Wednesday, August 3, 2011

British Museum Archives

 On July 6, we were able to visit the British Museum Archives. Now, I've ALWAYS wanted to visit the British Museum and I was not disappointed in the vast amount of artifacts available to see! But the archives, the goal of our visit is much quieter, and hidden away in the depths of the museum. The archives hold the historical and administrative records of the museum; these records often go into great detail of the inner workings of the trustee's business.

The archives get around 20-30 email inquiries a week and often 5-6 people(academics, students, writers) a week who come in to research the archives in person.
The records vary from staff, finance, exhibitions, reading room records, indexes, meeting minutes, and even letter books that display correspondence between patrons and directors.

There are 5,000 photographs in the archive collection as well as building plans as early as 1725 in the building of Montague House, which was the original site of the British Museum, before it was the British Museum. :)
After Montague House was demolished, plans for the British Museum came about in 1851; therefore building plans are held in the archives as well as the records of exhibitions held ( this includes, photos, designs, technical specifications, and even paint swatches, fabric samples and labels of exhibits.)

My favorite part of the visit was seeing the records of the Round Reading room. To be a member was an honor and one needed to apply and be referred into the reading room. Many well-known authors were members of the Reading Room: Karl Marx, Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, Rudyard Kipling, and Beatrix Potter (my favorite!). The archives hold the background letters and reference records of every visitor to the reading room.

Overall, I was greatly impressed with the archives; the vast number of records devoted to the British Library was incredible!

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