The Excellent Adventure Ends

Alas, it's time to go home to the good ole' US of A. Best of luck to all my classmates in your future endeavors. It was definitely an adventure.

British Film Institute, London

My last visit while in London was to see the British Film Institute's offerings at the National Theatre. The BFI offers showing of films regularly at their 3 screen cinema at the National, with a wide variety of films that would rarely be seen on the big screen otherwise. I happened to catch a double feature of Marlon Brando's films, and became intrigued with the idea of the conservation efforts required to preserve old films and keep them accessible to audiences. The BFI operates a unique and invaluable service on the premises, which allows viewers to watch a huge selection of films from viewing stations, and free of charge, no less. I discovered that the BFI also has its own library and archives, as well. I plan to do my large reseach paper on the BFI, particularly on its conservation/preservation of film. More info is available on their extensive website at

Guildhall Library, London

The visit to the Guildhall library was interesting, in that our lecture explained the historical significance of the library and its current role in serving the city of London. As a library open to the public, it was helpful to learn what services they offer, such as free internet access to patrons. It was also fascinating to learn about the project they conducted which made their collection of prints available online, and downloadable for a fee. What a great idea!

Barbican Library, London

The tour of the Barbican library was a nice change, as it was the first public lending library that we visited. The librarians were very informative in explaining their day-to-day operations, and the issues and problems they face, and solutions they had found for those problems. The self-check out system was particularly interesting, as I had not seen technology like that used anywhere else.
I thought the music library was a great asset to patrons, offering a rare and valuable public service. The ability to check out recordings, sheet music, books and periodicals on music, as well as listening booths and even a practice piano for patron use was remarkable. However, I did find it rather unkind of the staff to mention that we had missed seeing Orlando Bloom by one day. ;-)

The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

We took a boat ride down the Thames River to Greenwich to visit the Royal Observatory and the National Maritime Museum, where we were given a guided tour of their library. The library was naturally focused on information dealing with maritime history, and we were fortunate enough to again view and handle some very rare documents and other items. Personally, I found the snapshots taken of the survivors of the Titanic while still in the lifeboats awaiting rescue to be especially memorable, and a bit haunting, as well.

After the library visit, we went to the Royal Observatory and saw the time-keeping historical items on display at their exhibit there. We, of course, had to see the Prime Meridian, and stand over it to get our picture taken with one foot in two different hemispheres.

Edie and I hung around Greenwich most of the day, and finally caught the last available boat back down the Thames. That particular boat had seating on the upper deck, and we were able to get some great photos from there. It was a wonderful way to end the day.

Victoria and Albert Museum Library

The tour of this library was memorable largely due to the unique and fascinating samples of art books that we were shown and allowed to touch from their collection. The quilt book, the walnut book, the tunnel book were all intriguing creations in their own right. The librarians were very informative and gracious, and it was nice to learn something about the way in which the British library education system works, as well.
On a side note, the cafeteria seating area was gorgeous, having supposedly been an exhibition area in the past. Apparently the mouse inhabiting the room thought so, too.

Mini-break in Dublin, Donnybrook area

While in Dublin, I stayed at a great guesthouse in the Donnybrook area of town, which is about a 10 minute bus ride from the city centre. It was a lovely, leafy, peaceful area to stay.

I enjoyed the beautiful guesthouse and friendly owners immensely, not to mention the wonderful breakfast every morning.
Even though I had a fairly nasty cold during my stay, I was as comfortable as humanly possible in my cozy room.

Day 11, The Irish Writer's Centre, Dublin

While in Dublin, I also visited the Irish Writer's Centre. It was next door to the Writer's Museum, conveniently enough. While the Writer's Museum is dedicated to the Irish writers in history, the Writer's Centre exists to promote contemporary Irish writers and literature. The center offers various events that support and promote modern Irish writers, not only in Ireland, but to the rest of the world. Given Dublin's relatively newfound status as multicultural city, the Centre has the opportunity to present its authors and their literature to people from all over the planet.
Even though the Irish Writer's Centre is not technically an archive, library, or museum, it occupies a unique role in the literary culture of Dublin and Ireland as a centralized source of information and organization for modern Irish writers, and the public who read them. As such, it is worthy of note in the context of our course.
More information is available at their website:

