03 August, 2007

Guildhall Library

Today was our final site visit in the amazing city of London. We visited Guildhall Library and spoke with Andrew Harper, the printed books librarian. The actual city of London is only one square mile of land and contains five total libraries, 3 of which are lending libraries. Guildhall is the largest of the city's libraries. It is publicly funded, and there are no restrictions placed on membership.

The wing of the building that currently houses Guildhall Library was opened in 1974. The original suffered immensely during the bombings of World War II. Despite the fact that the buildings nearly burned to the ground, a lot of the collection survived and was restored. Most of the materials in the collection focus on the history of London. Guildhall also houses a number of special collections such as London Stock Exchange historic records and company annual reports from 1880-1964.

Guildhall is staffed by approximately 43 employees plus volunteers. Most of the collection is closed, with only about 5% of materials out on the open shelves. The staff receive usually about 10-15 email inquiries daily from researchers and curious patrons. The staff will give up to 20 minutes of research time free of charge to patrons via email. Anything that involves more in depth research will be charged 50 pounds sterling per hour of research. They sometimes call in free lance researchers to handle jobs like these when the staff is otherwise engaged in other projects. All patrons who come into the library looking for material must fill out a request slip. Staff will usually fill the requested order in about 15 minutes. The library has three separate reading rooms in the building: one that houses books, one that houses manuscripts, and one that houses prints. Included with the prints are maps, photographs, watercolors, drawings, and other ephemera. They also have exhibits on display that readers can learn from as they do research. The Clockmakers Museum is located in the same building as Guildhall Library. Patrons can wander in and see John Harrison's famous clock on display.

02 August, 2007

Barbican Library

Today we visited the Barbican Library in London. Although public libraries became established in this area of the city in the mid 19th century, this particular library wasn't opened until 1966. The Barbican Library is open 6 days a week and issues approximately 500,000 items to the public each year. Because of its location, the majority of the library's users are people who work but don't necessarily live in the city.

The Barbican Library has one of the two largest music collections in London. A wide variety of music is represented in their collection of about 17,000 cds. Cds can be borrowed by users at a cost of 30 pence per cd per week. I didn't realize before I began visiting libraries in the United Kingdom that it is standard practice to charge patrons to borrow audio visual materials such as cds, VHS tapes, and DVDs. The DVDs cost 2.75 pounds per DVD for a one week loan. That is more than it costs to rent a new release at Blockbuster in the U.S. Free access to ALL materials is something that I think a lot of Americans take for granted. The music library offers listening booths for patrons to listen to music cds in free of charge. They do not have to check out a music cd before listening to it there. This comes in handy for music students who want to compare musical recordings before they take them home. My absolute favorite feature of the library is their electronic piano. Patrons can sign up for an hour's worth of play time up to 24 hours in advance. The electric piano comes equipped with headphones so that patrons can try out a piece of music or cram in their weekly piano practice without disturbing other patrons. This has been a huge success for the Barbican, and other libraries have purchased pianos to enhance their services as well.

One technology feature that I really liked was their self scan library checkout and return system. The self scan checkouts at the local branches of my public library system only allow patrons to place one item on the scanner at a time. This system reads the barcodes of a stack of books all at the same time. I also liked the electronic return system outside that people can access until 11:00pm. The patrons check the books back in themselves using a scanner device and the flap opens for the book drop only after the barcodes have been read. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to see how public lending libraries in London compare to those back home in the U.S.

01 August, 2007

The National Maritime Museum & Royal Observatory

Today we visited Caird Library in The National Maritime Museum. It was designed by Sir James Caird and opened to the public in 1937. There are approximately 25,000 reference books in the reading room, and over 100,000 items in the collection altogether including atlases, charts, ship plans, photographs, and manuscripts. The museum offers a wide range of services to the public such as story time and educational lectures. Computers in the library allow readers to access catalogs and electronic journals free of charge. The library is funded by the government, and plans are being made for a new archive that will better accommodate different research needs. There are already 4 1/2 miles of manuscripts currently on the shelves, so space is always an issue.

