Tuesday, July 22, 2014

History with a dash of heat wave

Mass confusion and security checks. Thus began our visit to the Westminster Abbey Library!

The biggest issue was locating the library. The main entrance to the abbey, with the line of people waiting to go in didn't take us there. The back exit near the shop was also incorrect. So how was one even to find the library? Through the cloisters! On our way, we were stopped by a number of security guards asking where we were going, and we all had our bags searched. This was one of the libraries with the tightest security we have been on this trip (I think the British Library wins).

We finally found the door labeled "Librarian and Keeper of Muniments." After being buzzed through the doors, everyone immediately began fanning their notebooks on their faces. It was an unnatural 80-degree day in London, but the inside of the library was significantly more stifling.

Entrance to the Westminster Abbey Library
We were given another excellent history lesson by the librarian (I think when I get back to the States, I will devour any British history book I come across as the people I have talked to on this trip have truly inspired me to learn more!). As the coronation church since 1066, Westminster Abbey has survived political turmoil over the centuries. When Henry VIII decided to close down all the monasteries, the books were destroyed or sold. Queen Elizabeth I reestablished the monasteries and worked to provide a new library. William Camden was the first librarian in 1587, but John Williams in 1620 is considered to be the founder of the library that exists today. He added the shelves (which are sagging with the weight) and a number of books.

This used to be a chained library, but all of the chains have since been removed. I never did make it to see one of the few existing chained libraries, and I was pleased to hear that I was standing in one even though the books didn't show any sign of once having long chains attached.

Most of the collection was acquired through gifts, and today is deemed to be a closed collection as they very rarely acquire new materials. The collection represents a wide variety of materials, ranging from the writings of the early Church fathers, historical materials, and British literature.

Anyone is welcome to come and use the reading room (materials can be found through the ESTC), but appointments are required. Only two people can fit inside the reading room at a time! There is nowhere to charge a laptop, but use of one must also be approved for logistical concerns. The library has some issues meeting modern needs on account of the location's age, but the librarian seems to do everything in his power to compensate. Like the many librarians and archivists we have met on this trip, our host was kind, welcoming and extremely intelligent.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The past lives on

After our trip to Scotland, we were free to go anywhere we wished on our 5-day mini-break. I chose this opportunity to visit the Palace Green Library in Durham, as I believed this institution would be a fantastic asset in my final research paper on special collection development. Jon Purcell graciously offered a guided tour through the non-public parts of the library.

View of the Palace Green Library (on the left) and the Durham Castle (back) from the tower in the Durham Cathedral
Durham University is one of the older universities in England, but the Palace Green Library (which houses the special collections for the university) has its origins centuries before the university's founding. John Cosin, the Bishop of Durham, founded a public library in 1669. This library is still in its original building inside the Palace Green Library, and the original university library books are up in the gallery of the Cosin Library. Walking into this bright and cozy library, I hope I closed my jaw before I looked like a gaping fish. An image truly cannot capture the sense of traveling to another time, one in which the beauty of books and the sanctity of the library is revered.

Cosin Library
I also saw the Routh and Bamburgh libraries, each untouched by time. All three libraries have been organized exactly the way the owners left the library. The Cosin Library, for example, has shelf marks based on the portraits hung above the shelves.

Original shelf list catalogues in the Bamburgh Library
Interestingly, more of Sudan's national documents exist in the Durham libraries than in Sudan. Over the years, they have been contacted in an attempt to give the documents to Sudan, but since the documents are all available online the libraries are not willing to lose a major collection.

Cosin Library and Exchequer Building (part of Palace Green Library)
Over tea, we discussed the various aspects of Palace Green's collection development policy. The library relies heavily on donations, as is apparent through its long history of entire libraries gifted to the institution. Therefore, a lengthy gift policy detailing procedures and types of materials accepted is available online. Even if the gift is not something the library wishes to acquire, they will do their best to find a good home for the material. Based on our conversation, there doesn't seem to be a budget for the purchase of new materials, but there is a board that raises money if a desired item comes on the market. Once new items are catalogued, they can be searched and located through COPAC, the union catalogue for all research libraries in the UK.

After this visit, I'm confident using the Palace Green Library in the final paper is a solid choice. Jon was a wonderful host, and shared a lot of great information about the history of the institution. His passion for the history and mission of the library is apparent in the programs, exhibitions and goals--the past is very much a part of the present and the collections are given new life.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Church or library?

Upon walking into the New College Library, I was a bit confused. Did I just walk into a church?

