Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Museum of London (Revisited): 29 July 2008

Courtesy of Elizabeth Minter


This morning the class discussed our paper topics, mine being the accessibility of information via displays and exhibits for the Young Adult. My colleague, Jane Daughtery suggested that I return to the Museum of London to explore the London's Burning: The Great Fire of London 1666 exhibit.

I am really glad that I did. The exhibit provides access to a variety of visitors and addresses numerous learning styles. For instance, the text is a large and simple font style for easy reading. It also provides probing and thought provoking questions for the younger audience such as "How did people cope?" and "Who caused the fire?"

In addition, the height of the objects on display and the text accompanying it are at a reasonable height for the younger visitor while also accommodating the adult visitor. There are also audio and visual accompaniments to the exhibit. Computers allow the visitor to research various aspect of the fire and the time period including themes, people, the timeline of the fire and an "Ask the Curator" aspect.

Every aspect of the exhibit asks the visitor to stop and reflect on the causes, the nature of, and the aftermath of the fire. It invites the visitor to take a part in his/her own education and learning through family activity sheets and poetry/picture projects that are displayed in the exhibit.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Museum of Childhood, Edinburgh: 23 July 2008

Courtesy of Wikipedia

On my Independent Day I chose to visit the Museum of Childhood which contains the history of childhood and toys, past and present. It opened in 1955. Not only was I excited about the content which is applicable to both adults and children, but I was curious to see the display and how interactive the Museum was.

I was both impressed and disappointed. The display of toys was unbelievable with dolls dating back to the 1800s, trains and games of my great grandmother's childhood. However, the labeling was lacking. Oftentimes I would find an object I wanted to know more about and there would be no information about it or it would simply say the name of the item with no descriptive qualities attached. As impressive as the collection was, the choice of display was overwhelming and unwieldy. It was impossible to see everything and I even spotted a film of dust along the shelving implying that there has not been much in the way of adapting the collection to the needs of today's visitor.

In addition, I discovered that there was no map or brochure to guide the visitor to specific areas of the Collection. One had to just meander through the jungle of toys and hope to discover the collection of Steiffs or the history of school uniforms. After visiting the Roald Dahl Museum & Centre and the National Library of Scotland's display of the John Murray Archive, I was amazed to see how old the display style of the Museum was. It lacked the interactive elements that engage children of all ages and the staff did not seem to be very enthusiastic about providing further information.

University of Strathclyde: 22 July 2008

Our visit to the University of Strathclyde was a day packed with information. The University was extremely welcoming. We were greeted by David McMenemy and Alan Poulter, both professors in the Computer Information Sciences department. In addition to these two speakers, we heard from Christine Rooney-Browne and David Dawson.

While the talks were extremely insightful (discussions of the social value of the Public Library and Forensic Readiness of Local Libraries in School), I found our visit to the Bridge in Easterhouse the most intriguing. Here we met Stephen Finnie who gave us a tour of the facility. I say facility because the space was much more than a library. It opened after 10 years of planning in 2006 "as the hub of the most innovative, integrated approach to leisure, learning, arts and training in Scotland" (Library at the Bridge handout).

The community in which the Bridge resides is a depressed and impoverished area so the opening of the Bridge is expected to have a plethora of benefits both intrinsic and extrinsic. The Bridge has a swimming pool, dance studio, sound recording studio, costume workshop, theatre and is attached to the Community College. Though there are a number of parties involved, the building is completely integrated and a visitor has access to any aspect of the facility. The Bridge has extensive programming. Even as we were touring several programs were going on. The difficult tween age group had a workshop on animation. There was also a face painting program for the younger ages. This took place in the Children's area which is conveniently shelved on movable shelves allowing the reorganization of the collection to accommodate programming needs.

I was absolutely amazed by the collaboration and partnerships involved in bringing about such an impressive and welcoming place for the community to come. The space was open and airy, a hub of activity. Instead of the silence of conventional libraries, one heard the activity of learning.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

National Archives of Scotland: 21 July 2008

After our tour of the National Library of Scotland we walked through Edinburgh to the National Archives of Scotland. The National Archives are comprised of three buildings: General Register House, West Register House and Thomas Thomson House. General Register and West are accessible to the public while Thomas Thomson is primarily for conservation. The Archives:
"exists to select, preserve, and make available the national archives of Scotland in whatever medium, to the highest standards; to promote the growth and maintenance of proper archive provision throughout the country; and to lead the development of archival practice in Scotland." (http://www.nas.gov.uk/about/default.asp)

The Archives have over 70 kilometres of records some dating as far back as the 12th century. They continue to try to improve accessibility of these records by various digitization projects and their five websites. One of their digitization projects was the digitization of Scottish wills spanning from 1513 to 1901. In addition, they provide research areas for anyone interested in tracing their heritage. Their public and historical records are available free of charge while their legal documents are provided for a fee.

