Saturday, August 15, 2015

Research: The British Library

British Library Gate, London
My last day in London, I made it back to the British Library to investigate their use of digitization and online collections. 

The British Library (BL) engages in large-scale digitization projects, ranging from photographs, newspapers, manuscripts, journals, and books, and all digitization is in-house. 

Unsurprisingly, they encounter a problem common to all libraries: funding. The British Library does not set aside funds for digitizing collections. Instead, they find a sponsor, a party interested in the records for their own use or for public use, to fund the undertaking. A team is then assembled for a specific project, spanning from conservators checking the state of the documents to quality assurance personnel testing the end product. Separate departments handle each step of the process: selection, conservation, cataloging, imaging, quality assurance, and data packaging. 

In the end, the digitized manuscripts become available according to the agreement with the sponsor. Because the sponsor funded the project, they determine when the records can be released to the public. For example, companies digitizing ancestry records for a subscription-based site may not allow the records to be free online for a set amount of time. 

One of the BL's greatest assets is their online collections. More than simply images, the BL includes scholarship, long descriptions, and occasionally plain-text transcriptions and/or audio of their online works. 

Jamie's Name Badge
British Library Courtyard, London
The Discovery portion of their site is dedicated to scholarship and research. In addition to the digitized images and manuscripts available, there are articles referencing these works as primary sources and curated collections, grouping related items together. The Discovery site is utilized as a teaching and research tool which engages high school and university age children with primary source documents. 

Another resource, the Online Gallery displays collections from exhibits--such as the gorgeously detailed and interactive Magnificent Maps exhibit--as well as the bulk of their digitized material. One can search or take a stab at popularly searched terms.

By far the most remarkable bit of technology available online is Turning the Pages, a software which recreates the feel of turning the pages of a manuscript. When the technology was first launched, before the popularization of eReaders, it was revolutionary. However, it's still a fascinating experience.

The British Library's online resources are massive, more than I can possibly do justice to here, so I'll leave all the best tidbits for the research paper!

Barbican Library

Barbican Centre, London
Situated inside the square mile of City of London, the Barbican Library is the largest of three lending libraries in London.

Built in 1982, the Barbican Centre is the largest venue of its kind in Europe. The Barbican Library takes up a small portion, neighboring a large hall, a cinema, a gallery, two theaters, two exhibition halls, three restaurants, and seven conference halls (and a bit of informal performance space). Needless to say, it is a busy venue, and was not at all built with a library in mind. Nevertheless, the Barbican Library has adapted to be quite at home in the bustling Centre.

The most ancient quarter of London, City of London has a fluctuating population, with 10,000 residents and 360,000 commuters. The Barbican Library is open to both parties, and anyone else who can visit regularly.

Dames Don't Care, Peter Cheyney
Barbican Library, London
One of the unique aspects of the Barbican collections is that all books are available for lending, including those which may be considered too fragile or too old in other institutions. The oldest item is dated 1739, and with the proper library card, one can borrow and read it at home. Other aged collections include pulp crime novels from the 1920s and 30s. The Librarians at the Barbican believe a book's value is in its ability to be used and read. I think all information professionals would agree with that sentiment.

The Music Library is another strong point in the collections at the Barbican. With 9,000 books in all areas of music, 16,000 CDs, bound periodicals and music, the Barbican tries to reflect the rich cultural life of City of London, and the Barbican Centre's own ties to music in it's collections.

There are two pianos in the library, equipped with headphones for private playing and practicing. These are frequented by students from the nearby Guildhall School of Music and Drama, as well as community outreach. In the People's Piano Project, retired library patrons are paired up with music students for free lessons, which encourage social and educational opportunities.

Barbican Library
Barbican Centre, London
Other programs at the Barbican are aimed at children. Reading programs and after school clubs reward children for reading and using the library. One of the more intriguing outreach programs we discovered here was Book Start. Book Trust provides libraries all over the UK with packets of books for children, and all children are entitled to a packet when they are born, and another when they turn 3 years-old. The packets include activities which encourage parent to read to and interact with their children. There is definitely a place for a program like this in the States to be incorporated at a national level in order to encourage reading and library use in children.

The Barbican was one of my favorite visits. Unlike most libraries (on either side of the Atlantic), the Barbican is bright and noisy and welcoming. Maybe that's due to its location in the bustling and artistic Barbican Centre, but the library has embraced its surroundings, and it was a truly refreshing glimpse into London libraries.

Check out Barbican Library online. 