New College Library
Indeed, the library was the Free High Church until 1934. The stained glass windows, and the bookcases that bear striking resemblance to pews reveal the original purpose of the space. The ends of the bookcases are actually the carvings from the pews, and each one has a different design.

As this is an academic library, primarily students pursuing masters and doctoral degrees use it. New College is an school in the University of Edinburgh offering degrees in theology, divinity and religious studies. Members of the public are welcome, but there is a subscription fee in place.

Our hostess graciously pulled some of the library's treasures for us to view during our visit. On display was a first edition of a 1611 King James Bible, a sermon written by John Knox, and a Torah Scroll. I was most intrigued by the scroll, as it is in remarkable condition and little it known about its provenance.

Torah Scroll
New College Library is one of the UK's largest libraries specializing in theology. The majority of the materials are related to the Protestant tradition, but recently there has been a shift to include all religions. In the collection are 250,000 items, with 50,000 considered to be special collections. To meet the qualifications of a special collection item, it must have been produced before 1850 or be a unique item. We were given guided tours through the three levels of stacks. The books used to be catalogued using Union Theological Seminary classification, but now almost all of the books are organized based on Library of Congress.

Stacks in New College Library
Interestingly, the librarians indicated that the special collections are not the property of New College Library. Instead, they belong to the Church of Scotland. New College does not have a budget for the acquisition of new materials. Anything acquired has come from the generosity of a donor and based on the suggestions of the researchers who use the library.

There are, however, some funds for conservation. Although there isn't a line in the budget for conservation, funding comes from the sale of books and from the Church of Scotland. While in the stacks, I noticed a shelf of materials labeled as needing work. Minor repairs were needed to ensure the integrity of the resource, but for the most part the books held in the library were in phenomenal condition.           

And the award goes to...

Of all the libraries I have seen thus far in this program, I am most impressed with the use of innovative technology at the Central Library in Edinburgh. Instead of stumbling to reach the line of technological advancements like most libraries, Central Library appears to stride confidently in front of that line to provide its patrons with invaluable resources.

Strategic planning is something all libraries must do, especially to ensure that every patron's need will continue to be met. Central Library has a clear vision for meeting (and in my opinion, surpassing) these needs. The focus of their Next Generation Strategy is threefold: social, digital and physical. All are given equal importance in library services and illustrates the library as a community center.

Four resources available through the Central Library are truly inspiring and representative of the Next Generation Strategy goals.
For a quick dose of local history, this is the perfect resource. One can find short stories about local figures, old photographs and maps illustrating the ways in which a modern city is rooted in the past. Personally, I enjoyed the personal time machine the street views of contemporary photographs overlaying old photographs provided.

Load this resource, and you will see a Google map of Edinburgh populated with book covers. Each of these books have an identifiable and mappable location within the city, thus providing an excellent resource for those who wish to read something close to home (or who are like me and gobble up anything about Scotland or Edinburgh). To the side of the map is a brief synopsis of the listed resources. The books listed here are held by one of the libraries in the system and the listing links to the catalog record, providing easy access to the material.

As the first fully transactional mobile app in the UK, Central Library has made tremendous strides to enable library access from anywhere at any time. This remarkable app allows patrons to search the catalog and renew items as well as view the library blog and news. Say you're in an overpriced bookstore and you found a book you can't live without (not an uncommon occurrence)--with this app you could scan the book's barcode and instantly know whether that book is owned by the library. My favorite part, however, is the public transportation journey planner. How much easier my stay in Edinburgh would have been if I had only known this existed a few days ago!

Children's area

The children's area of the library recently underwent major renovations. With the advice of librarians (imagine that!) the area was transformed into a bright, colorful and mobile environment. With shelves at the proper height, art on the walls, accent lights that change colors and furniture that could be easily moved it's hard to imagine any other place a child could feel more welcome. This children's area is also completely separated from the rest of the library, so the young ones can be as loud as they want and not disrupt other patrons.
Area for young children

Sitting in that "tree" would have been my favorite reading place as a kid

Fun places to sit in the chapter book room

If one thing is clear, the Central Library has a dedicated and progressive staff willing to take on a challenge (and enjoy it!). I can only hope to one day be employed in an environment of talented and dedicated colleagues, in an area receiving a wealth of community support. I highly recommend that all library students (and anyone else looking for a dose of professional inspiration) chat with Central Library's staff to explore a library's potential and experience forward-thinking innovations. 

