Saturday, July 12, 2014

Week 2 Overview

One of my most favorite places in London...Temple Church was built by Knights Templar in the 12th Century and one of their symbols, two knights on a single steed, represents their vow of poverty and sits atop this pillar in the courtyard of the church. The following is an e-mail I sent my family, updating them on my second week of the BSP. Hey Family, Week two just ended and week three is getting starting, like it or not! It's Saturday night and tomorrow morning, bright and early, our library/information science class and the psychology class are getting on a coach for Edinburgh, Scotland. We'll be spending four nights there and then our five day mini-break begins, therefore, I need to quickly explain this past week! This is a truly intense program. I love it, yet it is kept at a concentrated pace...this week was five days of volumnous note-taking on my part. It even gets to the point where taking pictures is a challenge. I'm keeping it going though! Monday began with the London Museum's Archaeological Archive complex in the morning, and, in the afternoon, an undisclosed high profile corporate law library. Tuesday showed us The Barbican Public Library in the morning and St. Paul's Cathedral Library in the afternoon. Wednesday took us to The Royal Naval Academy Library and Archives in Greenwich. Thursday morning was The British Museum's Archive and the afternoon availed to us The Weiner Library for Holocaust Studies. Friday was the most beautiful experience at The Royal Botanic Gardens Library and Archives at Kew. Just a quick reminder that these are not simple tourist trips...we are shown many behind-the-scenes places, as well as in-depth scholastic lectures. Library and information professionals tend to be very giving of their time when they know a group is interested, and, especially, when they are addressing the next generation of their fields. These people never cease to amaze me with their passion for disseminating knowledge and staunch freedom of information to all who may benefit. Everyone we've met so far has given their all in preparation of our arrival and then kept us around until the last little question is asked. They also seem to be very empathetic with the fact that we've been non-stop since getting here, so, when questions can no longer be asked through parched lips and arms can't be raised from writer's cramp, they compassionately understand! In other words, this is a chivalrous group of people, these library and information professionals are, I tell you! Anyway, enough about that...what were the specifics of this week? It is amazing to imagine the age of London, officially established as Londinium by the Roman Empire, yet, being abuzz with human activity far before that. Being one of the major capitols of the world, London continues to transform with new construction and with each new building excavation comes the inevitable possibility of uncovering remains of cultural significance. Anytime this happens, the London Museum archaeologists are put on the case. Their archaeological archive is the largest of its kind in the world and contains artifacts dating back tens of thousands of years and up to the 20th Century. Over 7,000 individual excavations have ended up in this educational storage facility. Any and all types of material culture was seen...Paleolithic stone tools, Roman mosaics, Medieval loaded dice, Victorian wrought iron, and even the 1950's-era telephone circuitboard from Buckingham Palace! All of this stuff is sandwiched in-between layers upon layers of the different incarnations of one city. Of course, all of the paperwork to give provenance, or identity, to the objects is meticulously filed away, just as the individual items are. The Barbican Library is part of the larger Barbican 'City', which is the phoenix that rose from the obliterated ashes of WWII. The Nazis wanted to bomb St. Paul's Cathedral so badly, to symbolically demoralize Britain, by destroying such an iconic piece of London's architecture. They did eventually hit it, but it stayed tall; the nearby area that is now The Barbican was almost totally leveled during the Blitz, being the product of many missed shots. Now, The Barbican houses impressive music, children's and business libraries. St. Paul's Cathedral Library is old and truly smells of aged paper and leather and looks like a classical library should be, along with a wrap around mezzanine and bookshelves filling all four walls to the ceiling! The National Maritime Museum Caird Archive and Library, in Greenwich, was reached by The Thames Clipper, giving our group amazing views of London from her sacred river. The building is of Classical Georgian age and style, replete with grand glamour and unequalled symmetry. The inside, however, is a state-of-the-art, climate-controlled facility which houses its large specialty library and huge archive of all-things-nautical. This repository is very important to the education and evolution of the world's information about maritime history; it houses the memory of the primary tool that allowed 'the sun to never set on the British Empire'. The British Museum Administrative Archives was a totally unsettling and enraging experience. This staggering collection of the world's accumulated knowledge is the home of The Rosetta Stone, Minoan gold, colossal Middle Eastern and Egyptian statuary, along with untold riches. However, it is only but a cabinet of curiosities without knowing the provenance, or sources and descriptions of each individual item. Our group was led into a non-climate-controlled basement room with no obvious method of fire suppression to view the endangered accumulation of the living history of The British Museum. The collection includes complete board meeting minutes from the first idea of the institution's conceptualization to lists of all the donations and acquisitions that make the collection world famous. This information functions as the memory of the institution and the archivist does her best as the collections degrade in dangerously fluctuating environmental conditions. For a world class institution, this is a shameful show of disrespect from the current administration. The Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide is a heavy, yet empowering collection, that, next to the Holocaust Museums, is the largest collection of this specialty material in the world. The founder of the library, Dr. Alfred Wiener, was a German Jew who had to flee the Nazis, yet founded a fascist watchdog organization in the 1920s that helped the Allies win the war. All this accumulated information became the library, which continues to follow hate groups to this day. On a lighter note, The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew are a gorgeous collection of plants from all over the world, arranged in exquisite artistic displays of landscaping. Their archives house world class specimens of pressed plants, seeds, and books/papers concerning botanicals. One of the many rare books specially displayed for our group is worth over a million pounds (over two million U.S. dollars). Another interesting facet of Kew Gardens is that Beatrix Potter, of Peter Rabbit fame, is inextricably linked, albeit rather tragically, with the history of the place. Alright, that's the quick overview of week two! More will follow, along with the blog I keep promising, which will be much more detailed. I love and miss you all. Yours truly, Patrick

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