The range of items that we saw from the collections was absolutely remarkable. There was a book of intelligence notes gathered by an English spy inscribed with a dedication to Queen Elizabeth from 1582. We saw an atlas owned by the pirate Basil Ringrose from 1682 containing a map of California before they knew that it was attached to the mainland. A log book from a Royal Navy ship mentions capturing Blackbeard the Pirate in 1720. It apparently took 40 men to kill him off the coast of the Carolinas. Another interesting item was a set of letters from the Navy Office from 1679 containing the signatures of King Charles II and Samuel Pepys.

I have to say that I was most impressed by the Walter Lord collection of artifacts from the Titanic. It was such an amazing experience to hold in my hands the second class dinner menu from the last meal served aboard the Titanic before she sank. A little girl that survived the sinking had forgotten that it was in her pocket that night and hung on to it for many years. The photographs taken by people aboard the rescue shipCarpathia literally gave me goosebumps. You could see the people wearing life vests inside the lifeboats with the iceberg looming in the distance just hours after it struck the ship. Those images are not something I will soon forget.

After exploring the National Maritime Museum and library we climbed the hill to the Royal Observatory. I have to admit that it was one of the highlights of my time in England to actually be able to straddle the Prime Meridian of the world and have one foot in the Eastern Hemisphere and one foot in the Western Hemisphere simultaneously! I had been wanting to do that ever since reading the book Longitude by Dava Sobel. What an amazing experience!

31 July, 2007

The National Art Library: Victoria & Albert Museum

The National Art Library is housed inside the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. The Victoria & Albert began as the South Kensington Museum in 1852. In 1899 it became the Victoria & Albert Museum, and the National Art Library has been housed inside it ever since. The library itself has a wide range of materials from books, medieval manuscripts, and artist's books, to prints, trade literature, and periodicals. There are over 8,000 titles of periodicals to choose from, 2,500 of which are current and still have issues coming in. The libraries reference collection is arranged according to Dewey Decimal Classification, and are the only books that readers can get off the shelves themselves. All other books are shelved according to size and press mark and are located by the staff upon request. As we went behind the scenes into the staff area, I couldn't help but take notice of the huge amount of books that have yet to be cataloged because of time and staffing. This seems to be a common theme in libraries not just in the United Kingdom but back home in the States as well. It is amazing to see how similar some things are so far away.

My favorite part of the National Library tour was having the chance to look at various pieces of book art. These books are in the collection not necessarily for their content, but because the books themselves are works of art. These pieces are generally made one at a time and are produced in very small numbers because the whole process is done by hand. One art book was the scrapbook of a society lady from the turn of the 20th century. Inside she had programs and menus from various balls and gatherings as well as autographs from well known aristocrats of the era. Another beautifully crafted book was Aunt Sallie's Lament by Margaret Kaufman. It is a poem about a quilt making spinster who reflects on her life through the pieces of quilting she produces. What's extraordinary about the book's binding is that the shapes of the pages fold out to create a geometric quilt design. It amazes me to see a finished product like this and imagine what the artist was thinking throughout the entire design process.

The last book that really caught my attention was the journal of woman named Joann Morgan who was teaching English overseas in Japan in 1997. The journal was a real book called Maps to Get Lost In that she doodled little notes and drawings about her experiences in. I really felt a connection with that piece because I taught overseas for a semester and could relate to many of the feelings she was struggling with in the journal.

25 July, 2007

Edinburgh Writer's Museum

As you take a walk around the entrance to Edinburgh Writer's Museum you will see quotes from Scottish authors paved into the cement squares leading up to the door. One quote that I liked in particular was from Neil Munro (1863-1930): "And yet - and yet, this New Road will some day be the Old Road, too." The museum itself is housed in a 1622 building called Lady Stair's House. It was renovated in 1907 to be used as a museum, but many of the original architectural details still exist and are beautiful to look at. The different floors of the museum are connected by spiraling, stone steps. I noticed that a sign on one of the stairways urging people to watch their step explained that centuries ago steps were made uneven on purpose so that anyone unfamiliar with the property would fall and make their presence known to the owner.

