Academic Day 5: London Archaeological Archive & Research Center (LAARC) *with embedded video*
Monday, the 7th of July 2014
In the a.m., our group travelled to the London Museum’s Archaeological Archives. Having worked and studied intimately in the field of archaeology, this site was extremely exciting. This collection, which happens to be the largest archaeological archive in the world, contains artifacts from thousands of locations throughout Greater London.
Mr. Dan Nesbitt, Assistant Curator, was our guide through this storehouse of knowledge, the largest archaeological archive in the world. This building, refurbished and opened in 2002, was a former industrial site, and is one of three that the Museum of London uses to store the artifacts and research from thousands of excavations throughout the Greater London area. These buildings are not generally open to the public, but are open for researchers, according to Mr. Nesbitt, although the embedded video makes it seem that anyone and everyone is welcome to come look around! This particular building contains: The London Archaeological Archive Research Centre (LAARC), Social and Working History Collections, and the Museum of London's Archaeology Department, as seen in the above picture where Mr. Nesbitt addresses the crowd.
LAARC is registered as a charitable company, I imagine similar to a U.S. non-profit status. It is funded through the Corporation of London (an elite entity in every sence of the word-this corporation is what funds the original London central square mile) and by the Lottery Fund, which is attached to most of the historic sites we tour...another example of how the United Kingdom generates money to provide support to cultural heritage protection and restoration.
Walking through the storage rooms of this complex was quite overwhelming...thousands, possibly tens of thousands of years of material culture from this relatively small area upon this relatively small island, and again, I must iterate that this is the largest archaeological archive in the world.
My epiphany during this tour was in the Victorian-era structural ironworks section...small and large pieces of wrought and cast iron, some intricate and some plain, but all important to the cultural heritage of London. These people have such a reverance and respect for the material culture of the past because it's a direct link to who they are today as a people. This level of dedication is becoming realized in the United States, yet has just taken time, as we are still quite a young nation...maybe getting to the cultural point where we appreciate the words, lessons, and experiences of our grandparents and of all those who came before us.
Some of the oddities that we saw were: Buckingham Palace's early 20th Century Wooden switchboard; the winning 1930's model design for the stereotypical British red telephone box design; an enigmatic stone sphere discovered on the site of an Elizabethan-era theatre; miniature loaded dice; a burnt brick from the originating street that the Great London Fire of 1666 began on; and, and Elizabethan-era book excavated from a theatre of that time period.
Artifacts are brought into the docking area straight from the field.
Many of the artifacts are human bone.
After being washed with power washers and/or toothbrushes, the artifacts are allowed to dry in this room of wooden racks.
The artifacts are carefully packaged in inert materials, meticulously labeled, and filed in a storage section such as this rolling shelf system.
Along with the artifacts, all of the archaeological field notes are preserved by this organization. This picture shows map-sized drawings of sites dating back 100 years, yet probably some notes date back closer to 200 years (in the antiquarian days).
In the p.m., our group travelled to an international law firm’s private library. Due to sensitivity issues, we were asked to not take pictures or journal about this experience. Although I took pages of notes during out in-depth look at multi-national litigation information specialists, and their work environment, I’m obliged to keep silent in this public blog...pity, since it would be beneficial for people to know that these types of jobs exist. For me, it’s not my cup of tea, but for others, the high profile cases, global intrigue, high security and massive amounts of money scenarios may appeal. I will state that the four corporate librarians that spoke to us all came from different countries, did not have legal backgrounds, and all began in temporary jobs with the firm before becoming full time employees. I found this interesting and wonder if law firms with libraries find ‘clean slate’ potential library employees more attractive than ones that have learned information about the law previously in some other capacity?