Join up now –
The Merchant Navy needs you!
- Are you interested in volunteer work?
- Would you like to volunteer but from the comfort of your own home?
- Do you have a computer with broadband?
If you can answer “yes” to these three questions, then we would love to hear from you.
In partnership with The National Archives (TNA) the National Maritime Museum last year launched a project to transcribe and make available online, all of the surviving Merchant Navy crew lists from 1915. As there are no records for individual merchant seamen from this period, these records are of national significance in high lighting the vital contribution made by the Merchant Navy during the First World War. They are also of immeasurable value to family historians, as one of the few sources of information about the contribution of our sea-faring ancestors active in 1915. If you had an ancestor at sea in the British merchant navy in 1915, there is a high chance a crew list for one or more voyages survive. Approximately 39,000 crew lists have been photographed and NMM and TNA volunteers from as far afield as Japan, New Zealand, Canada, Italy, France and Ireland as well as all over the UK are transcribing these records to make them available and searchable. This is marvellous effort really demonstrates the international interest and demand for the information these records contain.We hope to launch the project in August 2014, to coincide with the centenary of the start of the First World War and really contribute something valuable to our memory and understanding of this conflict.
Your Museum Needs You: Could you invest some hours and transcribe a box of crew lists and help this valuable project?
For more information please contact:
Hello, my name is Tara and I recently joined the Manuscripts team as an Archives Assistant. Prior to this, I studied English Literature and subsequently the art of graduate job-hunting. After various stints working in smaller archives, I’m enjoying being in a large, specialist archive. I’m still getting used to just how vast the collection here is! Given that the role of archives is focussed very much on increasing public access, it is a great opportunity for me to be part of a team that spends a great deal of time helping members of the public get the most from the NMM archives collections. Whilst we can’t do everyone’s research for them, we do our best to guide researchers to possible sources for the information they seek. So when I’m not on duty in the library helping readers in person, I am usually answering public enquiries and trying to absorb the knowledge around me!
One of collections that I find interesting are the Atlases, Maps and Portolans (archive catalogue reference ‘P’). Consisting of fity-eight manuscript atlases believed to date from as early as the thirteenth century, the collection is a fascinating insight into how our ancestors navigated the seas. I spoke to the NMM Curator of Hydrography and learned that these atlases are made up of navigational sea charts known as a ‘portolan charts’. Emerging in the thirteenth century, portolan charts are a mystery of sorts as they appear to have been created right through to the eighteenth century before disappearing. It is not known exactly who first created them or how, yet it is believed they were used for over four hundred years to navigate the seas, primarily by judging the distance and direction between ports, and demontrate an impressive accuracy in their depictions of coastlines and dimensions.
A fascinating example of the detail of these charts can be seen in Basil Ringrose’s ca. 1682 atlas: A Waggoner – ‘Shewing the making and bearing of all the coasts from California to the Streights of Le Maire done from the Spanish original by Basil Ringrose’(archive catalogue reference P/32: you can scroll down to click on the individual pages refered to here in brackets beneath the image). ‘Waggoner’ means sailing directions and the manuscript consists of 106 individual charts with explanatory notes, covering the Pacific coast of the Americas. The origins of the atlas are rather interesting – Basil Ringrose was part of a group of English Buccuneers who on capturing several Spanish vessels, also captured a book of charts and sailing directions. On returning to England, he created his own atlas from the stolen Spanish charts. Drawn against a sqaure pencil grid, Ringrose used a coloured line to show the coastline clearly and employed a variety of symbols to mark features as well as annotations about places and ports. A compass rose, a typical feature of early charts, shows the direction of the winds. Opposite each chart, is accompanying text with information gained from the seafarers who used these type of charts, mostly to navigate between ports for trade purposes. Below are some examples.
Reference: P/32(11). This chart shows the coast of Acapulco, Mexico. The chart is one of the more detailed on the atlas and includes the compass rose, a note of the lattitude, depth soundings (the numbers in the sea area) as well as the dot textured areas to indicate shallow waters and red symbols for anchorages. Written opposite (not shown here), the text begins ‘Acapulco is a great port of trade it is the place whence the Spaniard embarques from Mexico for China and the Fillipines’ and goes on to explain that this is ‘a peculiar privilige it hath for no other port dares trade to any parts of the East Indies.’ Considering that the atlas is based on stolen Spanish charts, it’s not hard to see how valuable it was for the English to learn the Spanish trade routes. Indeed, on return to England, Charles II, far from punishing the buccaneers for their piratical deeds, expelled the Spanish Ambassodor! The text describes how ‘all goods are carryed on mules’ how during the journey the Spanish pass through ‘a nation of Indians’ who have ‘tiranicall masters’.
