Friday July 17th- Another fantastic day! We drove two hours outside London to visit Stratford-upon-Avon (see photo), otherwise known as the home of Shakespeare! The town is quaint and beautiful, our spirits weren’t even dampened by the rain that wouldn’t seem to go away. We walked around the town and had lunch at a picturesque inn called The Falcon.

In the afternoon we were able to tour the Shakespeare Library and even take a peek into the stacks. After our tour we were given the opportunity to view some truly amazing artifacts the library has collected since it’s inception in 1864.

We were able to see a copy of Shakespeare’s first folio from 1623 (see photo), several playbills from throughout the decades as well as photos of some truly great actors playing Shakepeare’s characters. To name a few, we saw photos of Ian McKellen, Judy Dench and Vanessa Redgrave, all (and more) have graced the stage of the Royal Shakespeare Company over the years. After our tour we walked through the town for a bit longer and made stops at Shakespeare’s house (see photo) and the church where he is buried.

The most special part of the evening came when it was time to sit down at the Courtyard Theater (a larger theater is currently under construction) and watch the Royal Shakespeare Company put on As You Like It (see photo). It was a brilliant production, I only wish I had more time to spend in Stratford-upon-Avon.

The British Library

Thursday July 16th - Today was amazing! We visited the British Library and I have officially found my happy place. We began our day with a tour of the library. We were guided around by a lovely gentleman named Stephen Sandford who provided us with an incredible amount of valuable information regarding the library. After our tour we were able to spend some time exploring the library and we then ended our day with a walk around the Conservation Center.

A few interesting facts we picked up:

  • The library has four basements to house all of its books
  • The basements are each so wide and so deep that they had to be constructed around the Tube.
  • It took £500 million to create the British Library
  • The library has a diverse collection of over 150 million books
  • A vast majority of books are stored in the basement and readers must make a request when they desire a book.
  • The British Library is not a lending library, therefore books may not be taken outside of its doors.

Of the many wonderful things I saw in the British Library, my two favorites would have to be the tower in the center of the library (see photo above) and the Treasures Gallery. The tower holds the collection of King George III (1738-1820), the entire collection can be see by the public as the walls are made of glass. If one were to be a member of the British Library (as I now am!), he or she could even request to look at a book from the King’s collection.

My other favorite part of the British Library was the literature display in the Treasures Gallery (more formally known as the Sir John Ritblat Gallery). I was able to view manuscripts, journals, and first editions of Thomas Hardy, Lewis Carroll, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and Joseph Conrad, just to name a few. I was in paradise! I will certainly be making another trip (or several) back to the British Library.

The London Eye

Wednesday July 15th- This evening we rode the London Eye. It was equal parts fun and frightening! It was so great to see London from a different vantage point, just as long as we didn’t look down! The ride didn’t last nearly as long as I though it would, just about 30 minutes, nor did I really feel as though I was moving (again, as long as I didn’t look down!).

Words can’t really do the experience justice quite like pictures can so please enjoy the images I’ve posted here as I thoroughly enjoyed taking them!

The Museum of London

July 15th- Today we visited the Museum of London. The goal of the Museum of London is to provide visitors information about London before it actually became the London that we all know and love. The new Museum of London was opened in 1976 by the Queen and is a combination of the Old Guild Hall Museum and the London Museum and provides an overview of the archaeology of greater London.

The Museum of London receives approximately 400,000 visitors annually, half of those visitors are from London and/or the surrounding counties and the other half are tourists and/or visiting scholars, like yours truly! The Museum of London takes it education of the public seriously as the school curriculum in greater Britain begins with the Roman invasion of Britain and not include prehistoric London (and no, I don’t mean dinosaurs!). Starting with the formation of the Thames Valley in 450,000 BC and moving on to about 50AD (the founding of Roman Londinium), the focus of the Museum of London is to note changes in the early Landscape of London (before it became London), the legacy the early years have left, the people who lived there during prehistoric times, and the importance of the River Thames. Essentially, if there was no river, there would be no London.

The exhibits we walked through after first discussing their set-up with the Prehistory Curator, Jon Cotton, showed changes in landscape as well as the home life experienced by prehistoric people living in the Thames Valley region. Not only were we able to see the last standing portion of the centuries-old Roman Wall, located outside the Museum (pictured above) but we saw amazing artifacts like the remains of a prehistoric woman, the jewelry she might have worn ad the animals she might have encountered. All in all our experience at the Museum of London gave us a lot to think about.

The Barbican

Tuesday July 14th- Today we ventured into London Proper to visit the Library at the Barbican. The Barbican is Europe's largest multi-arts venue, it holds a conference center, several apartment complexes, a library, movie theaters and various restaurants. It is also the home to the London Symphony Orchestra. For a majority of its long life, the Barbican was not been a place one wished to associate him/herself with, recently, however, that has all changed. Originally built by the Romans to protect their land, it was home to many thieves in the 16th century, and after that was designated a place for "non-conformists". Over the centuries the Barbican saw thousands of deaths due to plague and the Great Fire of London, and during WWII much of the Barbican was destroyed during the bombings.

Over the past few decades, the Barbican has been built up to be the beautiful cultural center it is today. In the summer rooftops and balconies of the flats host beautiful flowers and music can often be heard throughout the grounds.

Of course the aspect of the Barbican that I found most interesting was the Children's Services section of the Library. Upon arrival readers are greeted by a colorful bulletin board full of information and familiar picturebook characters (pictured above). During our visit we caught the librarian and her assistants fervently preparing for the national summer reading program. This years theme centers around fantasy and is titled "Quest Seekers", the program sounded fascinating, and quite similar to programs I've encountered in the States. The students receive a kit when they sign up to participate in the program and are rewarded with small prizes and stickers as they progress through their reading. The Barbican expects at least 350 participants this year. With all of the festive decorations around the room it seems impossible not to be excited about this program and subsequently, summer reading. Once inside patrons encounter a large dragon painted on the window of the children's room, throughout the summer children will notate their completed summer reading on the dragon's "scales". It looks like it will be a fun and exciting summer for the patrons of the Barbican Children's Library. Overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable visit.

St. Paul's

Monday July 13th- Today, we library students were given the opportunity to walk through sections of St. Paul's Cathedral that are not usually open to the public, a privilege that few people are granted. Not only did we have the chance to see the spiral staircase used in many Harry Potter scenes, but we also viewed several designs by Sir Christopher Wren, the architect who constructed St. Paul's during the 17th and 18th Centuries.

After marveling at Wren's genius we were then taken into the library which housed many centuries worth of books from all over the world. Many thanks to Joe Wisdom (yes, that is his real name!), the head librarian at St. Paul's for granting us such a rare peek.

(photo courtesy of St. Paul's Cathedral)

Pub Walk

On Saturday July 11th my professor, Dr. Welch lead a group of us on a tour of London's most notable Pubs. For those of you who don't know, the word "pub" is actually an abbreviation for Public House. Way back when, Pubs were meeting places for some of London's greatest minds...

We saw a lot of interesting places on our walk but my favorite had to be the Blackfriars Pub (pictured to the left), it was built into the side of a monastery. Monks used to brew and sell ale and it was simply easier for all involved if the pub was close the the brewing location, in this case the monastery.


Welcome to my very exciting, much anticipated British Studies blog! I'm thrilled to be able to continue my study of library science here in London and all across the UK. I'll be posting pictures, insights, and anecdotes from my travels, I hope you're excited to learn a lot about libraries and museums, I know I am!

This is a class project and therefore I'll be focusing on the many exciting academic activities that I will have the pleasure of experiencing while I'm across the pond.

Thanks for reading!