We would like to remind readers that the Caird Library will be closed for two weeks from Monday 29 September – Friday 10 October. This closed fortnight will allow staff the opportunity to prepare the Archive and Library collection for its move from the basement of the South West Wing in 2009.
The E-Library will remain open through out this period and the Caird Library will be open, by appointment, on Saturdays 4 and 11 October. The Library will re-open on Tuesday 14 October.
Gareth (Reader Services Librarian)
After a fortnight of shaking hands and introductions all around the National Maritime Museum, I’d like to introduce myself to readers of The Caird Library Blog: I’m Gareth Bellis and I have joined the Archive and Library Team as Reader Services Librarian. For the past four and-a-half years I had been Assistant Librarian at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. I have joined the Library at a time of change and development as we prepare the collections for their move to the Museum’s new Sammy Ofer Wing in 2012. I look forward to the challenges that this will bring and the opportunity to get to know both the Caird Library’s readers and its world-class collection better.
Gareth (Reader Services Librarian)
Greenwich Lives Family History event, 28 September 2008
Now that the Beijing Olympics has drawn to a close, it’s time to start looking ahead to the exciting prospect of the 2012 games in London. This weekend (26-28 September) sees the launch of the four year Cultural Olympiad.
As Greenwich is a host borough of the 2012 Olympics, the Museum is running a series of special events over the weekend to celebrate the Cultural Olympiad launch. On Sunday 28th, the Archive and Library team are involved in the Greenwich Lives event. This will be a great opportunity for you to tell us about your family history and for us to help you find out more about your maritime ancestors.
The Caird Library will be open between 11.30 – 13.30 and 14.00 – 16.00. Hannah, Gary and myself from the Archive and Library team will be there to answer any tricky family questions or to try and identify any maritime documents that you might have in your possession. Please note that we are unable to give valuations or take any items in on deposit. Paul, one of our Conservation experts, will be on hand to show you the dos and don’ts of storing and looking after your own old documents and photographs. For a more 21st century approach, members of the Digital Media team will be offering you the opportunity to scan your own documents on our brand new scanner and provide you with a digital image to take home. We are also running special bookable access sessions in the morning.
If you are interested in maritime family history but don’t know where to start then come along to one of the two short talks that I will be giving in the afternoon explaining how to start tracing ships and sailors. The talks will be illustrated with original items from our collections, such as masters certificates, logbooks and letters.
Take a look at the packed full programme for the day and get inspired.
We hope to see you there!
The phones have been ringing off the hook since the airing of the
David Suchet episode of Who Do You Think You Are on Wednesday night. If you didn’t see it there’s still time to catch up as the episode is available on the BBC iPlayer. Or, take a look at the ‘how we did it‘ section of the series website, where they describe the steps the researchers took to trace David’s family history.
The Irish version of the show also featured us this week in the Charlie Bird episode (you can watch that online too), and we may appear in the Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen episode here – due to be broadcast on Wednesday 1st October.
Renee (Digital Resources Librarian)
Beside the Seaside, an exhibition of historic photographs of British coastal towns, opens at the museum this week. The exhibition will also showcase five Punch and Judy puppets from the museum’s collections. Research carried out into manuscripts relating to the puppets in the Caird Library has helped me to discover the intriguing story behind the puppets and their owner, and to bring this story to life in the exhibition.
Punch and Judy puppets in the NMM collection.
Punch and Judy shows are of great importance to the social history of
the British seaside. The show has been a typical feature of seaside
entertainment since the mid-Victorian era, when the railways brought
increasing numbers of visitors to Britain’s resorts. Charles Dickens,
who spent part of his life in the seaside town of Broadstairs, was a
fan of the show. Two Punch and Judy men, Short and Codlin, appear as
minor characters in The Old Curiosity Shop.
puppets in the exhibition come from a large collection of puppets and
props which were acquired by the museum in 2001. We acquired a
selection of manuscripts from the same source, which are as yet
uncatalogued. Among these manuscripts I found a vast array of
puppet-related ephemera: pamphlets advertising shows, photographs,
flyers, and newspaper articles.
From this material I learnt that the puppets had belonged to Deptford resident and ex Punch and Judy man, Peter Butchard, who began performing in Broadstairs after his retirement from a variety of banking and Civil Service jobs.
After many summer seasons at Viking Bay in the Kentish resort, Butchard took his show around the world, performing to children in Greece, New Zealand and Australia.
Among the magazine and newspaper articles which Butchard had collected about his performances, I found a lovely 1965 article from the Australian Woman’s Weekly which featured colour photographs of Peter along with the puppets from our collection. I learnt that our puppets had appeared in a 1975 film adaptation of The Old Curiosity Shop staring David Hemmings, and that Butchard was on set at Pinewood Studios as a historical advisor.
In numerous press interviews, Butchard claimed that his puppets were over 150 yeas old. Nicky Yates, the museum’s textile conservator thinks this is highly likely, judging by the type and condition of the fabrics which used in Mr Punch’s costume. If this is the case, Butchard’s puppets would have first been used only decades after the script was first published in England in 1826 by John Payne Collier, with illustrations by the famous cartoonist George Cruikshank. The show originated in Italy, and became part of a repertoire of British folk theatre after it was brought to England in 1662 by the Bolognese puppeteer, Pietro Gimonde.
One of the most touching aspects of our Punch and Judy story is highlighted by the scores of letters I found, written by children to thank ‘Uncle Peter’ for his performances at their schools and birthday parties. He was evidently much loved by generations of children around the country. Peter Butchard gave his last performance in Greenwich at the age of 90 in 1999. Peter is now 99, and we are very much hoping that he’ll be able to come and see his puppets in Beside the Seaside.