Kew Gardens

Waterlily House, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Founded in 1840, Kew Gardens holds a vast collection of plant species from around the globe. Botanical research and planting flourished in the era of British Imperialism, and the gardens at Kew became were dedicated to the study and cultivation of flora. 

Around 1852, the library at Kew was founded, and it now holds 300,000 books, 5,000 periodicals, and 200,000 pieces of art, all resources in research regarding botanics, plant species, and the history of Kew Gardens.

The oldest item in the Kew Library is dated 1370, but the 18th century was the golden age of botanical illustration, and the bulk of the collections fall into the 1700s.

Botanical illustrations are among the most gorgeous and detailed I've glimpsed, and Kew has massive collections from Botanical Magazine, which centered around depictions of rare and non-native plants for enthusiasts and scholars. Illustrations are typically made on white paper, and the specimen rendered tends to hold all characteristics of the plant. Although every trait represented is not likely to be found in a small sample, the details help with identifying the less than perfect specimens in the wild.

Rhododendron Botanical Illustration, Kew Library 
The library and archives tend not to weed any volumes, as the information is apt to be contextual, if not still pertinent. The plant features in botanical illustrations remain accurate, typically. Although old herbals might bend toward superstition, they are fascinating resources for historical study.

The archives at Kew retains the records of Kew's creation, as well as collections acquired and purchased, such as letter between botanists Asa Gray and Joseph Hooker. Correspondence between plant hunters, people sent abroad to search for specimens to bring back to England, also enriches the collections.

The archives are just beginning to be cataloged, which will increase the ease of finding specific items for researchers.

The library and archives at Kew were established for the specialized purpose of botanical research, but also to assist those to identify specimens collected in the Herbarium.

Herbariums are not exactly commonplace institutions, but Kew's use to researchers and botanists hinges on this. Seven million specimens, stored in bespoke boxes and envelopes, are stored in the Herbarium at Kew. The process of plant preservation has undergone several overhauls in the past centuries. Pests are a perennial problem when storing flora, and the practice was once to coat the specimens in poison upon their arrival. But mercury is not kind to people, either. The current practice involves freezing the specimens before bringing them into the Herbarium for storage.

This is one of the few cases where we can see an entire information ecosystem interacting: library, archives, gardens, and herbarium. Every entity was established for the study of plants and to increase knowledge, and each entity is entwined with the others, strengthening the meaning and context of the collections at Kew.

Spiral stairs, Kew Herbarium
Find Kew Library online.

St. Paul's Cathedral Library and Archive

St. Paul's Cathedral, London
Inside the iconic British cathedral, there is a cafe. Of course, above that lies the sanctuary, gilded, embossed, and brimming with ornate marble sculptures. And above that, one can find an even more spectacular feature: the library and archives.

Time constraints abbreviated our tour, but the highlights of the library and archives stood out nonetheless.

In the room intended by the architect to be the library, there are no books. Stonework embellishments of books clearly depict the envisaged use of the room, but instead of volumes, the room is dominated by a 1:24 scale model of the original planned architecture of St. Paul's. Made of wax and plaster, the 1673 model is reminiscent of St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome, and bears little resemblance to the famous London cathedral. 

Although St. Paul's is not a museum, they have designed and maintain some of their spaces as exhibition. The Model Room is arranged as a permanent exhibit, containing the history of the model and St. Paul's architecture. Similarly, The upper halls are crowded with stone, some dating back to viking era London, and pulpits used in St. Paul's. 

The gem, of course, would be the library at St. Paul's. Straight out of every bibliophile's dream, the library is crowded with leather-bound volumes, marble busts, statuettes, and the lovely, hushed aura which accompanies centuries old words. Cataloging, as with many UK institutions, is a bespoke affair which takes into account the sizes of the books when shelving. These are sturdy tomes, handcrafted, and as long as they are treated with care, they can survive indefinitely. And, stored in an attic 500 yards from the Thames, the collection is very well cared for.

Like much of Britain's cultural artifacts, the collections at St. Paul's were transferred off-site during WWII. In this case, lorries transported the library and archives to caves in Wales. The cathedral itself was targeted during the London Blitz and survived thanks to the work of vigilant soldiers. When the books returned to London, all were accounted for, and business carried on as usual.

Both cathedral and collections are gorgeous historical, visual, and cultural landmarks of London, and one cannot call a second of time wasted when in St. Paul's.

St. Paul's Survives, St. Pauls, London, 1940
National Archives,
Visit St. Paul's Cathedral Library online.