The museum's collections focus on the lives and works of three famous Scottish writers: Robert Burns (1759-1796), Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), and Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894). As you walk in the first floor you are immediately surrounded by old black and white family photos that once belonged to Robert Louis Stevenson. Some of his personal items are in glass cases, including his riding boots, spurs, crop, and hat that he used while he spent time in Samoa. I learned that his Samoan name was Tusitala, which means Writer of Tales. A quote that he wrote in one of his books jumped out at me as we are all preparing to depart for our mini-breaks; "to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labor."

Another room in the museum contained Sir Walter Scott's writing desk, a first edition of his book Waverly, and a lock of his hair. An interactive audio display reenacted a conversation between Scott and his publisher discussing how it amused him to remain anonymous as he published his works. The back of the museum contained items dedicated to the life of Robert Burns. A writing desk used by Burns until his death in 1796 is on display. It was interesting to see that right next to his death announcement in the London Herald from July 27th, 1796, they also have on display a plaster cast of his skull. That is definitely not an object that you would typically expect to find in a writer's museum among the books and manuscripts!

Visiting this museum has renewed my interest in Burns, Scott, and Stevenson, and I am looking forward to reading some of their works when I return home (and finish my papers and blog).

24 July, 2007

National Gallery of Scotland

For my third individual site I visited The National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh. The building of the National Gallery took six years to finally complete in 1856. The building itself is beautiful with domed ceilings that allow natural light to pour in and illuminate the works of art housed there. The galleries within are decorated with fancy oriental rugs, furniture, wallpaper, and carpeting that make you feel like you are in the formal parlor of a wealthy art patron instead of in a museum.

Right away I stumbled upon one of my favorite paintings that I had only previously seen in the pages of books: The Three Ages of Man by Titian. The details of the brushstrokes and the colors used were such a pleasant sight to see firsthand. A new favorite painting of mine that I had never seen before setting foot in the museum is Callum by John Emms. It is a portrait of a Dandie Dinmont Terrier painted in 1895. The owner of the dog was a man named Mr. James Cowan Smith. He bequeathed 55,000 pounds sterling to the gallery in 1919 which formed a trust fund for acquisitions. He had two conditions that the gallery had to satisfy in order to get the money. The first condition was that the gallery provide for his dog Fury who survived him, and the second condition was that the gallery always have Emms' portrait of his previously owned dog Callum on display. Needless to say, 55,000 pounds was a lot of money back in that day, and the painting has been there ever since.

In the basement of the gallery is the Scottish Collection which houses 17th-20th century paintings and sculptures. One painting in this collection that caught my eye was The Murder of David Rizzio painted in 1833 by Sir William Allan. It depicted the murder of the private secretary of Mary Queen of Scotts which took place at Holyrood Palace...which can be seen from our dorms here in Edinburgh! I could have spent several more hours exploring the artwork displayed in this gallery. Information on current and upcoming exhibits can be found at:

23 July, 2007

The National Archives of Scotland

After our amazing visit to the National Library of Scotland we headed straight to the National Archives. The National Archives originally began as a repository built to house all the records of Scotland in the 1780s. It now consists of three separate buildings. The first building is the Robertson Wing used for public research with catalogs, computers, and microfilm - NOT originals. The second building was opened in the 1970s and is called the West Register House. This is a storage facility that also allows access to the public. The third and most recent building is the Thomas Thomson house, built in 1995. This building is primarily used for materials sorting and conservation so the public does not have access to it.

