Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Caird Library at the National Maritime Museum

Inside the museum
Last week I got a rather exciting email from the National Maritime Museum, inviting me to a bloggers preview event for their new Caird Library.

This was the first time I'd been to the NMM, which is in Greenwich, and although I didn't have much time to explore the museum itself, I'd love to come back some time and have a proper look around at the exhibits.

When I got to the library there were already quite a lot of bloggers bustling about, armed with notebooks and tablets and signed photography permission forms. I hadn't given it much thought but had just assumed that everyone would be library bloggers and that I would probably know some people, but actually there were history bloggers, maritime bloggers, geography bloggers, museum bloggers... etc. etc.! Everyone was very friendly though, and it was an interesting mix of people!
The Caird Library reading room
Ship plan viewer
We were given a short introduction to the library's collections and the reasons behind the move. Previously most of the collections were offsite and had to be fetched for readers, the new library has 9km of shelf space to allow much more to be kept onsite, vastly reducing fetch times. The new library also has state of the art equipment, including a book scanner, and a whizzy ship plan viewer.

The collections are obviously of interest to anyone studying maritime history, but there is also a wealth of information for those studying their family history, as the library has thousands of crew lists and Ship's Master's certificates (each of which is kept with the application form, which lists all the ships the Master has worked on).

Aurora Australis

The library staff had got out several of their most interesting items for us to have a good look at, including a copy of Aurora Australis, the first book to have been entirely written, illustrated, printed and bound in the Antarctic, as something to occupy the crew of the 'Nimrod' expedition whilst their ship was trapped in ice.

Another interesting little book was A Narrative of the Loss of the Royal George, commemorating the loss of a ship which capsized whilst being worked on in the harbour. The book was bound with pieces of wood from the ship, which was eventually blown up after several decades spent unsuccessfully trying to refloat it.
A Narrative of the Loss of the Royal George
My favourite item was an illustrated diary written by Alfred Withers, whilst he was on a three month voyage from England to Australia. The illustrations were so detailed and beautiful, I would put the one below in a frame!

Alfred Withers' illustrated diary
Illustration from Alfred Withers' diary
The event ended in a trip up to the new archive store,which allows so much more of the collection to be held onsite. It was a lovely library and a lovely museum, and I will definitely be back. The library is open to anyone, you can register online here. Thanks to the library staff for a really interesting afternoon!

Other bloggers' thoughts on the event are linked to from the Caird Library Blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment