Royal Geographical Society

On July 2, our class spent the afternoon touring the Royal Geographical Society.  The Society was founding in 1830, with an aim to discover and explore scientific geography.  The collection contains 2 million items, which include 250,000 books and 500 boxes of archive material.  The artifact collection is the smallest collection.  The collection contains 1 million sheets of maps an charts, and 3,000 atlases.

The librarian at the Society told us about some of the expeditions that the society has sponsored over the years.   He told about how John Ross attempted to find a northern passage, and found the North Pole.  Ross was the explorer that found the body of John Franklin.  Franklin had actually died in 1847, but Ross found his body in 1848.  Franklin’s wife did not believe that he was dead.

The librarian also told about how George Mallory disappeared in 1924.  His frozen body was found in 1999.  His body appeared to be mummified, as there was still flesh on his bones.  Many believe that he was the first to climb Mt. Everest.

He went on to show many different artifacts that the Society has in its collection.  Some of these artifacts include Frank Thornton’s hood from 1904, a telescope eye piece, and a compass. Our class was also shown shoes and goggles. We were also told about how explorers tried to find the source of the Nile River.  The librarian showed us artifacts and maps to go along with the stories of each explorer. I thought that it was interesting to see how these objects were stored and preserved.

The society now has 15,000 members.  It is the most active and the largest scholarly geographical society. The society is still adding to the following collections:  maps, books, archives, and photos.  The collections are organized by subject matter.  There is even an online catalog that makes searching through each collection easy.



British Museum

On July 2, our class visited the British Museum.

The earliest document on had at the museum is a copy of a will from 1738.  The museum was officially established in 1753 when Hans Sloan and his heirs were paid 20,000 pounds for the objects that Sloan had collected. It opened to the public in 1759.  The museum was originally kept in the Montagu House.  The Museum split with the British Library in 1973.

Our guide mentioned several interesting facts.  Once something belongs to the state, it cannot be rid of or sold.  Past directors would slip items into the archive with no documentation.  There has been a certified archivist at the museum for the past 15 years.  Before then, decisions were made by unqualified people.  In many cases, there is no information on why the objects or documents are at the Museum or how they came to be there. In World War II, the museum took a direct hit.  The tunnels under the museum were used as a bomb shelter.

the British Museum is a collection based institution.  By law, they have to be available to the public.  Last year, there were 2,000 inquiries, and 70 tours.  The British Museum was the first national public museum in the world.  Today, it has more than 6 million visitors a year. As of today, none of the collections housed at the museum are cataloged.  It is a work in progress, as a catalog was purchased about 2 years ago.

The British Museum was the first national public museum in the world.  Today, it has more than 6 million visitors a year.

Some of the future goals for the Museum consists of getting the online catalog up and running, and bringing the various departments together so that all the collections can be available through the online catalog.  As with many other institutions, the Museum is limited because of space and funding.


British Library

On July 1, our class toured the British Library.  The Library and the British Museum once shared collections, but separated in 1972.  The library has 8,000 items that are donated daily.  That equals to more than 3 million items that are added a year.  They receive a copy of every work that is published in the United Kingdom and in Scotland.  It is the largest public building in the United Kingdom.  The building is located 6 meters from the Victoria Line.  The line actually runs through the middle of the building. The British Library also houses the largest stamp collection.  The British Library keeps all items, and does not discard any material.

Our tour guide told us of a physician named Sir Hans Sloan who sold 7,000 books and objects in 1753 for 20,000 pounds.  He also invented milk chocolate.

I thought that it was interesting that the library does not use Dewey or ISBN.  Items are just given a random number.

Other interesting collections include Jane Austen’s writing desk, Da Vinci’s notebooks, the Gutenberg Bible, and Beatles manuscripts.

We also were able to view King George’s Library.  The collection has to stay together, and has to be displayed.  Between 50 to 60 items a day are taken out of this collection for patron use. This collection is enclosed in glass, and is located in the center of the room.  Light from the windows is reflected downward so that the books do not get exposed.

I am still not sure how the subject was brought up, but our guide also mentioned that the British Library was the second largest collector of pornography, second to the Vatican.

To obtain access to the materials, one must apply for a readers card.  Several of my classmates had to have a letter of introduction from our instructor to get approval for a readers card.


Bodleian Library

On June 30th, our class travelled to Oxford for a day trip.  Oxford is truly a beautiful place, and I believe that this tour was one of the most anticipated of all.

Oxford University’s motto is as follows:

Dominus illuminato mea.  This is the opening words to Psalm 27, which means The Lord is my light.

As we toured the Bodleian Library, our class was fortunate to see some of the oldest and famous parts of the library.  For instance, we toured the Duke Humphreys Library.  It is the oldest reading room at the Bodleian Library.

There were so many interesting facts that we learned at the Bodleian Library.  Our tour guide told us of how the Copyright Law came into existence 409 years ago.  I thought that it was interesting how the Bodleian Library received  copies of every work that was published in England,  and continues with this agreement today.    She told of how security was so tight, books had locks and chains that were attached to them so that they could not be taken out of the library.  The Bodleian is a reference library, which means that no books can be checked out. Out of their 13 million documents, only one million have been digitized. It also has the worlds largest collection of Hebrew documents.

Our guide also told about how Queen Elizabeth II kidnapped Thomas Bodley and “convinced” him to become a spy.  Bodley is known for rebuilding the library.

Another interesting story that our guide told us about was that a worker discovered that one of the books had been damaged when a patron had written in it.   The worker was so upset that the book had been defaced! It turns out that it was actually the signature of Elizabeth I.

I enjoyed touring the Bodleian Library, as well as exploring Oxford.


London Archaelogical Archive Research Centre and Museum of London

One of the first places we visited was the LAARC. It is located in a very discreet, nondescript building.  Looking at the building from the outside, one could not tell of the important documents or artifacts that were contained in the building.  In 2012, the London Archaeological Archive Research Centre was named the largest archaeological archive in the world  It contains artifacts from about 8,500 sights.  There are more than 200,000 cardboard boxes  that are stored here.   Items are generally organized lie an archive collection instead of like a museum.  They are organized by site, not necessarily by the year that the digging started during excavation.  This makes it easier to tell where it was found, what it was found with, what it was found in.  It essentials gives the context of how the artifact was found.  Artifacts generally are classified into two groups:  general and registered.  General items give one an idea of the lifestyle of the user.  Registered items usually give you more specific information, such as a year or a name of something.

We were not able to take pictures during our tour, but there were several items that we were allowed to touch.  One of which was a brick that was recovered from the Great Fire of London in 1666.  The brick was originally part of a cellar floor from a room that contained tar.  The tar was used to repair ships and boats.  Another artifact was a shoe that had been designed as a man’s shoe.  It had been preserved in the mud of the Thames River.

After visiting the LAARC, the class toured the Museum of London.  There were many interesting displays, which included archaeological artifacts.  Other interesting items were the makeshift prison, and a model of medieval St.Paul’s Cathedral that is 100 years old

Visiting these places were an amazing experience!