Sunday, July 17, 2016

LIS 580 British Studies
British Museum Archives
June 9, 2016


Today we had the great pleasure of visiting the British Museum. Before our tour of the Archives, we were offered the chance to explore and see some of the exhibits.
Non-sequitur: Before entering the Museum we were going through security and I was waved through. Conflicted. Should I feel as if I were given special treatment, VIP if you will? Or should I feel sad that I am so non-descript as to visibly pose no threat? Perverse logic, I know.
We immediately went to the Egyptian Exhibit and were able to see the Rosetta Stone.
This is a bust of King Amenhotep III circa 1352 B.C.

These are statues of the goddess Sekhmet 'the mighty one'. A lion goddess and daughter of the sun-god Ra, she is often pictured with a disc above her head. Known as a vengeful goddess she could also be invoked for healing.

Nebamun hunting in the marshes of the Nile. Nebamun was accountant in charge of grain at the Temple of Amun in Thebes. This reminded me of my husband Greg since he is an accountant. Pictured here also are his wife and daughter. The similarity to Alex and me is uncanny!
Egyptian Treasures



Assyrian Treasures

 
There was also a wonderful Japanese Exhibition that we toured.
This is "Respect and Love"

  

British Museum Archives
The afternoon began with a visit to the British Museum Archives. Our hostess today was Ms. Francesca Hillier, Archivist. The current archives are a "rabbit warren" of tunnels underneath the main museum. They contain records of governance and administration of the Museum. It currently is not catalogued and there is no master list detailing what is in the collection. Francesca is the 2nd qualified archivist to hold her position.
The Archives contain original papers of the general meetings and decisions taken by the Principal Trustees since the inception of the Museum in 1753. Francesca was able to show us the paper that bequeathed Hans Sloane's original collection to the Nation to begin the Museum.
The Archives hold many hidden treasures. Records of purchased land, collections, letters to and from the museum, acquisitions records, staff records, records of foreign excavations, photographs of the museum, refurbishment records, reading room records. The unfortunate and frustrating is that there is not enough money or time to organize all this information using modern archiving and librarianship standards. The cataloging of this information alone will take years. It is sad that money is the delimiter that hinders the organization of such a prestigious organization's records.

She showed us that previous keepers of the archives bound important papers in these books. The downside is that they used animal glues that harden like concrete. In later years when others needed these documents, they were cut out of the books.
This illustration shows the original buildings of the Museum.
Newer documents and papers are kept in these grey boxes that are labeled. They contain the detailed records of the business of running the museum.


   
These photographs show the damage that the Museum endured during the Blitz. On the floor behind her, you can see the remnant of a bomb from that time.

When the British Library separated from the British Museum they "binned" many things, including Reader's cards, letters of recommendation, letters of petition to be Readers, and signing in books. Some were saved.
This is Bram Stoker's Reader's card.

This is Bram Stoker's petition letter to be a Reader at the British Library.
This is Thomas Stoker's recommendation letter for Bram Stoker.
In this sign-in-book, we see Oscar Wilde's signature.


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