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.
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.
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.
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.
Movie: The Mummy Returns