National Maritime Museum

On July 9, our class toured the National Maritime Museum. It is located in Greenwich, which required a short ride on a river taxi. The museum was founded in the 1937 by Sir James Caird.    Our guide for the museum was Michael Bevan, who is one of the archivist.  Any books that are before 1850 are considered to be rare books.  Modern books, or anything later than 1850, belong to the museum, and are part of the working collection.  The oldest item that the museum has is an atlas dating back to the 16th century.  The oldest manuscript item the museum has is a contract document for the vessel “Our Lady.”  The reading room is broken up into parts by a glass enclosure, so that there is a quiet section.  Librarians and archivists work the desk to answer questions. The museum gets 200 written inquiries per month, and another 120 by phone. The museum has 3 sites for offsite storage, and items are retrieved once a week from storage.

The librarian showed us documents relating the to funeral of Admiral Nelson, dated January 9, 1806.  His body was put in a lead coffin, and was filled with brandy to preserve the body.  HIs body and casket were held at Greenwich hospital for three days for the wake.  7,000 people attended his funeral.

While in Greenwich, a group of us decided to tour the Painted Hall.  It was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor in 1698.  We also visited The Queen’s House.  It was the first fully classical building in Britain, and the only surviving building from the Palace of Greenwich.

One question that was never answered involved the crest that was above the entrance door.  The crest has a lion and a unicorn on it. The unicorn has a chain around it.  No one was ever able to tell us why.



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