Bletchley Park

Thermionic Valves, Bletchley Park National Museum of Computing
Bletchley Park was the site of the infamous Government Code and Cypher School, responsible for decoding German messages during WWII. Today, Bletchley Park is dedicated to memorializing and celebrating the accomplishments of the men and women who aided the war effort as well as the machines which made it all possible. 

The National Museum of Computing hosts historical computers, such as the Colossus and bombe machines which were integral in cracking the German Lorenz and Enigma messages. Both machines on display are in working order, and both are remakes, the originals having been dismantled after the war.
The Mansion, Bletchley Park

Aside from the machines dedicated to the war effort, the entire history of computing is represented, including the oldest continuously working computer, WITCH (Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computing from Harwell). This is a dekatron computer, able to make accurate calculations, after programming, of course. Many of the more recent machines are foreign and a bit comical to the modern computer user. Among them, massive information storage disks which fit into washing machine style computers and hold what we might consider a pitifully small amount of information by today's standards. Technologies from punch cards and valves to modern flight traffic control modules span the museum, including obscure PCs and forgotten Apple products. It was the history of computing like I've never seen it, and our guide was an extremely knowledgeable tech enthusiast himself.

The grounds at Bletchley Park are gorgeous and somewhat haunting. Hidden speakers in hedges and bike stands pipe in the sounds of activity, as Bletchley would have sounded at the height of the war. Manicured lawns, huts, and the Mansion are bursting with history and the eerie memory of the war, or perhaps our tour guide was simply that good. Either way, Bletchley has a fascinating history which   was kept quiet for some time, and it was only in the 90s that the Park opened for visitors. The work done at Bletchley, and those responsible for the efforts made there are an integral part of our history. This was one of my personal favorite sites, not only for its beauty, but for its aura of history and invention in the face of a war.

Check out Bletchley Park online!

National Maritime Museum Library and Archive

National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
Just a short water taxi ride from London, Greenwich hosts the National Maritime Museum, the world's largest maritime museum. The museum itself is also host to the Caird Library and archive devoted to maritime history. 

Trade, exploration, and war sent men to the seas, and the library and archives at the National Maritime Museum hold the records of certification for master mariners, crew lists, handwritten journals, atlases, rare books, and reference materials. 

National Maritime Museum
Surprisingly, the archives at the museum are an excellent resource for genealogists searching for ancestors. Certificates for master mariners, which detail a captain's vessel(s), physical description, address, and contain a signature from the mariner in question, can give a lot of information. Additionally, crew lists for the British Merchant Navy from 1915 to 2015 are available online.

Aside from family history and ancestry, the Caird Library's collections serve to expand the context of the museum holdings and to aid researchers and historians. Particular items in the collections, such as a handwritten account of a trip by sea from Plymouth to London, detail the technologies and methods of the period in question. Another item, a children's book containing illustrations of Eskimos, demonstrates Britain's impressions of the native people in newly explored lands.

With 100,000 printed books, 12,000 rare books, and 80,000 maps and charts, the library and archives at the National Maritime Museum are a major resource for maritime research. The reading room of the Caird Library sports reference materials in abundance, as well as microfilm machines, scanners, computers, and a quiet area for research.

Britain has a long and vast maritime history, and the records held here reflect this seafaring heritage.

For more information and access to the online catalog, visit The National Maritime Museum online.

Heinz Archive and Library--National Portrait Gallery

Heinz Library and Archive Reading Room
The Heinz Archive and Library may literally be in the shadow of the National Portrait Gallery (NPG), but the research value of its collections is inestimable. The Heinz is the library and archives for the NPG, and the collections within are centered around the decisions, activities, and events of the Gallery, as well as the material used for authenticating the Gallery's holdings. Additionally, they have a wealth of portraits and photographs not on display at the Gallery.

All papers and photographs are kept onsite, and there are around 250,000 photos, comprising loose prints, albums, and negatives. Because of their relationship with the NPG, photographs in the collection were centered around the subject of the portraiture, rather than the photographer. In recent years, interest and research has shifted to include the photographer. The photo collections are exclusively portraits and serve to demonstrate the history of portraiture. However, the collections can also be helpful to genealogists, and those looking for portraits of their relatives. A collection of albums from a commercial photographer, for example, includes prominent Hyde Park families sitting for portraits in the 19th century.

List of 'rats trapped and killed in the Gallery'
While the photographs display the history and evolution of portraiture, the archives hold the records of the NPG itself, which are quite interesting in their own right. Among these records are the photos and papers produced during the war years, while the collections were evacuated to a country estate. Photos of the staff feeding the chickens on the estate and records detailing rat kills in the London premises are a comical juxtaposition to the war.