Reference: P/32(26). This chart shows the coast of El Viejo, Nicaragua. This chart is well annotated and shows the port of El Realejo, which was once the principal port of Nicaragua. During the early seventeenth century, it fell victim to piracy and declined in importance. It is therefore curious to see it charted by a buccaneer shortly after this period! The chart is detailed including extensive shallows and various ancorages. Intriguingly there are symbols for two nearby churches and a ship is shown coming by river from Fonseca…
Reference: P/32(2). Basil Ringrose’s waggoner also demonstrates the extent of European knowledge of the New World at the time: recording California as a separate island!
To see more images from Basil Ringrose’s South Sea Waggoner, search the online charts and maps collection here: http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections.html#!csearch;searchTerm=basil_ringrose
If you are interested in knowing more about the NMM atlases, charts and maps, browse our archive catalogue here: http://collections.rmg.co.uk/archive/objects/492065.html using the finding reference ‘P’ and look out for a coming item of the month post about London map and chart maker William Hack’s elaborate 1685 atlas of the same coastlines!
Further books available in the Caird Library catalogue:
Portolan Charts and Atlases in the National Maritime Museum
Pflederer, Richard L. [Library ID: PBF7917]
Finding their way at sea : the story of portolan charts, the cartographers who drew them and the mariners who sailed by them
Pflederer, Richard L. [Library ID: PBH5595]
Tara (Archive and Libary)
Hi there! My name is Nabila and I joined the Caird Library’s team as a Library Assistant in June 2012. These past seven months have flown by! I have been a library assistant since 2005 working in public libraries during my A-levels and a government library after graduating, so it is a welcome change to be in specialist library. I love working in libraries because I enjoy helping people find the information they are looking for. We have some incredible enquiries that range from family history research to questions about tides. We recently had a request for an authentic signature of Captain Cook (Click here to see AGC/C/15
: click on the second letter and scroll down).
I enjoy answering enquiries related to the Lloyd’s Maritime Collection. For example, when a reader asked us for the year a steamer was built and the vessel’s dimensions, knowing only her official number and that she sailed sometime in the 1950s. I had to search the Lloyd’s Register of Shipping of three different years (1952, 1955 and 1958) to find the ship by the correct official number. Still produced today, Lloyd’s Register is published annually and the Library’s collection dates back as far as 1764. It’s ideal for looking up basic facts such as where and when a vessel was built, who built it, who owned it and details of its hull, rig, construction and any engines.
I must confess I am no expert in maritime history, but I have learnt a lot in the short time I have been here! Our collections of books and manuscripts are, to say the least, vast and they provide an incredible insight in our history. It is exciting to be working closely with the acquisition and cataloguing of books that are added to this incredible collection. I help process new books and prepare them to be seen in the Library. For example, I have been working on cataloguing pamphlets and books from our offsite stores and have dealt with 230 of them so far. Look out for a forth coming post on the latest Library acquisitions, but in the meantime, here are some of my favourites so far:
- Dickens, Gerald, The dress of the British sailor (HMSO, 1957), 355.14(42), Library ID: PBD2074
- Greenhill, Basil, James Cook : the opening of the Pacific (HMSO for NMM, 1970), 92COOK:910.4(93/96)”1768/1780″, Library ID: PBH5181
- Carr, Frank George Griffith, Maritime Greenwich (Pitkin Pictorials, 1974), 914.216(26), Library ID: PBH5219
So if you see any of our new books be certain that I helped in getting it ready for you! Have a look in our Library catalogue
and look out for the new books in the link at the top of the page. And don’t forget you can search the Archive catalogue
for original manuscript records, like the Cook letter above!
Nabila (Library Assistant)
And a Happy New Year from the Caird Library!
We thought we’d get the new year rolling by introducing a few members of staff who have joined the Archive and Library team recently. It’s also our sad duty to report that Richard Wragg, long time editor of the Caird Library Blog, has left the Museum and gone on to pursue his doctoral studies. We wish him all the best and will miss him- and we hope he keeps a good archival eye on the blog yet! Last year we welcomed Jean Kenny to the Library team, and here is Jean in her own words… (I wanted to add Jean’s photo but she was not so keen on that...)
A belated hello to all the blog readers! My name is Jean and I joined the National Maritime Museum as a Library Assistant back at the end of March.
I’m from Dublin originally, and studied archaeology and Irish there before moving to England and completing an MSc. in maritime archaeology at the University of Southampton. Working in the Caird Library is a far cry from the optimistic visions I had of myself diving for wrecks in the Mediterranean, however I love the variety of enquiries we receive here at the library, and enjoy the opportunity it gives me to fine tune my research skills and learn more about the fascinating collections we have here at the National Maritime Museum. Outside public duties in the reading room and dealing with enquiries, my main responsibility is managing the museum’s long list of scholarly and maritime journal subscriptions. We subscribe to a wide variety of journals and magazines on a range of subjects – art, antiques, clocks and horology, history, sailing/commercial shipping, and of course, boats of all varieties! Some of them are particularly niche and specific – my personal favourite is Knotting Matters, the Journal of the International Guild of Knot Tyers!
