My Time with Marilyn

Part 1: Middle Temple Law Library

Confused by the title of this blog post? Don’t worry, I’ll clear it up after I backtrack a bit and tell you about our penultimate class trip. Yesterday, after I visited Wesley’s Chapel and the Museum of Methodism, I made my way back to the dorms (remember, everyone else had gone to see the Museum of London), and joined my classmates to travel to the Middle Temple Law Library. The legal system in Britain is quite different from ours here in the States, and it’s a bit confusing to explain, but I’ll do my best. In the UK, there are two legal professions, Barristers and Solicitors, and each serve different functions within the system. Barristers are actually called to the English Bar, and Middle Temple is one of the four Inns of Court which are able to do so. All barristers must belong to one of the Inns, which serve as a professional association. The other three Inns of Court are the Inner Temple, Gray’s Inn, and Lincoln’s Inn, but we specifically toured Middle Temple, which has a rockstar history. The Temple actually served as the headquarters of the Knights Templar, until they fell into disfavor and were kicked out.

Middle Temple Law Library

Middle Temple Law Library

Each of the Four Inns has its own library and corresponding subject specialities, with Middle Temple’s being International Law. The current library was built in 1641 and founded by a barrister named Robert Ashley (who donated his personal collection of 4,000 books); it has survived many of London’s travesties, including the Great Fire and the World Wars. Today, the library is home to 250,000 books, journals, and various other legal documents, and contains one of the largest collections of American law related items outside of the US. Unlike many of the libraries and archives we’ve visited throughout the UK, books are not shelved according to size at Middle Temple, but rather by subject. The library uses its own internal subject heading system, as the Library of Congress subject headings were insufficient to meet their needs.

Shelving at Middle Temple Law Library

Shelving at Middle Temple Law Library

Now, here are two special fun facts about Middle Temple: 1. Each of the four Inns has 2 royal benchers, meaning member(s) of the Royal Family are called to the Bar and made Honorary Barristers. Middle Temple’s former 2 benchers were Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. As both of those lovely ladies are now deceased, Prince William was called to the Bar in 2009. 2. In Shakespeare’s Henry VI, he wrote a scene (Act 2, Scene 4) that took place in “the Temple-garden,” and writes of lawyers within rose garden. Now, both the Middle Temple and the Inner Temple match Shakespeare’s description, but we’re all choosing to believe he was definitely talking about Middle Temple! Once we toured the library, we were taken to the Great Hall, which was built in 1570. The hall is magnificent – and actually reminds me of the Great Hall at Hogwarts in Harry Potter. It has the largest double-hammered beam roof in the world, and was the site for the first performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. (The playwright himself as well as Queen Elizabeth I were supposedly in attendance!) The table, which is still used by students, Barristers, and other members of the Inn daily, is rumored to have been a gift from the Queen, and the walls are covered with the shields of readers (a stepping-stone towards becoming a bencher).

Readers Shields - Great Hall

Readers Shields

Though I was not initially particularly ecstatic to be visiting a Law Library, I think Middle Temple is probably the Law Library to visit in the UK, and I’m glad we went. Learning about its unique history as well as the UK legal system proved to make for an interesting and informative afternoon!

Part 2: Some Like it Hot

Wednesday evening, after our trip to Middle Temple and then a visit to Jubilee Gardens, Jessica and I went to the BFI for a screening of Some Like it Hot (1959). The BFI (British Film Institute), was founded in 1933 and preserves art, films, television, and moving images from the UK, with the intent of providing access to these materials to the public. The BFI’s National archive is in fact the largest film archive in the world, with hundreds of thousands of items, including collections related to specific people (directors, producers) in the film industry. As I said, access is a key part of the BFI’s strategic plan; they have an IMAX theatre (a 1 minute walk from our dorm rooms!), which is the UK’s biggest cinema screen, and theaters on the Southbank (a 5 minute walk for us). Jessica and I attended our screening on the Southbank!

Some Like It Hot Movie Poster

“Some Like It Hot poster,” Via Wikipedia

Some Like it Hot of course stars the beloved Marilyn Monroe, along with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. I won’t spoil the plot, but if you haven’t seen the film, I highly recommend it. It truly is hilarious, and Monroe, Curtis, and Lemmon are excellent to watch (especially on the big screen!). I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the BFI – the theatre itself was fantastic! It felt like an “old school” type of theatre, with red velvet curtains and matching chair upholstery. The seats were incredibly comfortable, and I had to laugh, thinking that Jim (my step-dad who falls asleep during almost every movie, whether at home or in a theatre), would have been zonked out in about 30 seconds!

BFI Theatre

BFI Theatre

Jessica and I had a great time, and it was nice to laugh, relax, and not worry about research papers, or think about how I’ll be heading home in just a few short days. I wish there was a place in Columbia that regularly screened old films – the older I get, the more I appreciate them and understand their cultural significance. It’s wonderful that we have institutions such as the BFI and the AFI (American Film Institute) to preserve these cultural treasures. I’m reminded of MIRC (Moving Image Research Collection), which is one of the libraries at USC. I had the chance to tour MIRC last semester, and was amazed at not only what they do (films are quite tricky and expensive to preserve!), but also their materials, which includes a large Chinese film collection and the Fox Movietone News Collection. I feel a deep sense of satisfaction belonging to a professional field that has such a vested interest in not only preserving, but also providing access to any and all types and formats of information.

Part 3: The Crucible 

The Old Vic

The Old Vic

My not-so-great afternoon was drastically turned around by a Ben’s Cookie and my wonderful theatre adventure with friends! Tonight, Jessica, Michelle (who arrived in London today – yay!), and I had the pleasure of seeing The Crucible at The Old Vic, a legendary London theatre. The Old Vic opened back in 1818, and since then has undergone multiple renovations while under some famous management; in 2004, Kevin Spacey, one of my favorite actors, was named the artistic director, and he appears in the theatre’s productions from time to time. We were fortunate enough to snag some of the “Under 25s” tickets, available for 12 pounds at every performance.

The Crucible was written in the early 1950’s by playwright Arthur Miller, the third and final husband of Marilyn Monroe (does the blog title make sense now?). It is one of my favorite plays, and was able to capture my attention back in high-school with its dark, brooding nature, bits of humor, and non-fictional ties to the Salem Witch Trials of Massachusetts. The protagonist, a flawed, but ultimately noble man named John Proctor was played by Richard Armitage (North & South, The Hobbit trilogy). Unlike the character he played, Armitage’s performance was flawless, as was the entire production. The supporting cast was full of newcomers, but together created a necessary powerful underlying feeling of tension and hysteria throughout the play. In all, the play was 3.5 hours long, but I could have stayed even longer, and was left enamored by the experience.

Below is a 1 minute trailer of The Crucible. Watch it. If you’re a theatre fan at all, you’ll probably get goosebumps, just like I did.

As frustrating as London can be (this week it has been, or at least seemed, stifling hot and extra-crowded), I have cherished the opportunities I’ve had to be a part of London’s exciting and constant cultural offerings. Samuel Johnson, an English writer from the 1700’s, once wrote, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” Truer words have never been written.

Thank you London,

Taylor

Westminster Abbey

Part One: A Visit to Westminster Abbey 

Hello, hello!

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)

Librarian and Keeper of the Muniments Sign - Westminster Abbey

Entrance to Westminster Abbey’s Library

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,

Taylor

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