library as well as my favorite, a morning "tea" break. The library looked and functioned much like our public libraries. And the library does use the Dewey classification system unlike the reference libraries we have visited which use size. I liked the look and feel of the Children's Library. It was cozy with comfortable bean bags for sitting and rolling crates full of books, wonderful for kids to browse.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Royal Maritme Museum Greenwich August 1

On Wednesday, Aug. 1 we took a boat ride down to Greenwich to visit the National Maritime Museum. The museum as expected houses a collection dedicated to Britain's Maritime History and Naval Heritage. It was established by the National Maritime act in 1934 with a large donation from Sir James Caird a wealthy shipowner and a member of the Society for Nautical Research. The museum was finally opened in 1937 by King George VI. Our hosts again had items from the collection for us to view and touch. One I found particularly fascinating was a ship's daily log which recorded the capture and execution of "Blackbeard the Pirate", way cool. I'm a big Pirate fan or maybe just a Johnny Depp fan but either way love the outfit ;-) !! Sorry, where was I, oh yeah the museum.

Another really interesting and fantastic part of the collection are pictures of the actual rescue from the Titanic. I don't recall the exact story, but one someone responding to the rescue attempts just happen to have a camera so there are these amazing photos of men, women and small children in the life boats. Another special treat!!.

We also had the opportunity to visit the Royal Observatory on our own. The Greenwich Royal Observatory was established by King Charles II in 1675 to study astronomy and fix the problem of longitude. And who else but Christopher Wren was the architect. In order for ships to navigate they have to be able to know the latitude and longitude. Latitude apparently is easy enough to measure by the height of the sun but longitude was not so easy hence the need for the observatory. The first royal astronomer was John Flamsteed who lived in the four rooms of the observatory with his family.

The longitude problem was solved by a succession of clocks which can be viewed at the observatory made by John Harrison that would not be affected by the movement of the ship and be able to tell the time accurately even on a ship which would then be compared to the local time in Greenwich which would give the longitude. Anyway, that was my understanding of the whole process. The clocks were interesting, but I was more excited about having my picture taken at the Prime Meridian see photo below. The line was really long, so I cheated and stood behind the marker and was still able to have one foot in each hemisphere at the same time, wow!!

Boat ride home

We were on our own as far as getting back to the dorms, so Kristin and I chose to take the ferry back. Luckily, we made the last ferry. The boat ride was very relaxing. We sat on top in the open so it provided a fabulous view and more picture opportunities.

Victoria and Albert Nat'l Art Library July 31

This afternoon our class outing was to the National Art Library housed in the Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington. The library is one of the largest art libraries in Europe holding over a million items. The library is reference only and the collection is dedicated to art, craft and design including such things as books, furniture, architecture, dress and artists' information. The library also holds one of the largest book art collections as well as a collection of auction house catalogs. Although it is reference only, it is open to the public and does issue reader tickets for anyone wanting to use the general collection. Certain special collection use such as letters from Charles Dickens to John Forster is allowed but the process is a bit more involved. A reader must request an item because most of the collection except for a few reference items are "closed access". A form is available to make request which is then presented to staff for retrieval. All requests go through the "marshaling area" for staff to sort and retrieve requested items.

What impressed me most

I found the collection to be unique in the variety of items and I really liked the book art collection. Book art focuses on the book as an object of art, so not only do the words tell a story but the design or shape of the book itself adds meaning. Our hosts provided a selection of items for us to look at and touch. All of the books were so creative. Apparently, the director or curator in the 1980's had a thing for this type of collection so the library made an assertive effort to acquire such items. At present, however the library is no longer collecting items due to budget constraints and new leadership, but it does have around 5,000 items making it one of the largest collections of book art. I was really fascinated with the whole topic, so much so that I'm thinking of writing my short paper topic on it. Too bad I didn't discover it earlier in the program but I did get some nice pictures of the some of the books in the collection.

Writers Museum July 25

On this last day before our Mini-break begins we had the opportunity to tour the Writers' Museum. Not a formal tour, so we were allowed to browse around on our own. The museum is housed in "Lady Stair's House" which was built in 1622. The museum's collections are mostly dedicated to three of Scotland's most famous writers, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson including photos, manuscripts, letters and personal belongings such as Burns writing desk. In the courtyard surrounding the building are engraved writings from prominent Scottish writers. Also, on this occasion the museum was hosting a special exhibit on Scottish contemporary author Ian Rankin.