The National Archives of Scotland provide a number of services to the general public through their buildings and electronic sites. The General Register House, for example provides free access to records that date back from the 12th century to the present. Visitors can request digital copies of documents for a fee. Some of the resources include: catalogs, state/parliamentary papers, church records, wills, registers of deeds, taxation records, valuation rolls, family and estate papers, and private records. At the West Register House, visitors can find court and legal records, government records, business records, railway records, nationalized industries information, maps, and plans. The Education Officer of Archives gave us a number of great electronic resources provided by the National Archives:
http://www.scan.org.uk/ (Scottish Archive Network)
http://www.scottishhandwriting.com/ (a self-help guide to reading documents)

My favorite part of visiting the National Archives was being able to see and handle historically significant documents from centuries ago. We saw a letter from Mary Queen of Scots to her parents dated 1550, signed "Your Very Humble and Very Obedient Daughter". We were able to page through a handwritten cookery book from 1727, and journals of the Commissioners of the Union of the Kingdoms dated 1706. I was also interested to leaf through a 1914-1916 criminal case file on Janet Arthur (alias Fanny Parker) who was a Suffragette prisoner during this time period.

John Murray Archive: National Library of Scotland

Today we visited the National Library of Scotland. The National Library began in 1710 as an advocates library with right of legal deposit. It is still a place of deposit, housing over 3 million items. 8000 new items are coming in each week, so storage has become a problem and new buildings have been opened. The staff run educational seminars on how to use archives and collections because the collection users range in age from 6 years to post-graduate students and adults.

The current collection on exhibit here is the John Murray Archive. John Murray was a publisher in the 18th century who at that time published the best of every genre. The collection itself is worth at least 75 million pounds sterling. The collection is funded through the John Murray Charitable Trust, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Scottish Executive, and fundraising within the National Library. The exhibition design took 3 years to complete because a lot of time and energy went into making the archival exhibit engaging to the viewer. The museum staff knew right away that they did NOT want the exhibit to be text heavy and boring. They wanted material to be displayed in a theatrical way, they wanted display cases to be object rich and label poor, they wanted interactive information access, a use of light and shadow that promotes an overall atmosphere, and finally a robust means of display that communicates the process of writing and publishing to the public.

I was extremely impressed with the John Murray Archive displays. When you enter the exhibit, you walk through an exact replica of John Murray's front door so you actually feel like you are entering his world. Display cases contained manuscripts and ephemera belonging to contemporaries of John Murray such as Charles Darwin and Lord Byron. In front of each of these cases was a move and zoom touch screen device that allowed you to highlight the objects you wished to examine more closely. The Lord Byron display showed what a "ladies man" he was in his day by comparing him to rock stars of our day. I really feel that I could have spent hours there being entertained and educated by this exhibit. On looking back on my notes about the staffs' goals for this exhibit, I would definitely say that the outcome was a great success.

19 July, 2007

The University of Oxford's Bodleian Library

Today we had a guided tour of The University of Oxford's Bodleian Library. I have to admit that the view from outside before you even set foot inside one of the buildings is just absolutely breathtaking. You can sense right away that you are entering a place full of history and tradition. We toured the most modern library building "The New Library," which was built in 1938. Since the library opened in the 17th century, new buildings have been added on to keep up with the storage of the ever growing collections. The new library houses underground stacks, research labs, and reading rooms. The underground stacks are climate controlled and catalogued partially according to Dewey Decimal Classification (an old librarian of the University was a friend of Dewey's) and by size classification (since they need to make as much use of space as possible).

The Bodleian is an academic research library, NOT a lending library, so officially no book is ever to leave the library. Hence the traditional declaration: "I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, or to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document, or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library or kindle therein any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library."

The library collection contains more than 12 million items. From 1610 up to the present date, the University library is sent 1 copy of everything published in the UK. Once per week, the acquisitions staff make decisions on what is to be kept and what is to be sent away. Since a mile and a half of volumes arrive each year and they have a limited amount of space, the library trades and gives away items to libraries all over the world. It must be difficult for the acquisitions staff to make those decisions because nobody knows for sure what should be kept or given away...who knows who the next Shakespeare will be?

18 July, 2007

The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

The Jane Austen Centre in Bath is a museum dedicated to the 5 years that Jane Austen spent living and writing in Bath. The townhouse itself is very similar to the one that Jane Austen lived in for a while after her father's death. One of the Jane Austen Centre staff members gave a short, but very informative talk about Jane Austen' life, family, and writings before we were able to freely wonder through the exhibits.

