LIS 580 British Studies
National Maritime Museum Library and Archive, Greenwich
June 15, 2016
We traveled via the Ferry to Greenwich and even saw a Brexit protest on the water!
Penny Allen, Librarian and Stawell Heard, Archivist were our guides through the National Maritime Museum (NMM) Library and Archives.
We were given the opportunity to see some of the items that are part of the collection.
Captain Matthew Webb was the first man to swim the English Channel. The collection holds his qualification papers for the Merchant Marine, certificate of commendation for when he tried to save a shipmate who fell overboard, a crew list where he is listed as Master Mariner of the Emerald (captain), and several illustrations of his daring do.
We also saw materials relating the heroics of Captain James Spratt during the Battle of Trafalgar, where he boarded and enemy vessel by swimming across to it (with his sword in his mouth!).
The collection has tickets to the funeral and procession of the great Admiral Lord Nelson's body.
Sometimes books are not only valuable due to age and inherent value, but due to provenance (who may have owned them). Part of the collection of the NMM is a set of 80 books donated by Rudyard Kipling's widow. The books deal with maritime topics. The bookplate inside one of the books we saw, was designed by Kipling's father.
The Library and Archives are research-based facilities. Readers use the AON system to request items for use in the reading rooms. The NMM has an extensive periodical collection of over 100 titles related to naval and maritime themes. They use a dumbwaiter system to transport items from the stacks to the reading rooms. The Archives contain the Merchant Marine records for the U.K. The collection is comprised of articles relating to the Royal Navy, the Merchant Navy, navigation, astronomy, art, maps, and charts. It also includes rare books, folios, and pamphlets. The stacks are a series of rolling racks that have adequate support for the weight load allocated to them.
I appreciated when Penny reminded us that we need not know everything about everything, but we should know the basics of a subject "as any good reference librarian would."
After lunch at the Museum cafe, we (Stacie, Kim, Cherie, and I) walked to the Royal Observatory.
The Royal Observatory was authorised by King Charles II in order to solve the maritime problem of longitude. Using the sun and stars sailors could determine latitude. Longitude was not so easily decipherable and untold lives (and cargo) were lost to miscalculations. The problem was so dire that governments offered monetary rewards to solve the problem. Astronomical resolutions were tried but failed. John Harrison, a self-taught clockmaker, invented a mechanical solution in his chronometer. This timepiece carried (carries) true time from homeport to any destination and allows the navigator to use the time differential to calculate longitude.
Book recommendation: Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of his Time by Dava Sobel