National Library of Scotland: 21 July 2008

Our main focus when we arrived at the National Library of Scotland was the John Murray Archive which was acquired in 2002 for the exorbitant price of £32.5 million. David McClay, Curator, noted that the price paid is most likely well below the actual price of the collection. Estimators had been given 12 months to quote the collection. At the close of that time period, they had only reviewed a portion of the collection. The Library has since discovered treasures that they were unaware they possessed and the surprises continue as they go through the cataloging process.

The Archive contains over 20,000 authors and is a compilation of 7 generations of Murray publishing dating back to 1762. So the major questions facing staff members are: how does one conserve and preserve these items; and how do you present the materials to the general public. The answers are not easy to come by.

With the volume of items in the collection, it is impossible to have them all on view and accessible. After partnering with a design firm and collaborating with various staff members, the Library devised an interactive exhibit that highlights certain areas of the collection. After discussing the design elements and the process with Emma Faragher, Education and Outreach Manager, we were given the opportunity to view the exhibit. It was phenomenal. The displays incorporated all of the learning styles (i.e.- aesthetic, visual). It included audio aspects and visual supplements to the texts on display. At the same time, the dim lighting provided atmosphere and protected the manuscripts from harmful light. In addition, the collection can be rotated throughout the exhibit as the needs and interests of the community changes.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Shakespeare Centre Library & Archive: 18 July 2008

"Words. Words. Words."

Where to begin? Stratford-upon-Avon's Shakespeare Centre Library & Archive was a plethora of information and any Shakespearean fans dream come true. The Deputy Head, Clare Maffioli gave us a brief overview of the Library's history and collection and then led us Jo Wilding, User Services Librarian.

Wilding was as giddy as a child as she uncovered and discussed the numerous items that covered the large conference table in front of her. And I am certain that her enthusiasm was fed by our amazement and absolute awe at the items spread before us. The Library owns three of the known 228 first edition folios which were published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare's death. Two of the three are imperfect copies, some having bits missing and facsimiles added in. Nevertheless, it was breathtaking to view a first edition of Shakespeare's 36 plays. To complement the folio we beheld, Wilding displayed source books such as a Bestiary dating to 1658, playbills, prompt books and photographs of early Royal Shakespeare Company performances.

And if this was not enough, Wilding suggested bringing us down to the stacks to view a myriad of additional treasures. The stacks themselves were impressive. Each stack was a separate 'vault' with a heavy steel door perhaps 5 inches thick. The doors had heavy steel cross beams that slide into place as the key turned. In addition, many of the rooms were temperature and humidity controlled to protect the books and items.

Since I left the Library, I've been trying to formulate some coherent resemblance of an emotion to describe the experience. Unfortunately, all I can say is that words simply are not enough.

Bodleian Library, Oxford: 17 July 2008

Courtesy of Professor Welsh

We were greeted by the dry and clipped welcome of Sidney Hicks, Visitor Host. At first I was a bit put off but I quickly found that Hicks' intensity was not annoyance but enthusiasm for his job and the beautiful history of the Bodleian Library. He was a wealth of information and the short period of time we had was not nearly enough time to digest it all.

Part of the collection actually pre-dates the Bodleian Library, going back almost 500 years. However, in the 1550s during the Reformation the King's commission essentially destroyed the library. One can see signs of this destruction by noting the lack of stained glass windows and the missing crucifix. The King's Men determined which books were appropriate and which were not. Unfortunately, many were burned, sold or dispersed of in other ways such as being given to glovers for pressing.

Sir Thomas Bodley who was a student and scholar at Oxford for nearly 15 years undertook the task to restore the Library in 1602 at his own cost. From the outset, Bodley wanted the library to be a global one. It is evident that this dream survived as more than 5% of users live outside the United Kingdom. Hicks noted that there are over 50,000 readers on any given day and there are nearly four and a half million download requests.

In order to keep up with the number of readers and also to conserve materials, the Bodleian Library is undergoing a serious of digitization projects. One of these projects is in conjunction with the Folger Institute. This year long project aims to digitize 75 original Shakespearean quartos which will be freely available with the ability to overlay images for comparisons.

It is clear the Library continues to grow as it receives nearly 3,000 items per week. The Library is one of six Legal Depositories in England and thus receives a copy of anything published within the United Kingdom. This continued growth and it 's forward-looking goal of digitizing the collection furthers Bodley's dreams of a global library perhaps more so than he ever imagined it could be.