I didn't know much about Jane Austen's life before this visit other than the titles of the books that she had written. I learned that she was a very private person who never wanted the public to know her identity when her books became published. She had a very close relationship with her sister Cassandra whom she lived with all her life. Whenever they were apart from each other, they wrote every single day. When Jane died, her sister destroyed all of the letters written to her that were personal or emotional in nature in order to respect Jane's wish for privacy. I was very impressed to learn that Jane had written 3 novels by the age of 22, and that all of her novels were influenced by her experiences living 5 years in the town of Bath. It is hard to believe that Jane Austen died at the age of only 41 but still left behind the literary legacy that she did.

ITV in Britain recently filmed an adaptation of the novel Persuasion. The costumes from the film are currently on exhibit at the Jane Austen Centre until October of 2007. It was very interesting to see clips of the film itself and then to see the actual costumes worn by the actors on display a few feet away. The film showing also describes the process that the film's costume designer went through in trying to decide how Austen would have wanted each of the characters of her novel to appear. There was a dress on display called the Mystery Dress that was created using cloth from the 18th century. The dress was started in that era but for reasons that nobody could uncover, it was never finished.

I was really impressed with the staff and exhibits at the Jane Austen Centre and feel that it was worth the journey to Bath and the price of admission. I recommend this site to anyone who has ever read or seen an adaptation of a Jane Austen classic that has stayed with them throughout the years.


17 July, 2007

The Women's Library

Since both my short and long paper topics focus on female authors, I decided that I should begin my research at The Women's Library in London. I filled out an application for a one day reading pass which can be filled out again each time you want to use their resources. The reading room itself is located on the second floor of the library and has over 60,000 books, periodicals, catalogues, archival collections, finding aids, and visual objects. It was established in 1926 as the Library of the London Society for Women's Service led by Millicent Fawcett. The Women's Library was renamed in 2002 and is now part of London Metropolitan University.

The first floor of the library is an exhibition hall that can be accessed by people who do not fill out reader card applications. The exhibition that was on display today was called "What Women Want". It focused on the struggles both past and present that women face as they create balanced and meaningful lives for themselves. One of the first display items that caught my eye was a banner created in 1908 by Mary Lowndes to be carried in the writer's section of the Procession of Great Women Suffragists. It said,"Mary Wollstonecraft, Pioneer." That was especially exciting for me to see. The Women's Library itself actually has a second edition copy of Wollstonecraft's A Vindication on the Rights of Woman.
As someone who is personally interested in women's studies, I was very moved by many of the posters that were being showcased. One poster from 1980 said, "Women constitute 1/2 the world's population, perform 2/3 of the world's work hours, receive 1/10 of the world's income, and own less than 1/100 of the world's property". I am interested in looking at a current UN report to see how those statistics have changed twenty-six years later.

One thing that impressed me about the exhibit was the interactive wall displays. Questions were posted such as "What is you favorite leisure activity?" and "What do you think makes a woman beautiful?" Blank note cards, pencils, and push pins were provided so that visitors could become part of the display and post their answers. I really enjoyed reading other women's responses and then looking back and seeing mine up on the wall before I left.

St. Paul's Cathedral Library

Today we were fortunate enough to have a tour of St. Paul's Cathedral Library. In order to get to the library itself, we had to climb a massive, suspended spiral staircase. It reminded me a little of the spiral staircase in the Vatican in Rome. St.Paul's Cathedral was built by Christopher Wren in the 17th century. Before he built the cathedral he made a wooden model that needed to be approved by the church before building could commence. We had the opportunity to see the Great Model, which is housed in an upstairs room of the Cathedral. I think it is interesting that the original model that he designed was rejected because it looked "too Catholic".

