The archive and library at the National Maritime Museum
can be an invaluable resource when researching any maritime related family
history. If your genealogical tree holds any members from a maritime
background, be it the merchant navy, the Royal Navy, or if they worked for a
particular shipping company, we may hold that crucial piece of information you
require to complete your family tree. Also, if any of your ancestors emigrated by ship, while we don’t hold any passenger lists, we may be able to help fill out
some details of the ship they travelled aboard.
The library has recently begun subscribing to the BBC
who do you think you are? magazine and the latest issue (Issue 8, Apr.
2008) can be consulted right now in the library reading room. Currently our
holdings begin with issue 5, but will we soon have all the back issues and will
continue to collect the every new issue published.
What’s more, the National
will have a stand at the Who
Do You Think You Are? LIVE event in the Grand Hall, Olympia,
London from 2-4
May 2008. Why not drop by our stand to find out how we can assist you with your
genealogical research or, as always, contact us directly at the archive & library.
Gary (Assistant Librarian)
My first few weeks have been busy and memorable – I will never forget my first week at the museum in mid-February when we had a series of foggy mornings. Seeing the Queen’s House loom out of the fog, with the silvered frosty grass shimmering around it was a magical moment and took my breath away. I hadn’t appreciated the location and setting of the museum, it truly is a beautiful place to work.
I am very excited to have joined the Archive & Library team, particularly with the news of Sammy Ofer’s generous gift for the Museum’s redevelopment, and the plans to create an enhanced Archive & Library Research Centre.
I am enjoying learning about the Library’s world-class collections, and getting to know the enthusiastic and dedicated staff that manage them. I have been struck by the comparisons with the RIBA Library where I used to work (also a 1930s library interior but in a modernist style), and in the connections between the collections. My colleagues at the RIBA chose an image of William Kent’s design for the royal barge from the RIBA’s collections as my leaving party invitation, and I am reminded of the drawing every time I walk past the barge itself in the Museum.
The Royal Barge passing London Bridge on her last journey afloat, carrying Prince Albert and two
of his children to the Royal opening of the new Coal Exchange.
I have also had a chance to visit other parts of the Museum’s collections – the ship plans were fascinating when comparing them to the architectural drawings I worked with at the RIBA – although there are lots of similarities in the types of drawings produced, the ship plans win it hands down for their size.
I am looking forward to researching some aspect of the Archive & Library’s collections properly, and to working on the ever-present issues of space, cataloguing, acquisitions, conservation and access.
Eleanor Gawne (Head of Archive & Library)
April’s item of the month is about the loss of the HMS Royal George – the naval warship that mysteriously sank in Spithead while undergoing minor repairs.
The rare book collection contains 27 small books describing the incident – each bound in wood taken from the wreck. They have all recently been expertly restored by the NMM’s paper
conservation department, and are equally fascinating as examples of bookbinding as they are in telling the story of the wreck.
Renee (Digital Resources Librarian)
It’s always interesting to hear about what people are researching in the library. That’s part of the thinking behind this ‘who’s researching what?’ section of the blog. It’s really inspiring to read about the work being done by research fellows like May Bo Ching – the staff here know that the NMM collections are magic, but the point of an archive and library is to share them with others as well.
What would be really lovely however, is to hear more from you – our archive and library users – about your research inspirations and journeys. I was thinking about this a couple of months back, when I discovered the art notebook of a flickr user, someone who had visited us last year. It was really exciting to see a memento of someone’s visit – complete with a sketch of Captain James Cook and his large nose.
It’s also very nice to hear that people have enjoyed their visit to the Museum, as expressed in these blogposts by Anne and Mandy, who visited us last year as part of their British Studies course. I particularly like Mandy’s take on ‘Admiral Lord Nelson’s love letters’ – scroll down for her description of his letters to Emma Hamilton as “hot and steamy”.
So, if you have something to share about your experience with the library and manuscript collections, please do comment. Or if you’d like to write a guest piece for our ‘Who’s researching what?’ section, send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Renee (Digital Resources Librarian)
The full list of Archive journeys in April is now available from the events section on the main museum website. Next week is our newest storybox: Pirates! We hope to see you there.
Renee (Digital Resources Librarian)
A useful collection of transcriptions from the British and American inquiries into the sinking of the Titanic, along with other archival material from the New York branch of the National Archives (U.S).
Last year marked the 150th anniversary of the birth of Joseph Conrad and we have manuscripts that reveal various aspects of his career. Our Sailor’s Home and Red Ensign Club records, prior to 1912 known as the Sailors’ Home, include entry books for the London establishment. These give Conrad’s date of entry at the London Sailors’ Home, the name of the vessel he previously served on and which port she had sailed from, his age, and the date he left the home and his intended destination, among others. These details allow us to trace his movements and to assess the extent of his stay. His last stay at the home began on 19 October 1884 after he was discharged from the Narcissus.
Incidentally, Conrad was examined for his master’s certificates as Second Mate, First Mate and Master in the nearby London Local Marine Board’s examination rooms and he studied for them in the home’s own navigation school. We hold Conrad Korzeniowski’s (see image) second mate, first mate and master’s certificates and applications to be examined, which give details of the vessels he served on.
His 1907 novel The Secret Agent draws its inspiration from an actual attempt to blow up the Royal Observatory in 1894. The novel also describes the Dreadnought hulk as a nearby hospital in the ‘bomb outrage’ chapter.
Conrad de Korzeniowski was one version of how his name was recorded in the Sailors’ Home registers and he is admitted Conrad Korzenwin on 2 August 1881 into the admissions registers of the Dreadnought Seamen’s Hospital. His illness is recorded as measles and was a patient there for ten days. The indexes used to locate this information are DSH/22 and DSH/122.
Personally, I feel that these records are interesting as they show a side to Conrad not often discussed or written about as he is mostly understood in relation to his career as a novelist. There is a sense that these manuscripts have been ‘discovered’, thus shedding new light on his seafaring career.
Another source of interest includes Conrad’s connection with HMS Worcester (training ship), having sent his son Borys there in 1911. Conrad sailed past this vessel many times, with his first voyage starting in 1878.