And besides, how can a library with a dalek be anything but awesome?
Dalek in the public library

Monday, July 14, 2014

Like a kid in a candy shop

We are all familiar with the standard exhibition case--that rectangular glass box on top of spindly legs. Most libraries and archives use this to display some sort of object. The National Library of Scotland created a different approach.

Exhibitions are a method for outreach and engagement with the material. In an age where numbers = dollars (how many people come through the door, how many reference requests, how often has this item been used...etc.) exhibitions are an excellent way of increasing public awareness of resources. The National Library has a few rooms set aside as exhibition space, in addition to areas within the reading rooms.

In one of the rooms is a permanent exhibition relating to the John Murray Archive, a large collection of the publishing firm's history. Several well-known authors have had relations with the company, and their writings are included in the archive. These authors include Charles Darwin, David Livingstone, Lord Byron and Washington Irving.

Image from the National Library of Scotland
The exhibition room is dark, with only colored accent lights and digital window scenes to guide the way. The front of the room is designed to look like Murray's drawing room, with bookcases along the wall and stuffed armchairs in front of the fireplace. The digital windows depict the street view, and if one looks long enough, some of the figures walking by will be easily recognized.

There are tall glass cylinders filled with objects relating to a specific author, with touchscreens in front. Pressing on the touchscreen will activate the exhibit, and lights will come on in the column. The room is kept dark so as to not damage the manuscripts or other materials in the cases. Each case had a complete outfit, a document and objects related to the character. The touchscreens give the viewer more information about the objects in the case, and a transcription of the manuscript. There is an option to have the transcription spoken aloud, as a way of increasing access and adding a level of curator interpretation on the contents of the document. It's also a way for viewers to have a personal connection with the material and see a human element in something that may have little significance otherwise. After the touchscreen has been idle, the lights inside the column dim.

Image from the National Library of Scotland as photographs were prohibited. The actual John Murray Exhibition Room was darker than this image portrays.

The contents in some of the cases change every few months, but this is otherwise a permanent exhibition. The library staff truly took a risk in creating an exhibit space so unlike any other, but the rewards are great. Our attention was certainly captivated, and the ambience set by the lighting added an entire new layer of engagement and interest in the material. If I am ever responsible for an exhibit in my future career, I will look to the National Library of Scotland as an example, and do my best to avoid the boring square glass cases.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sometimes it's the small things that have the greatest impact

The Wiener Library is the world's oldest Holocaust collection, and quite possibly the largest.  In the 1920s, Alfred Weiner began to collect newspaper clippings that had a focus on Nazi work. Later, he worked to gather first-hand accounts of Kristallnacht. After Hitler came to power, the collection moved to Amsterdam and later to the UK for protection, but unfortunately not all materials made it across the English Chanel. Even while in London, the collection has a history of moving. The collection was first brought to Manchester Square in 1939, and then was moved to Devonshire Street in 1956. The final move to Russell Square in 2011 added some benefits to library services--the new facility has better exhibition and teaching spaces, and is equipped with climate control.

This new location is not in an obvious location. It's not a standalone building, and looks rather like an entrance to someone's living quarters. To enter, one must ring for the door to be unlocked, where the visitor is welcomed into the exhibition space. Upstairs is a small reading room, where a reference assistant can help find the desired resources.

Weiner Library Reading Room
Due to its unique nature, the materials are organized based on subject in a classification scheme developed solely for the materials in the collection. Some of the subjects include "Church and the Third Reich," "Anti-Nazi Writings" and "Nazi Ideology." Each of the subjects is assigned a letter, which form the beginning of the shelf markings.

Today, the collection is still growing. The Holocaust has been covered quite extensively, and now the library is attempting to fill in some of the larger gaps on other genocides, historical material and other non-Jewish groups. Although the collection is primarily manuscript and book (with 2,0000 document collections and 70,000 books), the library has recently acquired digital and audio-visual material.

Digitization efforts are just beginning at the Weiner Library. A newly created Digital Curator position has been filled, and the collection of 17,000 photographs are priority for digitization. These efforts will establish a greater presence in the scholarly community, one in which the Weiner Library is already closely connected and relies heavily upon for information on existing resources waiting to be acquired by the library.

Of all the libraries I have visited in my life, I'd have to say the Weiner Library was the most narrowly focused on subject content, and it's fantastic to see so many resources on the topic under one roof. There is also something overwhelming about submersing oneself into the one of the darkest periods in human history, and I found my visit to be enriching. The small library staff seems to be more of a family, and they graciously welcomed us into their home to share their extensive knowledge.

