Part One: A Visit to Westminster Abbey
It’s hard to believe that this sunny and particularly warm Tuesday was our first day of class in a week! It’s been great to see my classmates again and hear about everyone’s mini-break adventures. But alas, the vacation is over and we’re back to work…
This morning there was an optional trip to the Maughan Library, the library of King’s College, where we’ve been living these past few weeks. While I wanted to see this apparently amazing research library, I chose to focus on my research paper. After mulling over various topics, from John Wesley to the British Museum archives, none of which have panned out, I then decided to check out the BFI’s collections. But you’ll read more about them later.
I’m sad to report that my morning did not go as planned, as I woke up having yet another heart episode. After several hours of resting in bed though, it finally stopped in time for me to run a few quick errands and then meet for the class trip to the Westminster Abbey Library! (No pictures could be taken inside the library, but if you click on the link, you can catch a glimpse of what it looks like inside)
With this fantastic sign on the door of the library, located in the East Cloister, we rang the doorbell and headed upstairs. (Fun Fact: I had no idea what a “muniment” was, and it turns out it basically refers to the records/archives. The technical definition is a document such as a title, deed, contract, etc.) We met with Dr. Tony Trowles, the Head of the Collection, who gave us a rundown of the history of the Abbey itself, as well as specifics about the library. The current library, established since 1591, is located in what used to be a monk’s dormitory! In 1587, a man named William Camden became the first appointed librarian of Westminster; today, Dr. Trowles is only the 34th appointed librarian. If you do the math, that means that in 427 years, there have been 34 men in charge of Westminster’s collections, averaging about 12.5 years of employment/person.
Surprisingly, only approximately 1/2 of the library’s collection is religious in nature (sermons, history of the early Church Fathers, etc.), and there is a sizable collection of British history, which includes the reign of the Romans. The library’s early printed book collection is now closed and rarely added to, as the focus of acquisitions today is on the Abbey itself (the building, monuments and memorials on the grounds, coronations, etc.) The muniments detail the administrative history of the Abbey and dates back to the 10th century.
Today, the library is still in fact a working library, and visitors can utilize the collections in the Reading Room, while the small group of staff work to answer specialized inquiries and research questions that pour in from around the world. In addition, staff are just beginning to computerize the library’s catalog, meaning a good old fashioned card catalogue is still in use! (Personally, I love that fact about the Abbey…. it just seems fitting to me).
I know that I gushed over getting to visit St. Paul’s library, and y’all are probably tired of reading about my affinity for theological libraries, but I’m going to say it again – I am SO thrilled that I was able to tour Westminster’s Library. Something about them just makes this future librarian’s heart happy.
Part 2: A Semi-Productive Afternoon
I’m not sure how I’ve made it this far without mentioning our daily class tradition – at virtually every library/archive/museum we’ve visited, Dr. Griffis and Dr. Welsh have assembled us into fabulous group photos! At this point, we have a fairly large and impressive collection of group shots from all across London and beyond! After our tour of Westminster ended, Dr. Griffis led us to the nearby Trafalgar’s Square, where we took several group shots – remember, that’s where my main man, Lord Nelson is located, so I was happy to visit his monument yet again. At the bottom of this post I created a slide show of our group photos so you can see my classmates and some of the places we’ve been! We’re a motley crew, but I think we’re all pretty awesome.
Since I did not have a chance to check out the BFI this morning, I made a solo trip there after leaving Trafalgar’s Square to scope out their Reuben Library, and maybe speak with a librarian there about helping with my research paper. Needless to say, that trip ended in disappointment, and I trudged back from the BFI to our dorms (fortunately, it’s a 5 minute walk), and tried to re-group.
BUT, after an emergency meeting with Dr. Griffis and Dr. Welsh, I am pleased to announce to everyone that I now OFFICIALLY have a research topic – though really I’m back to square one, I will be writing about John Wesley and the Museum of Methodism! I have been given permission to skip our Museum of London tour tomorrow morning in order to do some research, so I can’t wait to get started and update you all tomorrow. My fingers are crossed that this works because we are rapidly running out of research time!
I am stuffed full of pizza, and sleepy after a relaxing night in our dorms, so I’m off to bed.
Send me happy research thoughts, please,