Other gems include postcards, the first commercial attempts of the Gallery, which were commissioned to contemporary writers and written about famous figures. Some of the resulting postcards were a bit rude, wordy, or impersonal, and were more telling of the writer than the figure in question.

Finally, the archive digitizes on demand and by need, or with an external funding project. Their online catalog and digitized collections can be found at the link below.

Although this was an optional visit, I enjoyed it immensely. The archivist, Bryony, spoke about what it means to be an archivist, and her own career. As a student about to embark on similar career, I found it helpful and interesting to hear her explain things in her own terms.

I would suggest this as a must visit!

Check out the Heinz Archive online!

Research: Edinburgh Central Library

Edinburgh Central Library
Reference Library
Located just up the street from J. K. Rowling's famous haunt, The Elephant House, Edinburgh Central Library holds all the charm and and beauty one associates with Scotland. 

Since its completion 125 years ago, the Edinburgh Central Library has been out of space for the collections, which cater to lending, reference, and study. Apart from fiction and children's, the library holds an extensive reference collection on Scottish history, which supports its Scotland and Edinburgh Collections, comprised of books and photos. 

In supplement to the onsite collections, the library offers online resources compiled from digitized documents and photos from the library's holdings. Capital Collections, Our Town Stories, and Edinburgh Collected are the three resources devoted to digital collections.

Capital Collections is the result of a mass digitization project focusing on rare and unique materials in the Edinburgh Collection. The front end for this collection launched in 2008, and the site traffic has steadily increased since.

Our Town Stories is the most interactive of the online resources. Using its map interface, users can access records by the physical location they reference. This includes historical maps that can be overlaid on the current map, a photo slider between archival and modern photos of the same area, and information and documents concerning specific areas of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Collected is the newest online resource, and the most unique. Users can log into the site and submit their own collections of photos and documents. This allows the public to archive their personal collections for public viewing. Users contribute images and metadata in this situation, creating an entirely crowdsourced collection.

Edinburgh Central Library's digitization and online endeavors are massive and fantastic. Aside from the archival materials, the library endeavors to archive the present. The imaging for digitization here is performed by a photographer, and part of his job is recreating archival photographs for the image slider (Then and Now), and photographing Edinburgh in the present. I've never encountered this kind of active archiving, where records are created for the archive, rather than absorbed from another entity.

Since my research centers on digitization, and I'm interested in the field myself, this was a spectacular visit, and Library Development Officer Allison Stoddart is a fantastic resource for my research.

Check out Edinburgh Central Library online!

The London Library

The London Library, Westminster, London

In 1841, Thomas Carlyle established the lending library that would become the London Library, a private subscription institution focusing on humanities. 

Located in St. James's Square, the London Library is the world's largest independent lending library with five reading rooms and a collection growing by about 8,000 titles a year. Weighed down with around 14 million volumes, the steel building would rise about three inches when emptied of books, 95% of which are housed in open stacks. 

Bespoke cataloging at the London Library, in conjunction with its open stacks, have created a unique experience for researchers and library members. Like many of the United Kingdom's libraries, the London Library has tailored its own system of arrangement. In this case, books are classified individually by subject, then alphabetized, with special attention given to size. This saves space in the ever expanding library collections, but it also creates an uncommon environment for those browsing the stacks. This system has made for more than a few serendipitous finds not possible by any other arrangement. 

Chaucer section, Canterbury Tales copies, London Library
Another notable aspect of the London Library is the weeding policy, and it's quite simple: there is no weeding. Once books arrive, they are never withdrawn, creating a collection which illustrates the evolution and history of thought in the subject areas represented. This includes keeping multiple copies of the same work, as well as volumes of histories, literary theory, and translations which contain defunct theories or opinions shaded by the era which created them. To a researcher, this is a gold mine. Historical criticism and analysis both rely on volumes like this, and institutions with space concerns (all of them) are more likely to weed these works out of necessity. 

Lastly, a topic that must be addressed, is the fact that the London Library is a membership institution, meaning library users must pay a subscription fee in order to use library services and borrow books. The concept is a bit foreign, as many institutions center themselves around the principle of free access to information, but the London Library was established as a subscription library and remains one to this day. The founder of the London Library, Thomas Carlyle, saw the need for a private lending library as he had been frustrated to his breaking point by the British Library, then housed in the British Museum. Carlyle, a Victorian writer and intellectual, was fed up with the perennially bustling British Library, complaining about their classification system, lack of reading space for patrons, and read-only, non-lending policy. His solution was the establishment of a private library, which would provide lending services to those who paid a subscription fee. The London Library remains a membership library, and its unique collection and long history of distinguished users make it a gem of an institution.