Too much and not enough

This morning's trip to the British Museum left me with two thoughts: too much of a good thing can be bad, and although an institution's mission centers on the preservation of history one cannot assume all departments are treated equally.  

Inside the British Museum

The British Museum was founded in 1753, and opened its doors in 1759 as the world's first national public museum. From the beginning, entrance to view the nation's treasures was free. Its early days saw 4-5,000 visitors per year, carefully regulated through a mandatory application process and escorted hour-long journeys through the museum. Today, people are free to come and go as they wish. I witnessed the results firsthand--hordes of people making it difficult to maneuver through the exhibits and see the items. Trending in museums and libraries is the idea of increasing public access. I never thought there should be a limit until this more frustrating than beneficial experience at the British Museum. Allowing people to see the valued cultural and historical artifacts for free is truly remarkable, but in this case the cost outweighed the benefits. With this much difficulty in the middle of a working day, I cannot begin to imagine what a weekend must look like. I'm too afraid to go back and find out!

Beneath the museum and through security doors lies the museum archives. The entire documented history is tucked away in cramped quarters. Many of the volumes are crumbling and in serious need of conservation work. Housed here are the original papers, staff records, finance papers, gift records, trustee minutes, excavation records and reading room registers. Although the public can use the materials in the archives, it is unlikely that a prospective user will even think to contact the archives, as a catalogue of materials is not available to the public. The archivist currently maintaining the collection indicated that a catalogue is in progress, but this will take time. 

Cramped quarters of the archives

All users of the reading room were required to apply for a ticket. If one cares to decipher the signatures in the reading room registers, several literary giants including Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle can be found among the pages. The British Museum once had a grand collection of books and manuscripts, but slowly lost those resources to the British Library. The Cotton and Sloane manuscripts, mainly consisting of medieval documents, were sent to the British Library in the 1970s. Today, the reading room is used as an exhibition space since the remaining books were transferred to the British Library in 1997. 

Can you spot Bram Stoker's signature in this reading room register?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Barbican(s)

The City of London has a number of libraries under the City of London Corporation. The Barbican Library is one of three lending libraries in the city (the other two are Shoe Lane Library and Artizan Street Library and Community Centre).
As part of the Barbican Centre, the Barbican Library could offer unique resources typically not found in a public library. For example, theater performances and galleries of artwork exist in the Barbican Centre, thus providing library users with easy access to all forms of culture.

Within the Barbican Library there are two libraries that are considered separate, with their own checkout guidelines.

Children's Library

Children's Library
Upon entering, we took advantage of the comfy children's seating on the floor! As a designated area for children, the Children's Library allows kids with greater freedom to roam and make noise (however the doors cannot be closed due to fire safety reasons and thus some sound will make its way into the main library). The resources available here are for children ages 0-14, and the fiction is separated into age groups.

The Children's Library offers many programs, including story hours, reading groups, crafts, visiting authors and reading mentors. The most interesting service was a delivery service to school libraries. For a fee, schools can receive 300-400 nonfiction books each term to supplement their collection. With this type of service, students will always have access to new and different materials.

Music Library 

The Music Library is one of two remaining music libraries in London, and has the largest collection of CDs in the UK. As a way to support the local community, the Music Library offers a collection of unsigned CDs--and it seems to be the library's most popular section of CDs!

Also offered here are quality resources one could only dream of finding in an academic music library here in the States. There are a large number of professional periodicals and 16,000 scores. Members can also use a practice piano for up to an hour at a time! As a person that has extreme difficulty remembering songs or where they came from, I found the song index in which every song has been indexed to be an invaluable resource.

Main Barbican Library
The remainder of the library was a typical public library, with fiction, DVD, nonfiction and local history sections. With the exception of the Children's and Music libraries, the Barbican wasn't too different than the Canterbury and Bath public libraries I saw over the weekend.

The repository of knowledge

I had no idea what to expect before our visit to the library at St Paul's Cathedral. I had seen the grandeur and beauty of the cathedral, with its many statues, paintings and gilded ceilings. How could the library begin to compare?

To reach St Paul's library, we had to climb partway up to the dome--meaning a long spiral staircase. The library is located on the triforium level, and as we entered the level our knowledgeable host explained the significance of some of the items we passed. There were paintings, stones from the structure before the Great Fire and giant sculptures--all hidden away from the public eye!

On our way around the triforium, we passed the Geometric Staircase. This particular staircase was immediately recognized by many members of our group as the Divination Stairwell used in the Harry Potter movies.
Geometric Staircase image from St Paul's Cathedral

We were led to a room that held a giant model of the cathedral Christopher Wren designed after the Great Fire in 1666. The plans took nine years to complete and satisfy all the requirements for the new cathedral. This was not the first time the cathedral had been rebuilt--and not destroyed by fire either. At least four cathedrals have stood on the location since 604, and in 962 and 1087 the cathedral was rebuilt after a fire. Christopher Wren's version is the structure currently standing.

In the stonework of the model room, there were quills and books. That meant this room was supposed to be a library--but there were no books! Cathedrals are built in symmetry, and we hurried over to the other side of the cathedral--and found a door!

Upon walking in to the library, we were accosted with the delicious smell of old books (perhaps this was the inspiration for the library-scented candle in the gift shop!). There are 54 bookcases in the library, and each has a number. This library is open to all who could use the materials, and the librarian receives about 150 requests to view items per year.

Image from St Paul's Cathedral
As a cathedral library, the majority of the materials are Bibles or liturgical texts. The Great Fire destroyed the entire library collection, so the library was re-built from the ground-up.  Shortly after the cathedral was re-built, a large donation of 2,000 volumes became the basis for the new collection.

This library, although lacking the gold leaf of the cathedral, has its own, perfect beauty.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sifting through the soil

Each day I grow more and more impressed with the libraries I see as part of this trip, but today's visit to the Museum of London Archaeological Archive (LAARC) truly surpassed my expectations.

Items are brought to the LAARC for processing
As the world's largest archaeological archive, the LAARC houses millions of items in 10km of shelving. Any construction project in London requires that the site be excavated before building can begin. The items that are found during the excavations are brought to the LAARC for processing. Artifacts are sorted and cleaned, and if no conservation work is needed the items sent upstairs for processing and cataloging.

After sorting, items are cleaned
Soil samples from the site are kept
Long rows of shelving to hold millions of artifacts
Today the processing of materials is accomplished by following a set of standards, but there are thousands of older items that need to be reprocessed for proper storage. Today, objects are stored in bags with foam padding around the object (or sometimes small boxes), and then placed in an acid free box. Unless the object is extremely important (enough to receive its own number) many objects exist in the same box. On the box is a label describing the contents. The boxes are stored by year they were removed from the ground, rather than the era in which they were from.

Each of the items has its own story, and our guide gladly shared what they know about several objects. Before he began, my observations of the items were quite limited. My train of thought went something like "it looks like...a rock?" or "that's a piece of bone" or "that's a cute statue." As he spoke, those objects came to life. That "rock" was really a Roman footprint. The "piece of bone" was really a medieval ice skate. And that cute statue? It was a Victorian pepper pot! Later, we were all able to feel the soot from the Great Fire in 1666.

A souvenir from Canterbury to throw in the Thames
We explored several other rooms in the LAARC, including a pottery room that held jugs, statues and vessels of any sort in glass cases. These objects were sorted by time period and material, and I naturally gravitated toward the medieval items (it's one of my passions). There were so many objects, it was difficult to take it all in! I could spend a day in that room (just the medieval aisles even) and not grow bored.

Special storage units for pottery, organized by date
The final room was a telecommunications room, which seemed to hold mostly games. Or, at least that's what I saw with my tunnel vision. There was a Furby, all types of board games, puzzles--just the spark we needed to go one a trip down memory lane!

This archive depends on their volunteers to make any sort of progress, and many have been there for 6-10 years. After today's visit, I am wholeheartedly contemplating staying in London to volunteer in this fascinating place!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Jumping through hoops at the British Library

After registering for the British Studies Program, my first thought was, "I must go to the British Library."

Yes, the British Library is a legal deposit library and has every book published in the UK and Ireland.  Yes, it's also a national library. Yes, it's the UK's largest building of the 20th century. Yes, its collections cover 3,000 years of history in every language (even Klingon!). 

British Library

All remarkably impressive. But it's not the reason for my excitement.

The British Library is home to thousands of medieval manuscripts, and many of them are considered to be treasures. Take the St Cuthbert Gospel for example, the oldest intact English manuscript. They also hold the Lindisfarne Gospels, a richly illuminated manuscript encased in a jeweled treasure binding completed in the 8th century. However, curiosity and personal desire to see these manuscripts are not adequate scholarly reasons to request the items.

Instead, I was primarily interested in seeing a Latin Antiphonal (ADD MS 30084). While studying at Indiana University I conducted some research on another volume of the antiphonal, Lilly Library's Ricketts 86. My primary purpose in viewing this earlier volume focused on the illuminator, and I wished to determine whether the British Library volume was indeed illuminated by the same artist, the Master of Gerona. There were a few other items I wished to look at in an attempt to develop a research topic for course assignment, including some of Bede's work and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's personal correspondence.

