Saturday, August 13, 2011

The British Library Conservation Studio

For our last class we went on a behind the scenes tour of the British Library Centre for Conservation. After placing our belongings minus notepads and pencils in the lockers, we met our guide inside the entrance to the library. We walked up a flight of stairs and across the restaurant patio to the conservation studios. The conservation studios are on the top floor of a three-story state of the art addition to the St. Pancras building and was completed in 2007.

During our tour we were shown by a conservator how she was approaching the preservation of palm leaves that were a Hare Krishna text from the mid 14th century. All in all there were two hundred and fifty-three leaves, and she attempts to process five per day. Not all of them were damaged, but some that were required a lot of work. For the ones missing larger parts of the leaves, she would repair them by using a pulp and leaf-caster machine. Whereas for the leaves with small holes in them or minor damage, she would meticulously patch the holes by hand using small fragments of pulp.

On the next part of the tour we went into another studio and were shown by our guide, Mark, how leather binding is prepared in order to put gold leaf lettering on the spine. First he polished the surface of the leather with a hot iron and created a smooth surface. Next he applied glair, a glaze made of egg whites, to the leather while explaining the importance of room temperature for this process. Then he placed gold leaf on the glair followed by the application of the heated metal letters. Mark explained that there is a chemical reaction between the glair and gold leaf and that essentially the heat cooks the images of the letters into the leather. It was all very interesting and I don’t think that I’ll ever look at gold lettering on books the same way again!

At the end of our tour we were led into the Foyle Visitor and Learning Centre, an interactive display area showing the methods of book and sound conservatorship. Our guide gave us booklets pertaining to preservation such as Basic Preservation, Bookbindings, Damaged books, and Photographic material. I hope to make use of these materials someday.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Middle Temple Library

Middle Temple Library is a law library in central London. The architect, Sir Edward Moft, designed the building to be built using reinforced concrete in response to the original library that had been heavily damaged by bombing during WWII. So the current library building was completed in the 1950s. It is one of four Inns’ libraries including the Inner Temple, Gray’s Inn, and Lincoln’s Inn. Every barrister in the United Kingdom is required to join an Inn, and each Inn has its respective library.

The founder of the library was Robert Ashley who donated his personal library as the foundation for the Middle Temple Library. His collection included a large portion of John Donne’s personal library, about eighty books, as well as his collection on alchemy. We saw Ashley’s alchemy collection on display. In addition the library has two globes from the 16th century on display. One of the globes is a celestial globe, whereas the other is a terrestrial globe and both are made of lacquered papier-mache. On the terrestrial globe the northwest section of North America is non-existent reflecting that Drake and Cook hadn’t explored there yet.

The Middle Temple Library has a history with New England, and the United States. Several of the signers of the U.S. Constitution were Middle Temple graduates. So the librarians brought us to see the American Collection. It is the largest collection of U.S. law and materials outside of the U.S., most of which was developed after WWII. The collection users are mostly lawyers doing commercial law or laws directly pertaining to the U.S. Not only do they have access to the materials in the Middle Temple Library, but they have a well- developed online database and services to draw from too.

Some of the honorary members to the library have been Sir Walter Raleigh and Prince Williams. There is even a table made from the hatch of the Golden Hinde, Sir Francis Drake’s ship.

The Middle Temple Inn and its library appear to be a perfect retreat, research center, and meeting place for lawyers away from the maddening crowds on Fleet Street.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

King's College Maughan Library

The library has been at its current location since 2001. It is the consolidation of four King's College campus libraries. Formerly, the building was used as a records office. It is owned by the Crown Estates and leased to the college. The library serves eleven or more thousand students per year. The students study in the areas of the humanities, social sciences, law, and health science. King’s College and its affiliate, the University of London, receive a thousand or more visitors worldwide each year. It is open twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. Wireless Internet is available throughout the building and self-service stations are available throughout the building for checking out materials. There are group study areas, social seating and a snack room for eating and socializing. The librarians roam about the library in order to provide immediate reference to its users. The stacks are movable or rolling shelves to provide more shelving space. In the area of math science journals are only available on the online database. The closed access part of the collection includes the student theses, and the Zion College collection. Both can be requested via the catalog. There is an audiovisual collection of CDs, DVDs, and VHSs. The DVDs fall under a certain copyright per region, the library gets around these limitations by having multi-region players. There is a round reading room modeled after the one in the British Museum.

The Foyle Special Collections Room has over 130,000 books, journals, pamphlets, maps and other printed materials. The items that were placed on display for us to see and browse through included: a 17th century travel and discovery map of the world showing California as an island, printed in London 1671; the Nuremburg Chronicle History of the World from 1493; from the St. Thomas collection a 1491 edition of the Garden of Health; a 17th century doctor’s annotated ledger; a 19th century copy of Florence Nightingale’s book about the sanitary conditions during the Crimean War; a 1953 Coronation Album of Queen Elizabeth II showing photos of celebrations throughout the Commonwealth; and a book printed and donated by Benjamin Franklin about the Charters of the Province of Pensilvania and Philadelphia MDCCXLII (original spelling).

After visiting the Foyle Special Collections Room, our class was split up in two groups for a tour of the library. Our group saw how the facilities were laid out. We even went up to the tower where there are individual study rooms with windows overlooking the skyline of London.