Visit the London Library online for information on collections and memberships.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The British Library

British Library, London
From the outside, the structure of the British Library resembles a ship, and indeed that was the aim of the architect in rendering a national library. Much like a ship, the British Library promises passage, through time and through knowledge, to anyone with the proper ID, address, and reason for study. 

The British Library is the largest public building in the United Kingdom, and took 36 years to complete. Prior to the construction of their current residence, the library was spread throughout 19 buildings, with a reading room and primary holdings at the British Museum. 

As far as collections go, the British Library collects and keeps everything published in the United Kingdom. They have an estimated 200 billion items and acquire around 3 million items each year. These items are stored mostly underground in four basement levels beneath the library. The basements go down 25 meters, which qualify as the largest hole in the U.K. While we did not tour the underground storage facilities, I have no doubt they are impressive, and impressively built, considering the existing Tube lines running under the British Library. 

Despite its appearance, the British Library was never completed to the architect's final specifications. In fact, only the first phase of building was finished, leaving the library with 1000 fewer reader's desks and a smaller conservation center. 

The Kings Library, British Library, London
The gem, and the most recognizable trait of the British Library aesthetic is the King's Library. This free-standing six story tower holds 100,000 volumes, the manuscripts gifted by King George III at the library's inception. The King's only stipulation was that the books would always be held on shelves people could see. The tower is lit sparingly with LEDs, and is placed strategically to keep direct sunlight from ever shining on the manuscripts within. Within the King's Library, the stacks are moveable to make retrieval easier. 

The British Library hosts 11 reading rooms, one for each subject area, and all written languages are represented  in the collections. Any book can be called up for study, provided the researcher has significant reason in some cases. The only book restricted from study is the Klencke Atlas, a collection of maps presented to the English monarchy as a gift. The book is large enough to require three casters, and was possibly used as a coffee table at one time--evidenced by what looks like a coffee ring on the cover. 

The retrieval system at the British Library involves a mile of conveyor tracks. All items are scanned, placed in boxes, and sent to the appropriate room. No rare books or manuscripts are transported this way, but the British Library processes an average of 2500 to 3000 boxes a day. 

The classification system used is in-house, and esoteric for older volumes. Those volumes held during the period the library was housed in the British Museum, and various other places, still carry the location reference marks as a call number. This means some marks are rather bizarre. 

All in all, the British Library is much as I expected it to be: huge and packed with cultural treasures. Selections from the collections are displayed in the Treasures room, but I suspect that is only the barest tip of the iceberg when it comes to the entire holdings. Our tour guide gave us an insight to some of the stranger things found in the collections, like a lock of Shelley's hair and a petri dish from Alexander Fleming, which supposedly contains a culture of penicillin. 

The British Library holds more than one can reasonably imagine, which is the reason I find it most enchanting. 

British Library gate, London
Wikipedia Commons
Visit the British Library online to see virtual books, online exhibitions, and create a personal gallery!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Bodleian Library, Oxford University

Bodleian Library, Oxford 
By coach, we voyaged to Oxford in order to see heaven, otherwise called the Bodleian Library. Oxford is a wonderfully quaint town, slower than the London pace, but still vibrant--and bestowed with more than a few good pubs. 

First order before the tour was coffee, which was found and much appreciated at the Turl Street Kitchen, not far from the front steps of the Bodleian. 

Then, to the heart of the matter: books. 

The Heritage Tour of the Bodleian was conducted by a marvelously knowledgeable guide. As usual with most large institutions, especially the ones accustomed to tourists, we did not actually speak to a librarian, but our guide was more than qualified. The tour, of course, began in the most iconic area of Oxford, the Divinity School, with its vaulted ceiling and heavy doors. (Like a few of the places we tour, this site was included in the Harry Potter films.) Before we actually reached the library, we toured the Divinity School, Convocation House, and Chancellor's court, which were all gorgeously detailed with heavy oak and intricate stonework. 

Divinity School, Bodleian Library
The Divinity School was originally a lecture room, finished in 1488, after 65 years of construction. The process was delayed by lack of funds. Its style is the late English Gothic perpendicular, the ceiling adorned with 455 bosses and amazing detail. 

