Monday, July 12, 2010

National Maritime Museum Library

After a lazy Sunday, Monday brought about an early morning meeting and boat ride to the National Maritime Museum.  The Caird Library is expanding into a new space and has reduced its access to the public to 3 times a week instead of the usual 6 times a week.  On average the liHowever researchers can still request material online and once retrieved from the off site storage (happens only twice a week) can be read / viewed at the library. At the moment the library is almost hidden from public view. Even though most of the users are researchers and academics, most don't know about it since it's hidden behind a rotundra. The rotundra was part of the original library and houses a bust of Sir James Caird whose collection help found the library. They are the largest maritime library in the UK and possibly the world. The collection consists of journals, astronomy, voyages, navigation, naval architecture, merchant and royal navy, immigration, maps and charts amongst other things. There are 2 specialists for maps and charts collections. The collections are cataloged according to MARC and AACR2 and ISAD-G. Materials dated pre 1850 (about 100,000 items) are considered rare and post 1850 (about 8,000 items) is modern.  There are also about 200,000 periodicals in the archives as well as 70,000 manuscripts.  There is about 4 miles of shelving in the archives.  Martin and Hannah, both archivist, showed us some rare manuscripts and books. Among them was the Principles of John Harrison, whom the Board of Longitude had published for others to replicate his work inexpensively. There was also a code book of the USS Chesapeake during the War of 1812.  It was weighted in the spine to help it sink before it fell into enemy hands. It wasn't able to be tossed and landed into the hands of the British. 

After the library tour, we climbed up to the Royal Observatory. In the Flemstead house, John Harrison's chronometers were on displayed. The H1 and H3 were on display without their encasement. The H2 was being restored at this time. The H4 was much larger than one imagined. It was about the size of a pancake. It wouldn't fit in a pocket but it was much smaller than its predecessors. The H5, at the Clockmaker's Museum, is tiny in comparison. Amazing amount of detail can be seen in the H1 and H3 without its encasement. The wooden wheels and thin metal and springs that make the whole thing still work. After a photo-op of the prime meridian, we climbed into the Onion dome of the observatory.  It was yet another spiral, see-through stair case up and down. The 28 inch telescope filled the entire room.  After the observatory and lunch, I took the bus home.

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