My Impressions

I enjoyed my time in the museum. It is rather small and quaint which made for a relaxing walk through. I haven't read much from these authors but I really liked reading from Stevenson's "Treasure Island" when I was younger so I was drawn more to his story than the others. I found a particular quote from Stevenson hit home with me, it is apparently from his book "Travels with a Donkey" which prompted me to buy the book. I won't give the exact quote but in it he refers to "travel for the sake of travel". I was also prompted to buy one of Ian Rankin's books in his "Inspector Rebus" series. I haven't read any of his books, but I have seen the British series on PBS. I think I'll save it for the plane ride home. All in all a good last class visit before we all head off for our mini-breaks. I'll be heading off to Ireland : ).

National Library Scotland and Nat'l archives July 23

The National Library is the only copyright deposit library in Scotland so at least one copy everything published in the UK is housed there. It is the largest library in Scotland and is funded by the Scottish parliament with an annual grant. The library receives more than 5000 items weekly and is the leading archive for items published on Scotland's history and culture. The library houses many rare books including the Gutenberg Bible (the first printed book) as well as other collections such as the John Murray Archive which was the focus for our visit this morning.

John Murray Archive

The John Murray Archive includes books, manuscripts and letters acquired over the years by the Murray Publishing House. The John Murray Archive 1768-1920 was acquired by the NLS from John Murry (7). The original business was founded by John Murry (1) in 1768 and carried on over the years by his successors. Some of the most famous authors published by Murray include Lord Byron, Jane Austen and Charles Darwin. John Murray (2) befriended many of the authors and his home became the setting for a literary circle in which the authors would meet for an afternoon tea.

The exhibition at the library uses interactive technology that includes a self publishing tool that demonstrates and allows the user to choose genre topics, title, print type etc. Touch screens also allow visitors to electronically browse through letters and manuscripts.

My Thoughts
I found the exhibit quite impressive. Our hosts explained that the exhibit was meant to provide a theatrical feel and transport the visitor back in time. The exhibit entrance is dark like entering a theater with glass pod like containers holding clothing and trinkets from the different eras. Also it had windows with animated street scenes from the era which looked remarkably like the animation sequences from Monty Python. I found it quite amusing and entertaining. The interactive technology was fabulous. Great for school groups. This has been by far my favorite exhibit and my favorite class trip. They even provided us with a tea, yummy!

After a short lunch break, we met again for our visit at the National Archives of Scotland.
The National Archives is the main repository for items pertaining to the public and legal history of Scotland. Previously known as the Scottish Records office it has roots going back to the 13th century. Its main purpose is to select, preserve and provide access to archive items. It is an agency of the Scottish Executive and is staffed by civil servants including conservationists, archivists, administrative staff, special collection staff and ICT.

I really enjoyed our time at the archives because we were able to view and touch archive items. The most impressive to me being a record scroll from 1495 containing the first written reference to whiskey in Scotland. We had to use white gloves of course but I found our hosts to be quite generous in allowing us this opportunity. Another bonus, we were provided with an afternoon tea. I'm really liking the Scotts!!

Off to Edinburgh

Today (July 22) we headed off to Edinburgh. We left at 9:00, so I was actually able to stay awake for most of the bus ride. I was dreading the 9 hour bus ride though to my surprise and delight we had the luxury double-Decker bus with reclining seats, footrests and a DVD screen, ahhh! The countryside became more picturesque the further north we went. I had initially regretted not sitting on the top until I ventured up during a rest stop. For some reason I felt a little dizzy every time I looked out the windows from the upper level so I stayed below the whole trip reclining comfortably in my luxury seat. We stopped a few times and to my dismay I broke down and had to have some junk food. I had a KFC kid's meal. Instead of the toy, they offered an extra piece of chicken or extra chips, I took the chicken of course. The toy would have been a great souvenir though, but my stomach made the final call. I actually saved the extra piece for a snack on the bus.