Before I could view the manuscript, it was necessary to register with the library. The process was more involved here than in any other library I have been, and perhaps rightfully so with half a million people visiting the collection of over 150 million items each year. I started with the pre-registration form online the day before my visit, entering basic contact information. I attempted to request some items online, but was having some difficulty. Later I found out this was due to an added level of security on some of the items I wished to view. Upon my arrival, I was asked questions to evaluate my need for the items in the library and required to produce two forms of ID (one with a signature and one with an address).

The British Library has separate reading rooms based on type of material, and after receiving my card I made my way to the manuscript reading room. Once the security guards inspected my belongings I sought answers to why I was unable to request one of the items I wished to see. It turns out that I needed a letter of recommendation explaining my past experience with manuscripts and why I needed to see that particular resource. Thankfully, my professor was still in the building and generously supplied the information. I then had to wait 70 minutes for that manuscript to be delivered, using a fancy conveyor belt system. 

Unfortunately, cameras are not allowed inside the reading room. I am therefore unable to show the items I looked at, or the beauty of the packed reading room. Later I discovered I hadn't requested the items from the Arthur Conan Doyle papers properly. Each individual item has a specific series of numbers, and each letter or diary needed to be requested using these numbers. I was expecting to request a folder or box, as I had in other libraries.

Screen shot from the collection

Only eight manuscripts per day can be requested, with four requests active at a time. As a result of my blunder, I wasted precious requests and limited the number of items I could view that day. Overall, I spent a great deal of time fumbling through required procedures. Thank goodness I pre-registered online and saved that bit of time during my visit!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Family estate turned high-end school

It looks like we are scheduled to see only one school library during this program, and my, what an example we had the privilege of seeing! Stowe School is located a quick trip outside of London (I mean after the hour spent waiting in traffic, of course) on a beautiful estate.

Stowe House view from the gardens
This 400-room mansion has a long and troubled history. In 1845 Queen Victoria was invited to stay at the house, and the visit bankrupted the Temple-Grenville family. All of the manuscripts and catalogues were sold in 1849 in an attempt to regain some of the lost money. In 1921 the last heir was killed in WWI, and with no money the house was on the verge of being torn down. Harry Shaw purchased the property with the intent of donating it to the National Trust, but was unable to raise the endowment necessary. The estate was then sold again, and Stowe School started in 1923.

All of the old books in the library have been donated since 1923, as none of the original items remain. The students cannot use those books, located on the balcony, and they really only exist for appearance. The library is quite stunning, with its dark wood bookcases set into the walls and gilded ceiling.
Stowe House Library

In 1997, the Stowe House Preservation Trust was established to maintain the grounds. A restoration plan was established to return the house to its richness and glory. The only room unable to be in the plans is the garter room, which serves the food. Originally, it was the largest of the state bedrooms. The garter is given by a monarch and is a great honor. To showcase this honor to all guests the garter was placed on the ceiling, where it still resides today.

Garter on the ceiling
After our tour of the house, we roamed through the expansive gardens. Numerous monuments and temples can be found throughout. The Gothic temple can be rented out--and staying there in the midst of the trees, fields, and sheep is now on my bucket list!

Gothic Temple in the gardens
Cost of attendance at this 1,000-acre estate school is not the most expensive in the UK, but if I had the £33,000 to spend per year, I would be doing quite well! 

Friday, June 27, 2014

I have arrived!

Travel to London began Thursday afternoon with a flight to Chicago. We flew over Niagara Falls to get there!

Niagara Falls
At 6 am, I landed in Heathrow. I was able to sleep most of the plane ride across the pond (as much sleep as one can get when waking each time I need to move or when my layers of clothing/blankets shift to expose my skin to the chilly air). Nonetheless, I arrived exhausted.

I was in the first group to arrive as part of the British Studies Program through the University of Southern Mississippi--and I was actually the very first person to reach our greeters after going through customs and picking up the luggage!

We had our first experience with London traffic--it took about an hour by coach to reach the apartments from the airport. It did give us a chance to identify some unique things about the culture. Motorcyclists and bicyclists drive among the cars, weaving between the lanes and squeezing in wherever they find room. Many people own this very strange-looking bike with tiny wheels. Then, I saw someone folding the bike into a small square and carrying it into an office! What a wonderful invention for a crowded city!
Fold-up bike