British Studies 2014

kimiekelly's Having Fun Abroad album on Photobucket

Royal Geographical Society Library & Archive -Thursday - July 24th

The last visit of our class was to the Royal Geographical Society Library and Archive.  The Royal Geographical Society (RGS) was originally called the Geographical Society of London.  It was founded in 1830 with the intention of promoting the study of geography and mapping areas of the world.  I was surprised to learn that in addition to offering various workshops and exhibits, the RGS still participates in funding expeditions.  

For my book reviews I read The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann.  The book focuses on Percy Fawcett, a British explorer who searched South American for the lost city of El DoradoFrom my readings, I knew that Grann had used the Royal Geographical Society Library to study maps made by Percy Fawcett that are kept there.  For this reason I was eager for our visit there. 
Our speaker was Eugene Rae, Principal Librarian at the RGS.  He led us to the Foyle Reading Room.  Built with money provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the reading room opened in 2004.  The room is neat and modern.  One side is lined with windows that look out into the Exhibition Pavilion.  I can see a large group of visitors outside in the Pavilion looking around the displays for the Travel Photographer of the Year Exhibition.   
We are seated around a large table in the library that holds various artifacts from the collection.  This particular collection is refered to has the "hot and cold showcase" because half of the artifacts belong to expeditions performed in  warm temperature area of the world, while the other are from cold locations.  Eugene proceeds to give us a brief history of each item on the table.  We are shown the Burberry helmet Sir Ernest Shackleton wore on explorations to the Antarctic, the famous hat of Sir Henry Morton Stanley, as well as the cap belonging to explorer David Livingstone.  
Our class at RGS.  Photo courtesy of Dr Teresa Welsh

The RGS Library possesses over 2 million items.  About half of those items are maps, drawn by explorers.  They also have 400 atlases and a huge picture collection.  The library holds over 250,000 books.  Eugene tells us that artifacts are the smallest party of the collection.  Those artifacts fall into 3 categories; scientific instruments, personal effects, and cultural objects.  Our final visit has been an exciting one.  To be this close to items of such significance is quite thrilling.  Eugene must have quite an interesting job.

Middle Temple Law Library - Wednesday - July 23rd

I found the Middle Temple Law Library very interesting.  It is the second law library we visited this course.  I was excited to visit, as I am keenly interested in law libraries in general and as I find them to be parallel to medical libraries.  Both are highly specialized and cater to a specific population. 

We learned, before entering the library, that this area of London was originally the headquarters to the Knights Templar.  The Temple Church from the late 12th century stands here and I am shocked at the age of its origin.  After exploring the grounds for a few minutes, we enter the library and are introduced to our guide Renae Satterley.  Renae is Deputy Librarian of Middle Temple Inn library.  Throughout this course we have met many librarians who are not originally from England.  Renae is no exception to this theme, as she is originally from Montreal, Canada.  

Renae explains to our class that there are four Inns of Court and Middle Temple is one of those Inns. Each of these Inns has a library which serves barristers,
judges, and law students who belong to an Inn of Court.  Each of the law libraries has law subject specialties.  For instance, Middle Temple Library is the specialist library for ecclesiastical law.  They also focus largely on American and international law.  Middle Temple library is open to any member of the four Inns of Court.

The first thing I noticed when we enter the library is two large globes contained in glasses cases.  I did some research and discovered that they are terrestrial and celestial globes by Emery Molyneux.  Molyneux is credited as being the first English globe-maker. It is believed these globes were donated by Robert Ashley. Ashleyis also credited with the library being re-founded in 1641 for donating his personal collection of books.  

It is believed that the Inns were established in the late 1300’s.  The Middle Temple library has existed prior to 1540 in various locations before finding its current home here in 1958. Part of Middle Temple is the Middle Temple Hall.  Each Inn of Court has a hall.  These halls are used for various functions and can be rented for corporate events or even weddings.  Student members of the Inns are required to attend 12 "dinners" or sessions in these halls.  These sessions are usually a combination of dinner and a lecture or debate.
Middle Temple Hall decorated for an event.  Photo courtesy of :

At the end of our library tour Renae leads us to the Middle Temple Hall.  When we arrive there we find caterers are busy decorating the room for an upcoming event.  It is gorgeous and I can sense that our whole class is mesmerized by its magnificence.  
My view of Middle Temple Hall

Westminster Abbey Library -Tuesday - July 22nd

Today we visited Westminster Abbey Library.  The entrance to the library was like something out of a movie!  Dr. Welsh led us to two large wooden doors.  There was a gold sign on one door that read: 

Librarian and Keeper of the Muniments
Dr Welsh approached the door and had to contact the librarian through a speaker.  He then "buzzed us in."  Dr Welsh opened the door that lead to the steps ascending to the library and it felt like an adventure was about to begin. 

We are greeted by Dr. Tony Trowles, Librarian and Head of the Abbey Collection.  He tells us about the collection, the building and his job duties.

He tells us that the location where the library is was once the bedroom of the Abbey monks.  It is strange to think that this room of books was once a giant bedroom full of monks!    

The collection of items housed at the Westminster Abbey library pertain to the history of The Abbey and various Royalties.  The library collection was gathered through gifts of items, as well as some purchases. The entire Abbey collection is reference only.  If someone would like to visit the collection to view items it is suggested that they contact the library in advance.  

There are various display cases throughout the library that contain old texts and we walk by and look into them.  All of the shelves are roped off so we cannot walk down the aisles.  Everything here is so old and delicate.   

We did not visit the Muniments Room, which is a records storage room.  In that room there are records from the beginning of the Abbey that go back to 1065!!!
Westminster Abbey was founded as a church in 1560.  This building has been used as a library since 1591.

Westminster Abbey Library courtesy of

Libraries like Westminster Abbey are the reason I chose to take this course.  Will there ever be another time in my life when I would have the opportunity to visit Westminster Abbey Library?  It is highly unlikely.

Sadly for me it was an extremely hot day in London.  I felt like I was going to faint.  As we were a large group and the library is very small, I had to make my way down the stairs quickly after our discussion.  I wish it had been cooler so I could have focused better.