Academic Day 7: National Maritime Museum's Caird Archive and Library
Wednesday, 9th of July 2014
This was a wonderful day of exploration because we were taken from the London Eye to Greenwich via a boat taxi. This allowed for us to get views of London from the River Thames...the sacred river that assisted this area become globally influential. It became clear to me, on this river jaunt, that the Industrial Revolution concentrated people and development into urban centers in a unique way, which led to the amalgamating of all the surrounding towns into London boroughs. The densely packed industrial factory buildings left only lapping room for the waves of the river. These buildings virtually form walls in which the river flows. These structures appear to be repurposed as residential sites...the wise and thrifty Britons thrive on the challenges and adventure of adaptive reuse. Furthermore, regarding the river, stories I've heard credit the Industrial Revolution with the draining of swampland around London, developing it with constructs, and therefore narrowing the great river dramatically.
After disembarking at Greenwich, we learned that the Old Royal Naval College complex was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, that the former site was a palace where notable monarchs were born, and the Royal Observatory sets Greenwich Mean Time, therefore systematizing humanity's time beginning here at 0 degrees longitude.
This is the place where we also began learning about Lord Nelson, a national war hero of mythical proportions, much like George Washington of the US. He was described to us as a superb commander who ultimately died at the Battle of Trafalger. Many items associated with this man are safely housed in the Caird Archive/Library, including some of his notes regarding mutinies throughout the British warships, which we got to look at.
To begin with, our group was split in two and Assistant Archivist Graham Thompson showed my group a selection of artifacts that represent some of the archive's collection. Several of these items were snugly packed within inert materials and displayed in a "journey box" which can be taken out and about for outreach programs...one such box contained three early 19th Century items: a ship surgeon's manual; a ship chaplain's diary; and, a ship whistle.
James Caird was a ship-owner and art enthusiast who left his personal collections to the library, which was significant enough an event to name the library after him. The library and reading room have currently embarked upon a 'heralding campaign' to raise awareness of their existence, which I felt was another way the British use the power of words to embolden ideas.
The library has around 15 staff members, plus volunteers. They use a dumbwaiter for multi-level material transport, since the archival storage is on a different floor from the library. Roller racking is exclusively used in the are we toured, which was very cold and humidity controlled. The walls are made of an anti-humidity material and there are rodent traps, water sprinklers, security cameras and no windows in this archival space.