Part 1: National Maritime Museum
Today has been one of the best and busiest days so far this trip. Where do I even begin?!
We walked to the South Bank this morning and hopped on a ferry to ride up the Thames to Greenwich. The sky was gorgeous and we passed some of London’s biggest attractions including the Globe Theatre and the Tower Bridge. I love this picture that I captured – with the Union Jack flag in the foreground and the Tower Bridge in the background. After a short ride we arrived in Greenwich, when it quickly became apparent that we had actually stumbled upon a movie set! Dr. Welsh did some investigating (if librarians are good at anything, we excel in locating information), and we learned that the film is called Grimsby, is directed by Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk, Clash of the Titans), and stars Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong(!), Rebel Wilson, and Isla Fisher, among others. We were told to be on the lookout for Sacha Baron Cohen, who was running around in a green football jersey; a few were convinced they saw him in an upstairs window, but unfortunately we had no up-close celebrity sightings. Still, it was a neat way to start our day!
After the movie diversion, we headed to the National Maritime Museum. I’ll admit, just like with Shakespeare, I am not the biggest maritime fan. However, I quickly realized that the Museum heavily focuses upon Admiral Horatio Nelson, of whom I’m a HUGE fan. He’s a fascinating character in British history, and after his death at the Battle of Trafalgar, became known as one of Britain’s greatest war heroes. A monument dedicated to him stands in Trafalgar Square, and is one of the most prominent statues in London. But more on the Admiral later…
Inside the Museum we visited the Caird Library and Archive, which contains over 2 millions items, including 100,000 books, 12,000 rare books, and 80,000 maps/charts. The library uses Dewey Decimal Classification system, but the archive (like others we have visited) arranges materials by size and format. Many academic researchers use the collections, but also family historians — the collection is composed of 4 main groups:
1. Admiralty (government records)
2. Local Records (i.e. dockyard papers)
3. Business Records (shipping companies)
4. Personal Papers (admirals, officers, etc…. Hence the family historians)
Two highlights of the archive are the Titanic collection, which contains letters, pictures, and accounts from survivors, as well as a collection on the Spanish Armada. I was very excited about the Armada collection (as I think I’ve already mentioned, Elizabeth I is my favorite monarch), and a few of us who were interested were taken to see it after the class tour was over. Included is a copy of Queen Elizabeth’s Song, which she herself composed after defeating the Armada in 1588. Below is a picture I took of the document, but here is a link to the actual catalogue record, which allows a better view of the document: Queen Elizabeth’s Song
The whole class was shown a variety of treasures from the archival collection; my favorite was probably the journal of Edward Mangin, a Chaplain in the British Navy during the early 1800’s. After reading through some of his journal, I saw that Mangin wrote with a sense of purpose, but he often included bits of humour (yes, humour with a “u”), and allowed his wittiness to shine through. Mangin was also quite an accomplished artist, which you can see in the cover page below:
After class ended, and us lucky few had the opportunity to see the Armada Collection, we were free to go! Laura Douglass and I decided however that Greenwich had too much to offer for us to simply scurry back to London. We thoroughly explored the Museum, and I have to say, that it is now one of my all-time favorites! Fortunately for me, the Museum is having an exhibit on the life of my main man, Admiral Nelson. From a future librarian/archivist perspective, the exhibit itself was probably one of the best in terms of accessibility that I’ve seen. Now, why do I keep talking about “accessibility?” Like I mentioned previously, I took a Special Collections class last semester, and for one of our final projects, we essentially semi-created a mock exhibit by making item label cards, etc. We also had to compare 3 different types of library and museum exhibits to see if they followed the Smithsonian Guidelines for Accessible Exhibition Design. Every little detail is discussed, from item labels to audiovisuals to lighting to furniture to floor space, etc. Now I can’t help but look at every exhibit I enter with a critical eye… but the National Maritime Museum passed the test!
Part 2: Greenwich and London Adventures
LD and I grabbed a quick lunch at a Mexican Restaurant (we couldn’t help ourselves – Mexican is a tradition for us!), and then made the not-so-fun hike up to the Royal Observatory. We were greeted by this awesome view from the top of the hill, and then proceeded to wait in line to have our picture taken on the Prime Meridian, which is 0 degrees Longitude and divides the Eastern and Western Hemispheres.
Once we left the Royal Observatory, we began our hunt for book benches! Greenwich has its own set of book benches, and we were able to find a few, including Samuel Pepys’ Diary, Captain Scott’s Autobiography, The Jungle Book, Darwin’s On the Order of Species, and H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. The Jungle Book has been one of my favorites so far, and I made myself comfortable on the bench for a minute!
Finally, Laura Douglass and I decided that we had spent our time well in Greenwich and headed back to London…. but our day was not over yet!
Both of us are huge fans of London’s big, beautiful parks, but I had not yet had a chance to visit Holland Park. And within Holland Park is a special place called Kyoto Gardens, which I have been wanting to visit for some time (if you Google it, you can see why). Kyoto Garden was built to celebrate the Japan Festival in London back in 1992, and was a collaborative effort between the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (where Holland Park is located) and the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce in Japan. The garden is a quiet place – there is even a sign requesting that parents do not allow their children to play in the garden, and it is full of flowers, a waterfall, and even peacocks. After walking around, and throwing a 2 pence coin into the pond for good luck, LD and I found an empty bench and just quietly sat for some time, enjoying the sunny day and being completely immersed in the space. My favorite college professor, Dr. French, who taught my classes on Buddhism and Hinduism, would have greatly admired the zen-like nature of the garden, and I found myself thinking of him. I also thought of my Granny, who has quite the “green thumb” and always appreciates the simplistic beauty of gardens – I wish she was with me to see this. (Hi, Granny! Miss you!)
Once we peeled ourselves off the benches in Kyoto Garden, LD and I left Holland Park and walked to the nearby Kensington Gardens, which of course houses Kensington Palace, the residence of Prince William and Duchess Catherine (and Baby George!). Unfortunately, the sun was beginning to set, so the lighting was pretty terrible for pictures, and we vowed to come back another day! Tired and hungry, we set off to find food, and ended up at probably the most tourist-y location ever… the Hard Rock Cafe! Fun Fact: Did you know that the London HRC was the original? I had no idea. So that made it feel a bit more legitimate.
Whew! What a busy Wednesday. I think we walked many, many miles today, but it was tons of fun, and worth every step!
Time to rest my feet,