Colleagues in Norway have issued a request for help to solve a mystery dating back to 1816.
The Regional State Archives in Trondheim have in their collection a number of letters that were found, washed ashore in a box, at Orlandet. The box, which also contained clothes and books, had at one time been on board the British ship Mercator and belonged to John Lambeth and his son.
Aside from what little information can be gleaned from the manuscripts themselves, archivists in Norway know nothing further about the Lambeth family or the Mercator. It is now hoped that some genealogical sleuths will be able to shed fresh light on this intriguing collection of letters.
Readers of the blog can find further information, as well as some images of the documents, on the National Archives of Norway website.
Richard (Assistant Archivist)
On Thursday 14th July the new Caird Library opened to the public, two days after the formal opening of the Sammy Ofer Wing by the Museum’s Patron, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh.
The Caird Library is open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10am – 4.45pm for access to the 6,000 selected modern books on open access shelves, most recent issues of journals, electronic resources and selected core reference works such as Lloyd’s Register of Shipping and the Navy List.
Access to the Library is by Reader’s Ticket. You can register for one ahead of your visit by filling out an online form at www.nmm.ac.uk/aeon. You can also register in person in the Library – but pre-registering online helps you to beat the queues!
To celebrate the opening of the Sammy Ofer Wing and the new Caird Library, we have a range of Library tours and Archive Journey sessions taking place this weekend (16th and 17th July). There’s no need to book, but sessions are timed and places are limited. For more information, please see our website: www.nmm.ac.uk/visit/events/introduction-to-the-archive.
Gareth (Reader Services Librarian)
With the current move of the NMM archive and library collections to the new Sammy Ofer Wing complex, here are a few historical tales of how Admiralty records were stored and moved from one building to another in the 19th century.
Early in the 1840s, Sir John Barrow, Secretary to the Admiralty and Keeper of the Records, made a monumental discovery. He had found a series of Admiralty records,
with records from the reign of James II onwards. They had been found in the:
‘very highest and extensive garrets of the Admiralty building (Whitehall), some in half-bound volumes, others in bundles, rolls, and loose papers, piled up in whole streets or lanes of shelves or pigeonholes, stuffed in without arrangement or any kind of order; the ground-floors of these lanes also strewed with documents of various descriptions.’ 1
Even when records were transferred the conditions were described by the Master of the Rolls as:
‘old dark, ill-ventilated, rickety, and unprotected from fire from intervening dwelling- houses; and as they are never warmed, they are damp, and prejudicial both to the records themselves, and to the health of the officers who have occasion to search therein. There were built as private dwelling houses about the beginning of the last century, and have to be strengthened for their present uses by shorings, at great expense to the office of works. The roofs continually let in wet, and are perpetually under repair.’ 2
A major transfer of the Admiralty records took place between 24 April and 21 September 1846, supervised by both officers from the Admiralty and the Deputy Keeper, being a joint effort. Admiralty barges were used to move the documents by water from Deptford Dockyard to the Tower Record Office at Tower Hill, the other side of the Thames. This was perhaps not the most reliable mode of transport, but, seemingly the quickest and easiest means of conveyance. The records were tied up in bundles, weighing around 60 to 70 pounds, containing 6 to 8 volumes at a time. The loose papers were in sacks and boxes. Upon arrival, these were placed in a covered shed on a wharf as part of the Ordnance Department. Then the records were carted to the White Tower and put into baskets and raised via a crane 50 feet from the ground into the Council Chamber. The staff at the Tower Record Office worked overtime to ensure the work was finished as scheduled. Alongside this work, the staff arranged and catalogued the material and placed the items in presses.
The archive move preparations from the Museum’s out-stores to the new Sammy Ofer Wing have involved several crucial record enhancement projects that will greatly benefit future retrievals in the Sammy Ofer Wing. The physical extent of records in the store has been accurately captured to reflect what can be ordered in the reading room and will also streamline the retrieval process. This means that readers can locate specific records which were otherwise hidden within a more generic series hierarchy. The records will be stored according to differing sizes in the new stores, which will greatly benefit their long term preservation; many of the records have had conservation treatment and rehousing as part of preparations for the move into the Sammy Ofer Wing.
The last two years’ work has been an exciting and crucial period of enhancement. The re-working of catalogue entries has been necessary to fit in line with a holistic, professional system of arrangement.
Mike (Assistant Archivist)
1 Barrow, J. An Auto-Biographical Memoir of Sir John Barrow, Bart., Late of the Admiralty;
including reflections, observations and Reminiscences at home and abroad, from early life to advanced
Age, London: John Murray, 1847. p.465.
2 Bonner-Smith, D. ‘The Admiralty Building’ Mariners Mirror, 9 (no. 9) 271-282. p.280-1.
Over the past ten weeks, the new reading room facility in the Sammy Ofer Wing has been transformed from an empty white box into the new Caird Library. Tables, chairs, lockers, a document scanner and even a touch screen viewer to explore the Museum’s collection of sailing navy ship plans have been fitted into their new homes.
One of the most exciting parts of the transformation is the arrival of the books that line the new Caird Library. For two years the Library team have been carefully selecting the books that our experience suggests will be the most useful to have on open, immediate access shelves in the Caird Library. Since the closure of the old Caird Library to the public at Easter, we have packed these selected items ourselves, ready for their installation by our removal contractors – and they are now in place, ready for our opening to the public on Thursday 14th July.
There are approximately 5,500 individually published works in the new Caird Library. Our modern books are no longer locked away behind cabinet doors and Caird Library readers will now be able to simply help themselves to books from the shelves. There is no need to order any items held in the Caird Library ahead of a visit to us. The collections on the shelves really bring character to the new Caird Library. With such a focused collection, there is no longer a separate “quick reference” section. The books follow a single classification sequence around the room, which we hope will aid readers in resource discovery.
A portion of our core reference resources such as Lloyd’s List, Lloyd’s Register, the Mercantile Navy List and the Navy List will remain in locked cabinets, due to their scarcity. Staff will still be able to get these out for readers when needed. More recent issues of these resources will need to be requested from the Archive Stores, once these become operational in the autumn. As a rule of thumb, issues of our core references from 1950 onwards are held in the stores and will need to be requested. Once up and running, the retrieval process from the archive stores should take around 45 minutes.
Our most recent issues of the journals we subscribe to are also available in the Reading Room and ten public PCs are available for access to our electronic resources. In the coming weeks, my colleagues from the Archive and Library will be writing a little more about these on our blog.
This is an exciting time for the Caird Library and the National Maritime Museum. We look forward to welcoming you to the new library when the Sammy Ofer Wing opens to the public on 14th July.
Reader Services Librarian