In similar style, the Convocation House had a false-Gothic ceiling, and oak benches. The room was in democratic purposes and was completed as an addition in 1640 by William Laud. The room is still used in the election of a new University Chancellor and the hiring of poetry professors. Poetry, one must think, is serious business at Oxford. Likewise, the Chancellor's court was a part of the same addition. It was utilized as an extension of the courts in order to deal with the shenanigans of Oxford students, which were boys, typically in their teens. As teenage boys tend to do away from home, they got in trouble, mostly for debt. The court surrendered its powers in the 1970s. 

Currently, Oxford University has 22,000 students and 1.5 billion pounds in expenditures and revenues. The actual University of Oxford is an administrative host to 38 federated colleges. Oxford confers degrees and hosts the departments. Each college has a library, and each academic department has a library, but the Bodleian unites all these. All books are in the Bodleian online catalog, and can be retrieved for study, but it is a centuries old rule that the Bodleian Library is read-only, and no book may leave the library. 

Arts End, Bodleian Library.
Google Images
Arts End, 1610-1612, hosts floor to ceiling shelves, the first in England, and features a gallery where the smaller books were kept. Larger tomes were stored under the gallery, and all were chained and shelved with spines facing in. 

The heart and origin of the Bodleian rests atop the Divinity School, and was built to house the donations of Humphrey Plantagenet. The youngest son of Henry IV was an avid collector and gave part of his collection to the Bodleian. Manuscripts were chained to reading carrels and were not allowed to be removed from the library. Within a century, mass printing had taken hold, and the library was not as heavily used. After that, the Reformation led to the destruction of old manuscripts. Reformers believed them to be of the old Roman order, and superstitious. Although 280 manuscripts were destroyed, 47 still survive, and 12 are back in Oxford. 

Thomas Bodley was the founder of the current library and refurbished it at his own expense in 1602. He added 2500 printed books and a full-time librarian.

After the tour, a suitable pub was found and enjoyed. Other sites visited include Alice's Shop and the Eagle and Child, the pub where C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien discussed their works.

For information, and perhaps a bit of online shopping, visit The Bodleian.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

London Archaeological Archives and Research Centre

On the first real class visit, we journeyed to the London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre (LAARC), which houses the archaeological artifacts found in London dig sites. A fraction of these artifacts are on display at the Museum of London, where we toured in the afternoon. 

Set up in a nondescript wear house, a storage building converted and opened in 2002, LAARC is the largest archeological archive in the world. Of the 8,500 archeological dig sites in London, LAARC has collected artifacts from about half. The oldest artifacts are nearly 250,000 years old, but most are from the period after the ice age, when Britain was more hospitable, and less covered in ice. The earliest records go back to the 1700s, but most artifacts were collected after the London bombings in WWII, while the city was reconstructing. 

Over the centuries, the ground level in London rose, burying artifacts under the streets of London. Because of this, building projects often unearth sites and new artifacts. Current planning laws include archeological assessment measures, but many artifacts remain preserved under current structures, i.e. Shakespeare's theater, the Rose. 

The artifacts in LAARC are ordered not by type or category, but according to dig site. This preserves a sense of context and provenance when reconstructing the past. Although they are intellectually lumped together, metals and other objects are stored separately for preservation. 

Among the 200,000 cardboard boxes are general and registered artifacts. General artifacts are prevalent items without unique properties. They are integral to building context, but can be extremely tedious. Registered artifacts are of more interest, having unique characteristics which help specify context further in terms of date and story. Most museum displays comprise registered finds. 

As with many archives, the LAARC has run out of space and are currently repackaging in order to create space. Much of the older artifacts were not uniformly packaged; boxes were half-filled and containers were not necessarily archival. 

This was an interesting visit, in terms of understanding the similar limitations of archives in the UK, as well as the unfamiliar issues associated with archeological collecting. However, the most memorable aspects were the artifacts. We were allowed to handle a brick from the Great London Fire, which was entirely blackened and quite sooty. Flint tools used by early men were also among the loot. Roman tablets with precise lettering and a tiny glass vial were present. And best of all, a leather shoe preserved by the thick Thames mud. The shoe was from the medieval period, and the formerly long toe had been severed. The prevailing hypothesis is that the shoe was confiscated because the wearer was not of a high enough class to warrant a long-toed shoe. The toe was then cut and the shoe was stashed. Surprisingly, this was a men's shoe. Most of us ladies agreed that we were quite envious of the style. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hello, World

This is the inaugural post for my blog, created expressly for my wonderful and wanderlust-inspired study abroad trip to the United Kingdom.

Here goes nothing!