Sunday, August 28, 2011
Edinburgh! What a fantastic city! Our first visit was to the National Archives of Scotland
(now, National Records of Scotland,) which is an agency of the Scottish Government. This is due to the merger between the National Archives and the General Registrar Office of Scotland. This merger allowed for the National Records of Scotland (NRS) to span six buildings in Edinburgh with over 450 staff. They hold over 72 kms of historical records dating from as far back as the 12th century.
They hold the Scottish registers of births, marriages, and deaths, as well as Scottish census records from 1841 onward.
The NRS building in Edinburgh has six public search rooms and nine different websites. These websites work in connection to provide accurate records of the Scottish people, their clans, and their tartans. The NRS offers their search room for free for two hours most days so that people may come in and research their ancestors using the catalogs and digital archives. Other search rooms are available for booking at other times of the day. During our visit, we were able to see some records that related to Scottish people and America, specifically Mississippi, North Carolina, and Alabama. The records we saw were just a hint of all that the NRS holds. They keep state and parliamentary papers, church records, wills and testaments, family and estate papers, census data, photographs, maps and plans, railway records, court and legal documents, deaths, marriages, and births, and registers of deeds.
One of the most exciting things that I learned about was GLOW, a national program coordinating workshops and conferences between the NRS and other National organizations to connect with classrooms and schools in order to teach more about Scotland and its history. After seeing the program and learning more about it, I was wishing for something similar to come to America. As a teacher, seeing technology connect the NRS in Edinburgh with small schools far away was exciting and the learning opportunities endless. I can only hope that the U.S. decides to implement something similar in our schools.
As someone who is part Scottish, I was thrilled to get my hands on some records and learn more about the great efforts put forth by the government of Scotland and placing importance on the historical documents and records of the Scottish people.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Our final visit was to the British Library Conservation Studio. Having already visited the British Library before, I was curious to learn more about what goes on in the Conservation Studio. Our guides were extremely knowledgeable and helpful as we learned about the environmental control and caring for items that come in, as well as learning about general wear and tear of books and precautions and prevention that can take place to save an item from severe damage. The Conservation Studio has an isolation room for items that need to be in “quarantine.” This means that any item that is a potential problem to other items is kept away in the isolation room until the item can be returned to its proper place. The studio works on conserving, rather than restoring to minimize intervention on the item. In the studio, different teams work on different items; stamps, photos, books, maps, and parchment are a few of the items that are conserved. On our visit, a team was working on palm leaves that on which contained writings from India from the 13-14th centuries. The conservator makes detailed conservation records of before and after of items and uses retreat able processes on the item. After we saw some of the conservation work in action, we learned about placing gold leafing on a book spine. I personally, found this process fascinating, and seeing and touching the gold leaf was very interesting.
Middle Temple Library is one of the “Inns of Court,” that is, a place for lawyers to join and work, eat, and congregate. Lawyers in London must join one of the four Inns, with each Inn specializing in specific types of law. Middle Temple has a large American material collection and with 6 of the Middle Temple members signing the Declaration of Independence, Middle Temple has strong ties to America. The library has American text books, law books, a collection on capital punishment, ecclesiastical law, etc. The library deals with American and EU law, primarily. The collections are used by British researchers and lawyers. There are advocacy rooms and suites available for teaching and seminars and journals, legislations and trials are all available for use on the second floor. There is no classification system for the collections, other than alphabetical subject. There are also no classification markings on the books, as the patrons do not like their book covers neat and free of classification marks. Some of the most interesting artifacts in the library is the pair of the earliest celestial and terrestrial globes made by Molyneux, an English globemaker. Only six of his globes are still in existence today. Shakespeare was inspired by those globes and famous maps of the time; he even wrote about them in some of his plays.
Also, Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night was performed in the Great Hall at Middle Temple in 1602, with Shakespeare rumored to have been performing as part of the cast.
The library also is home to the Robert Ashley’s personal collection of books. The founder of Middle Temple Library, Ashley gave his books on science, medicine, geology, exploration, and religion to the growing library at his death. The library also acquired 80 books from John Donne’s personal collection.
The Hall was built in 1570 and was a place for qualifying sessions, dinners, performances and a general gathering place. Some of the famous members that have become a part of Middle Temple include, Charles Dickens, Sir Walter Raleigh, David Cameron( current Prime Minister), and Prince William.
Middle Temple is steeped in history and the library is no exception; the library contains much more than law books, the special collections and donations and acquired books make the library appeal to more than those interested in law; anyone interested in gaining knowledge would benefit from Middle Temple Library.
Back in London, we ventured a bit closer to home with a visit to Maughan Library at King’s College. On our tour, we learned a bit about the history of the college; that is, it was founded in 1829 as a godly intuition with theology and chapel important aspects of the college. The building in which the library is housed is a former public record office and actually contains 4 libraries in one—all libraries of King’s college finally housed together. There are around 1,000 reader places, 300 computer places and around 750,000 items. The library’s goal is on aiding students in whatever way possible, so the library is working towards making more group study space available, providing wireless access throughout the building, and roving reference librarians. The library also provides special collections, including material on travel and discovery, historical medical literature, charts and diagrams from Florence Nightingale, WWII photographs, and Allen Ginsberg poetry, just to name a few. The special collection is open access, students can ask for an item and view it in the special collections room. The library has a café area downstairs for students and proposed areas for eating/drinking/cell phone use are currently being devised throughout the library. Like in all libraries we’ve visited, space goes quickly and the library is working to consolidate digital items, which makes room for other collections. The library also has a large audiovisual collection of DVDs, CDs, and other items available. There is also a round reading room (much like the British Museum!) though not as large as that other reading room.
Overall, I was impressed with all that Maughan Library had to offer the students of King’s College. The resources and services available are immense for those looking for a place to study, find resources, computer access, or even a movie to watch—it’s all here for King’s College students.
During the mini-break, I headed to Dublin, Ireland to soak up a bit of the luck of the Irish! During my trip, I visited Trinity College (part of University of Dublin) on my first day in rainy Dublin. My friend, Patience and I decided to take a tour of the campus and the Trinity College Old Library which features The Book of Kells, a world-famous 9th century gospel manuscript. Our tour guide, a student at Trinity College gave us a brief history of the college and the some of the traditions and myths. For instance, if a virgin student walks through the archway on campus, the bell will ring out! We learned about what the students do: where they live, eat, and study. After seeing the quad and some of the well-known buildings, we headed to the library and The Book of Kells exhibit.
The exhibit was very informative and the manuscript itself was so intricate and detailed; it is hard to imagine someone hand painting each detail onto the page!
We then got to walk through The Long Room, which houses 200,000 of the oldest books in the Library. The Long Room is the main chamber of the Old Library and it was built between 1712 and 1732, by 1830, the library had to be expanded upwards to make room for more books ( there’s always a space issue in libraries!)
The Long Room was my favorite part of my visit to Trinity College, the architecture of the room was stunning and the amount of books in that one room was incredible.
I wish I could have spent more time at Trinity College and in Dublin, but the next day, we were off on a whirlwind tour of Southern Ireland!