I have already been churning my way through a number of the books from the wonderful collection, and have made plans to build my own boat with the help of a friend and a number of the very practical boat building books we have here. Who knows, there may be a blog post in the near future with some interesting photos of the amazing things you can learn from our books!
Item of the month readers can have a look at the story of a lesser known Trafalgar captain. Charles Tyler of HM ship Tonnant had a musket ball go clean through his thigh while his ship grappled with the Spanish Algeciras. Afterwards in Gibraltar he was encouraged by his Surgeon to drink quantities of Madeira to aid his recovery! Instead he wrote some rather tender letters to his wife. Pick up the story with January’s Item of the month at:
Do leave a reply and let us know whay you think- we’d love to hear from you!
(Archive and Library)
An exciting Letter from Admiral Horatio Nelson to the 2nd Earl Camden dated 11 October 1804 has been put on display and revealed to the public for the first time. The letter concerns Camden’s nephew, Francis James, who, having lost his ship and his clothes, evidently decided he was not cut out for a life at sea! As Tunbridge Wells Museum’s Object of the Month for December, the letter sits alongside supporting text provided by our own Mike Bevan, Archivist at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. You can take a look at the letter online: http://www.tunbridgewellsmuseum.org/Default.aspx?page=2363. The full article is also available via the link and as a PDF. This version reveals letters from the NMM’s Archive, specifically the Croker collection (CRK) and puts the exhibited letter into a wider context concerning patronage, naval operations and reminds us that the call of the sea didn’t suit everyone!
The letter has already generated some local media attention:
As some of you know already, the Caird Library will close from 2 July to 4 September inclusive due to the preparations and holding of the Olympics equestrian events in Greenwich Park. See temporary closure of Library http://www.rmg.co.uk/researchers/library/visiting/caird-library-temporary-closure-due-to-olympics for more information. The Library will reopen on Wednesday 5 September at 10.00. Written and telephone enquiries, and the remote reprographics service will also resume from this time.
Last order dates for viewing offsite material in the reading room, and for reprographic orders, is 12.30 on Thursday 21 June.
Last order dates for viewing prints and drawings and charts and maps in the reading room is 15.30 on Thursday 28 June, for viewing in the reading room on Friday 29 June. The last day that the Library will be open is Saturday 30 June.
We’re sorry for the inconvenience caused to Library users. Archive & Library staff will be using the closure period to rehouse offsite collections to bring them onsite, and to reorganise other stored material to make future retrievals more efficient.
Eleanor (Head of Archive & Library)
As many of you will know, Tuesday saw the return of manuscripts to the Caird Library. Rather, the first appearance of manuscripts in our new reading room.
The first item to be retrieved from the store was a lieutenant’s log, that of HMS Valiant from the 1790s (ADM/L/V/14). The image on the right shows Mark, one of our retrieval technicians plucking the volume from the shelf.
We’re still learning about the new Caird Library and the systems that support access to our collections but it’s been cause for celebration that the reading room is finally being used in the way it was intended. Hopefully the readers who visited on Tuesday found things to be running relatively smoothly!
Richard (Assistant Archivist)
Taking my new desk in the Library Office on Monday, finally I found a quiet moment to introduce myself to readers of the Caird Library Blog: I’m Gregory Toth the new Assistant Librarian.
My key responsibilities will be providing specialist information services for the Archive and Library collections, answering public enquiries and contributing to the cataloguing of modern library collections. I will also look after the Museum’s pre-1850 printed rare book collections and the Library’s ephemera collections.
I have to admit that I am not that new to the National Maritime Museum having worked here for more than four years. I love working with people here in Greenwich; the Museum has a fantastic world-class collection and I have met researchers from all over the world, as well as family historians and university students.
Working in the Caird Library is so exciting because you never know what you will be asked – apart from of course about the correct time.
I look forward to meeting you!
Gregory (Assistant Librarian)
We are delighted that the move of the collections into the new archive stores is on schedule to be completed by Christmas, so the full Library service and access to the collections will start in January 2012. Please see the latest update on the website.
The full Library service will begin from Tuesday 17 January 2012 on a trial period, when the Library will be open from Tuesday-Thursday. During this time, we ask that you bear with us as we’ll also be continuing to update locations in the stores, training staff and getting used to the new ordering system and retrieval process.
From Monday 30 January 2012 the Library will be open six days a week, Monday to Friday 10.00-16.45, late night Thursday until 19.45 and Saturdays 10.00-13.00 and 14.00-16.45. Please note that to use the Library and access the collections, you must register online for a new style three year reader’s ticket. Guidance on how to request items using Aeon will be posted on the Museum website shortly.
We look forward to welcoming you to the Caird Library in 2012.
Eleanor (Head of Archive & Library)
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)