We arrived at the university around 6:00 in the evening. It is a very nice campus and the view of course was lovely. The university is situated next to a mountain or large hill (it would be considered a mountain in Oklahoma) that is apparently referred to as Arthur's Seat. It is a popular hiking spot if you like that sort of thing. A couple from our group ventured up the slopes. I don't think anyone made it to the top, but kudos for trying!!

Edinburgh Castle

We each had our own rooms but had to share a bathroom. The Halls are the main dorms for the University and also functions as a sort of youth hostel during the break periods so needless to say there was no shortage of loud and rambunctious youth running up and down and around the halls at all hours. : (. No sleep for the wicked.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Oxford and the Bodelian Library

Return to Oxford

Thursday (July 19) we returned to Oxford for our tour of the Bodelian Library at Oxford University. The library is the main research library at Oxford University and is administered by the university unlike the other libraries which are administered by the individual colleges. It is one of the oldest libraries with the current building and collection dating back to the 1602 when Sir Thomas Bodley a fellow of Oxford from Merton College offered to develop the declining library by providing books from his own collection and soliciting other donations as well as taking the cost upon himself for the restoration of the building and furniture.

My most memorable impression

The library is quite grand to be expected. But my most memorable impression of the whole visit will be of the bathroom. Why the bathroom you ask? Well, you may or may not know that in England, library patrons are referred to as "readers". Very appropriate. So naturally, the bathroom or toilet is labeled "Women Readers". I love it! I had to take a picture of it. I thought I was being discreet but our guide was lurking behind the pillar and caught me in the act. Oh well crazy Americans.

C.S. Lewis Tour

While in Oxford, we had the afternoon free so some of us signed up to take a "C.S. Lewis Tour" graciously arranged by our classmate Mike. The tour was interesting and our guide was quite a character. It was a little subjective though. Our tour guide claims to have been friends with C. S. Lewis's stepson and to have known the man himself. He was also adamant that there should be some kind of monument to Lewis in Oxford of which there isn't. So he provided this tour as a tribute to Lewis since none according to him exists. We did visit some interesting places, amongst them his house "The Kilns", his church
and grave site and the home of J. R. R. Tolkien a friend of Lewis's and one of the famous "Inklings" who used to gather at the "Eagle and Child Pub" to discuss Christianity and other philosophical ideas I'm sure. As I said it was interesting and entertaining. A little longer than I would have preferred however but our guide provided a certificate for each of us with our names stating that we had participated in the tour, somewhat odd but nice. Unfortunately, we were too late to visit Christchurch but I took pictures anyway.

C. S. Lewis grave site

Friday, 20 July 2007

Beatrix Potter Lakeland Tour

On Wednesday July 18, I and fellow classmate Mary set out with Dr. Welsh and Ms. Wright to the Lake District for a tour to Beatrix Potter's Hill Top Farm. We had to meet the tour guide in Euston Station at 6:15, ugh. It made for a long day but well worth the time and effort. The Lake District is picture postcard beautiful. I'm writing my research paper on Beatrix Potter so that made the trip all that more meaningful. We visited Hill Top farm and Hawkshead as well. The Lake District was a special retreat for Miss Potter or Mrs. Heelis as she was known in the area.

Beatrix Potter purchased Hill Top in 1905 with the money she made from her book "The Tales of Peter Rabbit". Beatrix had visited the Lake District often with her family during summer vacations. Hill Top is a small 17th house which still contains many of Miss Potter's furnishings. When she died she left Hill Top to the National Trust which now runs it as a museum open to the public. She stipulated however that Hill Top should not be sold and remain much the same as it was when she lived there. The house is furnished much like it would have been and Beatrix Potter's china, furniture and drawings are all on display. The house is very quaint and the surrounding garden is just beautiful. It's quite impressive to see that not much has changed since she lived there and to have see her personal drawings and belongings was quite special.

We also visited Hawkshead the hometown of Miss Potter's husband William Heelis. It's a 17th century village with small winding cobblestone roads which reminded more of a small Swiss or Bavarian village than English. The poet William Wordsworth was also educated at the Hawkshead grammar school which now operates as a museum. Unfortunately, we were not able to tour the school because a private tour was taking place. I enjoyed an ice cream instead and walked up the winding road and found a small store dedicated to all the is "Beatrix Potter". Lots of lovely trinkets but only so much room in the suitcase so I only looked, sigh.