Mini Break!

June 22-26

For our mini-break I decided on a whim to go to Amsterdam. Because I waited so long to make reservations, I could only get reasonable accommodations for two nights. Oh well, two nights it was!

I took the train there, a nice mixture of the Eurostar and a local line. Pretty cool to tell people I went under the English Channel, no big deal. The weather in Amsterdam was much cooler than London!!! It was a nice torrential downpour with a healthy dose of thunderstorm when I arrived so I ponied up for a taxi to my AirBnB. I wondered the neighborhood for some dinner and then called it an early night.

The next day I ventured out to the Rijks Museum. It was fantastic! It was 4 floors of awesome. The museum was arranged in a very orderly fashion, and flowed in a timeline fashion, so with each floor you were covering a few centuries. There was a sizable gap between 1650-1950, but I guess there wasn’t much in the way of art that the Rijks Museum curators thought was interesting enough. There was a library attached, but it was closed when I tired to go in. I peeked in and it looked vaguely like the round reading room of yore from the British Museum.


They had a display of an old Monastic style book cabinet which I found very interesting. This one is from a Dutch naval vessel and was used to store atlases and maps.


Of course I was able to locate the only book on open display in the museum, due to my librarian senses. It’s a genealogical manuscript from the 1590’s.

They also had a small section on the most famous Dutch artist- Van Gogh. They had his famous self portrait on display, and it was literally the only piece I had to stand and wait for people to move to see what it was. Because I got to see the sunflowers in London, and the self portrait at the Rijks and I know Starry Night is in New York, I saved myself the long lines at the Van Gogh museum! Score.



This is a sculpture of Sleeping Beauty. I don’t remember posing for a sculpture… šŸ™‚

The next day I wandered around some more before I had to leave to catch my ferry. I ended up in Rembrandtplein, and saw this cool statue of Rembrandt. Check out the cute little girl riding on the dog statue!


Around the corner was the Museum of Bags and Purses, which I couldn’t say no to! It gave an overview of all the types of purses that have been in use since the middle ages, plus they had a beautiful tea room!

Check out this cool crocodile purse! Now that’s using the whole carcass.


To experience Europe to the full, I decided to take an overnight ferry back to England. This means I got to take a million busses to ports and stations and stand in the rain, but it was still a cool experience. Here is my ferry cabin. The bed was more comfortable than my dorm bed šŸ˜¦


On Monday night I decided to take myself on a fun night on the town and went to see Wicked. It was wicked good



National Maritime Museum Library and Archives

Monday June 12

Today started out with a nice hectic Monday morning rush hour ride on the tube. Our whole group was too large for one train, so we ended up on three different trains because it was so busy. We finally made it to Westminster, where we waited for a boat to take us down the Thames. Now I’m not a fan of boats…at all. I get sick and it’s just not a good scene for anyone. Thankfully we were going with the current so it wasn’t too much rocking but it was a longer ride than I was hoping for. We went into the museum and met with our guide for the day Mike who is the archivist at the Carid Library.


Mike read us some journal entries from various mariners from 1667-1812. Some of the journal entries he read us from a chaplain in 1812 were particularly funny. He also showed us the online catalog the archives uses, where each collection is numbered 1-9 based on it’s contents. Then we had a talk from Mark, who is a library assistant there. He walked us through the basic history and working functions of the library, including their cataloging schemes and patronage statistics. From a pure academic standpoint it was really interesting to hear these stats and compare them to my own library experiences and what I hope to experience in the future. Because of the different software each department uses, there are actually 3 different types of catalog records for the museum, library and archives. The library uses the most popular ILS- SirsiDynix Symphony (that’s that I use too!), the museum and the archives use Mimsy, and the reader management system is on a tool called Aeon. It’s a shame the library museum and archive can’t all use the same catalog system, it really hinders patrons from finding materials they are looking for.


After that Mark and Mike took us upstairs to view one of the three on site archival stores. The rooms are temperature and humidity controlled, as an archive should be. The items are organized by format and not by collection, allowing them to save space. They showed us the 1543 Copernicus book where he first presented his heliocentric model of the universe! It was very cool. After we came back to the main library we got to see a fun box of Titanic materials. Like any girl my age, I have always been completely obsessed and intrigued about anything Titanic so it was a real treat for me! They had a menu of the last meal served, as well as correspondence with some of the survivors.


After a nice lunch at a Jamie Oliver restaurant, a few of us trekked over the The Mayflower Pub. The actual Mayflower departed from a dock on the same location, and we thought some of the beams from the ship were in the pub, but I think we might have misunderstood that. We had some beverages and appetizers right over the Thames, and when the tide came in we had to pick up our bags so they wouldn’t get wet! It was a very cool adventure!