Day 10, Minibreak, Dublin, Ireland, The Writer's Museum

As we all went our seperate ways for the mini-break, I left Edinburgh and flew to Dublin, where I spent the rest of the break. I visited the Dublin Writer's Museum, as one of our "on our own" site visits. It was similar to the Writer's Museum in Edinburgh, though somewhat roomier, with a small cafe, bookstore, and some art exhibition spaces. James Joyce was, of course, featured prominently as one of Ireland's premier authors, along with the infamous Oscar Wilde, and Samuel Beckett, to name a few.
The museum offers a chronological look at writer's who hale from Ireland throughout its literary history, with displays that include various documents, books, photos, paintings, and even personal accoutrements of the writers. Audio handsets are given to visitors for self-guided tours.
One of the most interesting things that I was fortunate to be able to see was the event offered by the museum called "The Writers Entertain." It was a performance by a single Irish actor, who talks about the highlights of several Irish writer's lives and careers, and gives enactments of quotes in different voices of things said by the writer's and those who knew them. It was a uniquely entertaining and informative experience.
More details on the Museum can be found at

Day 9, The Writer's Museum, Edinburgh

We toured the Writer's Museum today, which we did on our own. As it was fairly small, it was no problem to tour the exhibits yourself. A few of Scotland's most famous author's were honored here, including Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson, and Robert Burns. Some interesing photos and documents were on display for each of the authors, and a unique display that featured mannequins in a stage-like setting, portraying a conversation taking place between Sir Walter Scott and his publisher. Visitors could play an audio of the conversation by pushing a button near the front of the scene.

Day 8

Today we toured both the National Library of Scotland and the National Archives of Scotland, both in the city of Edinburgh. Our trip to Edinburgh was my favorite out-of-London excursion overall. Both places we visited welcomed us warmly, offered tons of information enthusiastically, gave us tea, and offered to be of service in the future. They could not have been more hospitable.
At the National Library, the exhibit we toured was one of the most impressive I've ever viewed. The level of interactivity integrated into the displays set a new standard for exhibitions in general. The way in which displayed documents could be viewed in typewritten text on a screen made viewing the content of old letters and papers much easier and quicker, resulting in many more viewers actually reading them. The "hands-on" philosophy of the designers of the exhibit made the entire experience much more tangible to the viewer, and subsequently more memorable and significant. The "windows" placed throughout the room, with Monty Python-esque charactors gamboling across the panes enacting various moments in history, was not only quite amusing, but extremely clever.

Day 7, The Bodleian Library, Oxford

We returned to Oxford today to take a guided tour of the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. Although I've visited Oxford a few times, it was an excellent opportunity as an LIS student to be able to tour the library and learn about its history and operation. It was also just a fun thing to learn that the room where we met for the start of the tour was used in one of the Harry Potter films as a ballroom.

It was also amazing to see the old haunts of the people who inspired the characters in Alice in Wonderland, such as the dining hall with the door in the back corner that was the real-life "rabbit hole" of the little girl who was the original Alice.

Oxford University is steeped in British history and culture, and to learn so much about the inner workings of the institution was invaluable.

Day 6, St. Paul's Cathedral Library

The visit to this library was one of my favorites, despite the scary staircases that led up to it. Mr. Wisdom (what a great name for a librarian, by the way) was a generous and knowledgeable guide to the small but very rich collection housed in the heights of St. Paul's Cathedral. The library itself seemed like a room from the world of fiction and movies, and would have made an excellent office for Professor Dumbledore. Also, the chance to see the model made by Christopher Wren was a rare opportunity in itself.

Day 5, The Museum of London

The lecture and tour of the Museum of London was quite interesting, and the exhibits were well-planned and displayed. The range of topics on the city of London covered by the museum was surprising. A city with the historical and cultural significance of London should indeed have such a resource for the benefit of its citizens, both now and in the future.

Day 4, The Houses of Parliament

With British governmental security being what it is these days, it was a nice treat to get to tour the houses of Parliament with a knowledgeable guide.

Day 3 British Library, London

Today we took a guided tour of the British Library. It was quite interesting to find out how such a large national library operates, particularly the way in which the books are delivered to the reading rooms via the automated conveyor system. The exhibits and rare books were also impressive. I have to say that the huge glass tower of books in the center of the library was not only beautiful but awe-inspiring. Learning the history of that collection and the fact that the tower was designed especially to house that collection according to the conditions of its royal contributor was fascinating, as well. (The hot chocolate in the cafe was fabulous, too!)


Later that day we ventured on to Stratford, home of a relatively obscure playwright by the name of Will Shakespeare. We saw the Shakespeare birthplace museum, and a myriad of other Shakespeariana. That evening, we took in an intriguing version of McBeth by the Royal Shakespeare Company.
The Avon river was lovely, at least until it flooded the town a few days later.