As we entered the room that has been the library for the past 300 years, my eyes immediately were drawn to the beautiful white vaulted ceiling. The librarian remarked that he thought the ceiling's design was fitting for a library because it 'allowed your thoughts to soar.' One of the carvings on the wall was of a skull with two books, wheat, and grapes perhaps implying that this is a room devoted to learning in support of the church. Most of the fittings in the room are from the 19th century when the library was redone. The librarian mentioned that most of the original library collection was lost in the Great Fire of London in 1666. After the fire, the main concern was how to build up library collections again as quickly as possible. A bishop donated 2000 books that survived the fire and other collections from senior clergy were brought in so that three libraries of duplicates were built right away.
Today the library is open to anyone who can make good use of it. The librarian speaks with potential users to determine why they need to do research here and what they will need to be looking at. Readers are not allowed to handle more than three documents at a time. The librarian and conservation staff try their best to balance the tasks of protecting their collection and providing access to it for the public.

16 July, 2007

Museum of London

Today we were fortunate to be given a lecture by the Senior Curator of Prehistory at the Museum of London. The museum was built in 1976 after the staff and collections of the Guildhall Museum (1825) and the London Museum (1911) combined. It is the largest urban history museum in the world and has an on site staff of 150 employees. The museum receives half of its funding from the government and half from donations and charitable contributions. When the staff decided to remodel the museum in 2002, they wanted to shift the focus of the collections from objects, to people. They wanted people to be able to experience the collections interactively. I was able to touch many replicas of artifacts such as ancient spears and clay pots. What I like the most about the museum is that the collections are arranged chronologically, not thematically.

I was most interested in the museum's Great Fire of London Exhibit currently on display. I did my student teaching in England and remembered that the Great Fire was in the history curriculum for my year one students. I enjoyed reading about what possessions Londoners took with them as they fled the flames. Some people actually buried their wine and Parmesan cheese for safe keeping until after the fire died out. One woman even brought her chickens with her in the pockets of her apron!

I was saddened to read that booksellers buried all of their books and papers in the Chapel of St. Faith at St. Paul's cathedral which later succumbed to the flames as well. One of the displays discussed the problems that came about in the chaos of the disaster such as mobs, price gauging, and looting. Ms. Wright brought up the point that we experienced those same problems in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. That really put things into perspective for me and made me realize how little people actually change with the times.

13 July, 2007

Houses of Parliament

Today we walked through the Sovereign's Entrance into the Houses of Parliament. We were able to follow the exact route that the Queen uses when she makes her annual visit to speak in the House of Lords. The grounds themselves are historically significant because they once housed all the kings of England up until Henry VIII. A fire ravaged the property, and the current building was built in 1845. One of the most impressive things that I saw on display was the actual death warrant for King Charles I. He was the only king of England to be executed after being tried for treason. He was beheaded in 1641. I was shocked to learn that no sovereign can EVER enter the House of Commons, which is why the Queen speaks only in the House of Lords each year.

The artwork and architectural details in the Royal Gallery were absolutely breathtaking to see. There were statues and portraits of royals covering every inch of the wall. The tour guide gave very interesting factual tidbits that I hadn't hear before. I didn't know that Queen Victoria's reign lasted a world record of 64 years. I also did not know that up until Prime Minister Tony Blair made some changes in 1996, seats in the House of Lords were hereditary only. That meant that no women could hold a seat there. Now Lords are peers that are appointed in, primarily for being very skilled and successful in their professions. Because of this system there are currently approximately 760 peers in the House of Lords. Apparently this is not working out too well and will be revised again in the future with the new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.

The rotunda area that we visited reminded me of the rotunda in The Capitol Building in Washington D.C., but slightly smaller. I liked that each of the four walls had a statue depicting the patron Saint of each of the United Kingdom's four countries: St. David for Wales, St. Andrew for Scotland, St. George for England, and St. Patrick for Ireland. It was incredible to walk through the House of Commons archway off of this room and actually see the marks left from Hitler's bombings during World War II. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to actually walk through all of these galleries and rooms on the tour. The first time I came to London I was able to sit in on a session of parliament, but I felt that I had missed out on seeing the rest of the building as we did today.