Last Monday we welcomed a group of over thirty members of the James Caird Society and the South Georgia Association to view some treasures relating to polar exploration in the Archive & Library collections, and in the museum’s 3-D collections. Members of the two societies included descendants of the men of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expeditions (including the Hon. Alexandra Shackleton, Ernest Shackleton’s grand-daughter), a retired admiral and retired diplomat, historians and explorers.
Barbara Tomlinson, Curator of Antiquities, showed a collection of medical instruments that had belonged to Dr Alexander Hepburne Macklin, surgeon on Shackleton’s last two expeditions. She described how the surgeon used this equipment to perform grisly operations such as removing frost-bitten toes. She also showed a medal awarded to Shackleton by the Royal Geographical Society on the success of his Antarctic expedition 1907-9, which illustrates on one side a sledge drawn by two ponies with two men (sadly ponies suffered badly in the sub-zero conditions, dogs were found to be much hardier).
Andrew Davis, Curator of Manuscripts, showed one of the letters we hold between Sir Ernest Shackleton and Lady Invernairn, wife of Lord Invernairn, a supporter of the British Antarctic expedition of 1907-9. He also showed the journal of Victor George Hayward on Shackleton’s Ross Sea party expedition of 1915-16. Hayward was part of the Ross Sea party on board the Aurora, whole role was to lay depots to aid Shackleton’s crossing. With illustrated daily accounts of the expedition, the journal ends with an entry for 6 May 1916, two days before Hayward’s death when the sea ice on which he and Mackintosh were travelling on, broke up. We also saw a postcard written by Ernest Shackleton to Plasmon Ltd, London, dated 12 November 1909, in which Shackleton writes that he considers Plasmon biscuits and chocolate ‘indispensable’ in the polar regions, an early example of product endorsement.
Gary Steele, Assistant Librarian, showed some works which were actually printed by members of polar expeditions whilst at the Antarctic. The Aurora Australis was first published in Antartica in 1908, and is beautifully illustrated by one of the members of that expedition, George Marston. The book has a logo of two penguins and states it was ‘Printed at the sign of the Penguins’; it is bound in boards of the expedition’s packing cases. Gary also showed us a copy of the South Polar Times, the first volume edited and typed by Shackleton, and illustrated by Dr Edward (Billy) Wilson. There were many difficulties and risks printing in extreme conditions like these. Some work had to be done at night when there was more room in the hut. Once there was an accident whilst heating the ink for printing the illustrations with a candle; the plate overheated and melted the only roller they had.
The group also had the chance to view some of the important polar exhibits in the museum’s collections, on display in the museum’s Oceans of Discovery gallery. These include Shackleton’s sextant and compass, and the reproduction of the James Caird boat, the original used to rescue the stranded party of the Endurance during the Imperial Trans-Antarctic expedition of 1914-16.
The visit was a great success. We thoroughly enjoyed sharing our knowledge about the collections, and appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the subject by knowledgable and enthusiastic visitors.
Eleanor (Head of Archive and Library)
If you saw Hannah’s last post about our new Archive Catalogue you’ll remember that she mentioned that we would be holding some short introductory sessions on how to use it. We’ve now set some initial dates for these, which are:
- Tuesday 23 September, 3pm
- Thursday 25 September, 11am
We’ll be covering topics like keyword searching for people and vessels,
finding and browsing through a collection, and how to order
documents in advance of a visit.
The sessions will be held in the E-Library and will last around 20 minutes. No booking is required, but if you would like to register your interest please contact us. We’ll also be holding further sessions in October after our two closed weeks.
Renee (Digital Resources Librarian)
The unexpected discovery always having been a favourite topic of mine, I was excited to see that Archives for London are holding an event tomorrow evening called ‘Serendipity in the Archives’, that will “look at the role of chance in what we find in London’s Archives”.
Coincidentally, the flyer for this event arrived in my inbox just a few days after I had been reading a blog post by Mary Beard on a similar topic – the unexpected discoveries afforded by ‘bound with’ rare books and pamphlets. These are occasions where you request to view one title only to find that another item, sometimes completely unrelated in subject, has been ‘bound with’ it in the same volume. We have many such items in our rare book collection, and they do always feel like discoveries waiting to happen – even if they can be a bit tricky for library staff to locate.
The Archives for London event is on at 6pm tomorrow (Thursday 4 September) at the London Metropolitan Archives, with speakers from The Women’s Library and Black Cultural Archives as well as professional researchers and historians.
Renee (Digital Resources Librarian)
September’s Item of the Month is an 1846 first edition of A Narrative of a Four Month’s Residence among the Natives of a Valley of the Marquesas Islands : or, a Peep at Polynesian Life, by Herman Melville, most commonly republished under the title Typee.
A first book from an unknown author, it sold much better than might have been expected, and was in Melville’s lifetime his most commercially successful title, far outselling what would come to be recognised as his masterpiece, Moby Dick (1851).
The narrative is presented throughout as “unvarnished truth”, and certainly the most basic aspects of the story are based on Melville’s own experiences in Polynesia. In 1841, he had joined the American whaleship Acushnet, but deserted with a shipmate in the Marquesas Islands. They lived in the Typee valley for up to a month, but his accounts in the book were long ago revealed as wildly exaggerated.
Intriguingly, Melville’s eventual return to America in 1843 was achieved by enlisting on the USS United States, the then somewhat aged veteran of an 1812 action seen here, where it vanquished the HMS Macedonian.
First edition, published by John Murray, London, 1846.
NMM library ref.: PBD4456.
Richard (Information Assistant – Library)