Thursday, 9 August 2012

British Library Conservation Studio/Writing Britain Exhibit

 Conservation Studio

This was our last day of visits so it was a bittersweet day because this meant that everything was really coming to an end.  This visit allowed us to gain insight to what the professionals do at the conservation studio of the British Library.  With it being the British Library and know these people really know their stuff.  We were first spoken to about the overall British Library and the materials that come through for preservation.  First off, the British Library is in possession of some pretty amazing things.  They have: rare illuminated manuscripts, original manuscripts of several famous books, the Magna Carta, various gospels and Bibles, maps and so much more.  Just comprehending all of the items in their possession is enough to make your head explode.  Being responsible for all of these treasures can not be an easy task but after literally stepping inside the actual studio, seeing all of the  work stations and the people hard at work one can gain a sense of all the hard work and talent that goes into maintaining the treasured collection of the British Library.,r:8,s:0,i:100,r:1,s:0,i:79

Writing Britain Exhibit 

 This is a link to a video clip about the exhibit

Some of us were fortunate enough to acquire free tickets to the exhibition Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands. (Thank you John Webster!)  This exhibition was AMAZING!
I had the best time going through this exhibition.  Around each corner was something to top what I thought would be the coolest thing to see.  I was really excited to see the manuscript for Harry Potter of course that was obvious.  I would say I was most impressed by the Robert Louis Stevenson manuscript for Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde  and the manuscript for 'Alice's Adventures Under Ground' by Lewis Carroll.  I was impressed by them mostly because they were two authors that kept coming up throughout my visits.  While I was in Oxford Lewis Carroll and Alice were everywhere because of the anniversary.  While I was Scotland I heard a lot about Stevenson because his inspiration for the novel was in Edinburgh.  I really felt that with this last day of class the exhibition really brought me full circle.,r:7,s:0,i:94,r:4,s:0,i:85

Here are some of the things I was so lucky to see!
  • RR Tolkien: original artwork for The Hobbit
  • JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone manuscript
  • John Lennon: draft for ‘In My Life’
  • Daphne Du Maurier: early plan for Rebecca
  • Charles Dickens: manuscript for Our Mutual Friend
  • Robert Louis Stevenson: manuscript for Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
  • Charlotte Brontë: manuscript for Jane Eyre
  • Lewis Carroll: manuscript of 'Alice's Adventures Under Ground'
  • William Blake: manuscript for ‘London’
  • ‘The Seafarer’ from the 10th-century Exeter Book
  • Ted Hughes: notebook for The Remains of Elmet
For an even more detailed description of the exhibit follow this link

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Christ Church College


During our day trip to the lovely city of Oxford, our class made a trip to Christ Church College.  I will admit my knowledge of Oxford  was vague so it made my visit much more exciting and interesting.  I had no clue that Oxford is all about Lewis Carroll Alice in Wonderland. In fact I was in Oxford during the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice in Wonderland; how cool is that? I did not know that Winston Churchill hung out there.  I did not know that J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis liked to meet up for dinner at a pub called the Eagle and Child; this was the location of my first fish & chips experience.  Yes.  Oxford is an awesome place to visit!   

Alter at Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church College is chock full of a vast, fascinating history. The college was originally planned by Cardinal Wolsey; famous for being a chief adviser to Henry VIII.   Several famous people have studied there including John Locke, Robert Hooke and thirteen prime minsters as well.

Ceiling in Christ Church College Library
Our visit to Christ Church College Library was a privileged visit ; a wonderful surprise to say the least.  The library is quite beautiful.  The detail in the building is fantastic.  The ceilings are beyond gorgeous and included detail that I was not expecting which made the experience all the more grand.  The collection housed upstairs, the special collection, is magnificent.  I have never before seen a library with so much natural light.  It was simply amazing.  The shelves and flooring are all wood.  There were wooden ladders lined along the shelves.  It felt like an old-fashioned library and it is awesome to be able to say that I have been inside.  Again it was a welcomed visit and one we were lucky to get.  Thank you Maria Franchini for allowing us to visit.  It was a privilege!

Christ Church College Library Upper Floor
  Bits of Information
  • The collection is full of early printed books and manuscripts with strength in Hebrew materials.   
  • The library pictured in this blog is known as The Upper Library. 
  •  It is 150 feet long and contains 40,000 books. 
  •  A library was first established at Christ Church in 1562.  Outside the Bodleian Library, Christ Church Library has the largest collection of early printed books in Oxford. 
This is just a small taste of what Christ Church is all about.  You should totally take a look at this link and learn some more!

Tower of London: Watch Your Head

The White Tower

When I fully comprehended that I was actually going to London I immediately knew of places that I wanted to visit.  At the top of my list was the Tower of London.  I have always had an interest in English history.  A key factor in English history is the Tower of London.  It encompasses so much of the history anyone would be foolish to pass over the opportunity to pay a visit. 
View of the Tower from the Thames

 The Tower of London was first built by William the Conqueror in 1078.  The tower has served as both a royal residence but more famously as a prison.  Other things associated with the tower are an armory, treasury, menagerie, royal mint and, of course, the Crown Jewels. It has housed several famous prisoners including  Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I, Jane Grey and Sir Walter Raleigh. Having so many varying purposes makes the tower a fascinating visit.  When I first caught glimpse of the Tower I became so excited that I hardly knew what to do with myself. 

Up the winding staircase which are everywhere in the Tower

Being inside the Tower was just crazy.  In some of the rooms the carvings of prisoners’ names and sayings are still visible.  One of the clearest was carved by another famous prisoner Henry Walpole.   By being able to see carvings makes visiting so surreal and intimate.  These walls actually kept prisoners, sometimes innocent prisoners, trapped either awaiting their death or facing a life of torment in prison.  It is just crazy to know how many lives were lost in the Tower; that people were tortured there. I can only imagine how a person must have felt as they entered the Tower to anticipate their doomed future. 

Traitor's Gate

Of course one of the best things there was the Crown Jewels.  I was not allowed to take pictures inside, however  no pictures would ever show the true sparkle emanating off the diamonds.  They are almost too good to be true and look fake.  But who knows if those are really the Crowned Jewels of England on display at all times.  For my sake, they better have been the real thing!   I still cannot wrap my head around seeing them.  The crowns are inside a tall glass display case in the center of the room.  On both sides of the case are slow moving sidewalks.  It moves just slow enough to take in their brilliance, beauty and ambiance.  I must also mention that entering the actual room was quite the experience.  Never in my life have I seen such a thick vault door.  I mean that door was ENORMOUS! 


Seeing the Tower of London really solidified something for me.  Throughout my life, with all of the books I have read on the history of London, the Tower has always played a prominent role in England’s history.  London revolves around the Tower and holy smokes I actually got to see it in person.  Holy crap I was at the Tower of London.  I was there and it was brilliant!  It was bloody fantastic!

The Tower of London is first and foremost a historic part of London.  Instead of looking at it as a potential tourist attraction look at it in a historic perspective.  

Don't think you will ever make it to the Tower of London? Take a virtual tour! 


Me at Traitor's Gate