12 July, 2007

The British Library

Today we visited the British Library, which is comparable to but smaller than our Library of Congress. The library itself employs 2,300 people and operates on a budget of £12 million per year. The library's main functions are to acquire and keep the national bibliographic output and to make that bibliographic archive available to the people. The British Library used to be housed in the British Museum. A new building was designed nearby in 1963 and was opened to the public by the Queen in 1998. Of the 174 million items in the British Library's total collection, 34 million are housed at that particular site.

I was impressed to find out how efficiently and expediently readers' requests are handled in a library of that size and caliber. Requests for a library pass are handled within twenty minutes of a person entering the queue 100% of the time. After the patron's request for an item is made, the target time for getting the item to the individual is 70 minutes. Surprisingly, this goal is met about 90% of the time. I loved having the opportunity to go behind the scenes and actually see how this process is accomplished. I would never have guessed that the classification system being utilized by this magnificent library is SIZE of the item, (and I think Melvil Dewey is rolling over in his grave). Attached to each item is a shelf mark that shows employees its location right down to the reading room, floor, quadrant, and shelf.

One of the collections within the library that I was particularly interested in was the National Treasures. It was incredible to actually see the original manuscript of a page of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Other rare items that caught my eye were: the original score to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, The Magna Carta, the first folio of Shakespeare's Complete Works (which I mentioned in my previous blog entry), and Lady Jane Grey's prayer book (complete with a handwritten message she composed just days before her execution). I really felt lucky to have been a part of such a fascinating tour conducted by such a knowledgeable and friendly library employee.

10 July, 2007

Hall's Croft at Stratford

Today we visited Hall's Croft in the town of Stratford. It is a historically significant building because it was once owned and lived in by Shakespeare's daughter Susanna and her husband Dr. John Hall. Their only daughter Elizabeth was the last direct descendant of William Shakespeare. It is a wonderful example of what a wealthier home would have looked like in the early 17th century. The museum and its exhibits are cared for by The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, which is an independent charity that maintains all five Shakespeare houses and curates archives of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The second floor of the house is currently home to The Complete Works of Shakespeare Exhibition which was truly fascinating to see. The exhibit is meant to compliment the Royal Shakespeare Company's Complete Works Festival. It is maintained by the staff from its education estates, library, and museum. The texts displayed in the exhibit were written by the Trust's Chairman, Director, and Head of Education. What made the exhibit come to life for me was the digitized version of the first edition of Shakespeare's Complete Works Folio. It was fascinating to actually touch the screen to simulate the turning of the pages in the book. Although the exhibit itself was small, I felt that it was very hands on and interactive.

One of the interactive displays was questions to test your knowledge of Shakespeare and his works. You lifted up a flap of cloth to reveal if the statement printed on it was true or false. I was disturbed to discover from this exhibit that the author translated into the most languages worldwide is none other than....L.Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. I guessed Shakespeare.

09 July, 2007


Welcome to Erika's British Studies Blog. I'm very fortunate to have the opportunity to do graduate work in London this summer through the University of Southern Mississippi's School of Library and Information Science. This blog is a journal of some of the sites that I visited while doing research here in the United Kingdom.

Journal#1: Hall's Croft at Stratford

Journal#2: The British Library

Journal #3: Houses of Parliament

Journal #4: Museum of London

Journal #5: St. Paul's Cathedral Library

Journal #6: The Women's Library (Individual Visit #1)

Journal #7: The Jane Austen Centre in Bath (Individual Visit #2)

Journal #8: The Univeristy of Oxford's Bodleian Library

Journal #9: John Murray Archive: National Library of Scotland

Journal #10: National Archives of Scotland

Journal #11: National Gallery of Scotland (Individual Visit #3)

Journal #12: Edinburgh Writer's Museum

Journal #13: National Art Library at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Journal #14: National Maritime Museum & Royal Observatory

Journal #15: Barbican Library

Journal #16: Guildhall Library