Ellen came along!

First Weekend!

Friday the 9th was an independent study day, so I spent the day morning and early afternoon doing some online research of places I need to visit and books I will need to request at the British Library. I felt pretty productive. Afterwards, a friend and I took the bus to Trafalgar Square and took in the sights at the National Gallery. Unfortunately neither of us are “art people” so most of it went right over our heads. We did get to see Van Gogh sunflowers though! Then we went to our favorite store- Primark! I got some pajamas, a fascinator, and some gifts. We had a lovely dinner with 2 more friends from the program at Bills- the place with the best pink lemonade!


On Saturday I got to do something I have been aching to do for years- see Mamma Mia live! I went with two friends from the LIS group, and we had an absolute blast. The play was a little friskier than the movie, and I absolutely loved it! The cast was outside after the play to collect money for the Red Cross in light of the recent events in London and Manchester, which was really great.

Today is Sunday, and a group of 5 of us went to Harrods for fancy afternoon tea. It was one of the fanciest things I have ever done in my life! We had sandwiches, scones and pastries we couldn’t eat and a trifle I had to take home! The tea was amazing, I had the breakfast blend. The lemon curd and clotted cream made my whole day, they were that good. After our 2 hour tea we explored the Harrods gift shop (can real people afford anything else there?!) and I got some gifts for home. A great day!

Tomorrow we resume classes, so I will be going to bed early tonight to be well rested.

V&A Archives- Blythe House

Thursday June 8th

Today we took a 40 minute bus ride to the Victoria and Albert Museum Archives at Blythe House. The building itself is going to be sold and the archives will have to find a new home, probably within the next 5 or so years. Emma and Lizzy are curators of the Beatrix Potter collection there, and it’s one of the largest holdings of Beatrix Potter ephemera. Ā According to Emma in the 1970’s there was a large influx of children’s material donated to the V&A, prior to that illustrations weren’t considered worthy artworks. The Potter collection was donated in 1973 by Leslie Linder.

IMG_1366Emma gave us a very comprehensive history of Beatrix’s life and the events leading up to the publishing of Peter Rabbit. Her family would rent a summer house (as you do when you are rich) and that is where she was able to study wildlife. Beatrix had rabbits her entire life, and would practice drawing life sketches of them. Apparently she would also dissect animals and sometimes kill them to dissect them. It makes Peter Rabbit seem a little less cuddly now, knowing that fact. I can understand a woman of science, but it seems like she wasn’t very sentimental about her animals which I cannot understand. She also kept a specimen cabinet which was recently acquired by the V&A, which were apparently very popular in the Victorian era. A lot of the drive at the time was to figure out how the natural world worked and Beatrix was very interested in scientific learning. Of course science was a “man’s world” and she was shunned, typically Victorian. It was amazing to see her sketches in person, she really was gifted for capturing the exact likeness of her subject. If she had been accepted into the scientific community, she might have even discovered penicillin first!


Beatrix broke into the publishing/art world by designing illustrations for greeting cards. She used the money to buy her own printing press, naturally. In 1893 she wrote her first story as a letter to the child of her old governess. These little stories snowballed in in 1900 she wrote Peter Rabbit and tried to get it published. Since she wanted the book to be cheap for people to purchase she had a hard time getting it printed. For the first publication she had to work out a deal that she would forgo royalties for that printing. The book was an immediate success, and was printed again and again. Beatrix finally married near the age of 50 and never had any children. Most of her assets were left to the National Trust and her copyrights were left with her publisher. Maybe if the London science community had accepted her into their ranks, she would have left her copyrights to them. As history has shown, Peter Rabbit and Co. have never left the public consciousness.


Our second session today was a talk by Andrew Wilshire, who met us at Blythe House. For 15 years Beatrix wrote a coded journal. Coded! Andrew told us about the man who cracked the code, Leslie Linder. He was the same man who donated the Potter collection to the V&A. In a period of 13 years Linder decoded the journals and published them. The journal entires themselves looked very cramped and the handwriting is atrocious. There are about 900-1,000 words jammed onto each page, which is why it took so long to translate. The code itself wasn’t too difficult, the cool part is that no one ever found a cheat sheet or cypher meaning that Beatrix memorized her code and was able to write in it quite fluently. She was a very intelligent woman, and history remembers her has writing about bunnies. Where is the justice in that? Beatrix Potter is who I would want my daughters to grow up to be: intelligent, artistic and hard working.


Today’s visit was not what I was expecting. It was nice to learn more about Ms. Potter, however I would have liked to see more of the archive’s holdings and how they store them. Since only 7% of the museum’s holdings are displayed at any one time, I’d imagine that storing them would be quite the task, so it was a little disappointing to not be able to see anything else while we were at Blythe House.


Ellen came along today, obviously.


After Blythe House a few of us went to lunch at the Churchill Arms. It is part pub, part conservatory. The biggest surprise is that it’s thai food!Ā IMG_1376

And…I got to meet the Queen!


Museum of London

After the tour at the Barbican Library, a few of us attempted to trek to the Museum of London. I say attempted because the Barbican Centre felt like a maze designed to trap us in there forever. We eventually made it out and set out for the museum. Along the way we got to see several parts of the original London Wall built by the Romans, which was of course super cool.

We had a quick lunch in the cafe and then explored the museum. The museum displays the history of London from before it was a city to the 2012 London Olympics.


We got to see the London Stone, which was apparently once the marker of the center of London. We had a little conversation about how stones are important in history, and that it is a little absurd to have them in a museum!

My favorite part of the museum was the Pleasure Garden diversion, which was a model of the 18th century pleasure gardens where men and women of means would go to show off their newest outfits. They had a variety of outfits on display, including some very interesting hats.


Overall, I was really impressed with the layout, design and content of the museum! I would go again, and spend more time reading all the displays, today we just a did a walkthrough. 10/10, would recommend!


Museum of Natural History

After the V&A a small group of us walked right across the street to the Museum of Natural History. Ā Upon entering the museum there the most complete stegosaurus skeleton in existence, and directly behind it is a escalator that looks like its feeding directly into a weird Earth-like sculpture. It reminded me a little of the Spaceship Earth ride at Epcot.


There were exhibits on volcanoes, rocks and minerals, sea life, the evolution of the human body and earthquakes. I liked the earthquake section. They had a set-up of a Japanese convenienceĀ (conbini!) store that rattled and moved with he same force of the earthquake that hit the Kobe area in January of 1995.


Overall the museum was okay, but I much preferred the V&A. It felt like there was a lot of wasted space at the natural history museum, and there was a lot of text to read. But there was this super cool alabaster snake bowl that I liked.


The Adventure Begins

IĀ arrived in jolly ole’ England on Friday, June 2nd. Upon arrival I was swiftly bussed to our home base for the month, the University of Westminster Marylebone Residence Hall.IMG_1231 The room is a single-thank god- and is smaller than even the smallest dorm room I had in college. The bathroom is called a water closet for a reason, the shower floor is only a few inches lower than the bathroom floor and the result is a flood of water during each shower. On the first evening we had an orientation session and met with our class groups. There are 12 students studying Library Science this year, along with our professors Drs Cunningham and Welsh. We spent the evening together in the neighborhood and ate at a great restaurant called Bills where I had the best pink lemonade ever. Like ever.IMG_1232

On Saturday, the 3rd, we met as a class to go over expectations and assignments for the month. After that some fellow classmates and I popped over to Primark to get some essentialIMG_1239s- namely a flat sheet and some pillows because dorm beds are hard to get used to again! In the afternoon we had an opportunity to go on one of several walking tours of London, and I chose the Bloomsbury neighborhood walk. Bloomsbury is famous for the “Bloomsbury Group” of authors and artists, including Virginia Woolfe who lived in the area. We stopped in two gorgeous parks that used to be private gardens, and since it was such a pretty day we stopped for a quick gelato- yum!
In the evening we went for a cruise on the Thames for a welcome reception. After the cruise a few of us got a little…misdirected and ended up on two busses to get back to a tube station to take us back to the dorm. About 15 minutes after our arrival we heard about the horrific terrorist attack at the London Bridge area. It’s safe to say that was a long evening for everyone- checking in with the program and with everyone back home and watching the live news coverage kept me up until way past my usual bedtime.IMG_1254

Now it’s later in the evening on Sunday the 4th. This morning we had a meeting to discuss the attack and how it will affect us here. We will keep to our schedule and as the famous saying goes “keep calm and carry on”. We had a nice breakfast at a cafe a few streets over, and walked to Oxford Street for some more Primark necessities (a blanket and hangers and some sandals that hopefully won’t touch my massive blisters this time!), and saw the cool virtual water slide at the Topshop flagship store and had an utterly absurd ice cream with cotton candy.

Dinner was in Covent Garden, and a lovely pub that needs to ask my mom for a better mashed potato recipe. I called it an early evening to rest up for tomorrow, the first official day of class!