Thanks to all our guests for generating excellent blog posts and for those who are interested here is a link to one more:
Other links to blogs about the Caird Library event can be found at the bottom of the previous post. Please feel free to leave a comment and let people know what you think!
The books and manuscripts shown in the blogs can be ordered and viewed in our new library which has just gone to full service. We are now open Monday to Saturday, 10.00-16.45 and open late on Thursdays. Information about our service and opening hours can be found in the library section of the museum website.
Mike (Assistant Archivist)
In a previous post about the move, I mentioned that we’d come across a book with a rather appropriate title, given the work we were undertaking. Continuing on a similar theme, we couldn’t let the safe relocating of another volume pass without comment. Books on the Move, the volume with a purple spine in the image on the right, has now found its home in the new store. Elsewhere, our manuscript collections continue to be picked, packed, carried and placed. Many of them are, of course very well-travelled, such as the logbooks that have been on board ships and carried around the globe.
There’s still some way to go with the move but we’re making steady progress. We’re all looking forward to a time when our books are no longer on the move and available to view in the reading room.
Richard (Assistant Archivist)
I hope the title of this blog-post didn’t cause any unpleasant surprises. Having opened the new Caird Library in the summer, we are, of course, staying put. However, regular visitors will know that we haven’t yet had the opportunity to run a full service in the reading room, due to delays with the move of the collections.
Our new purpose built stores have remained empty while we worked to ensure that the environmental conditions in them meet the relevant British standards. This work was vital in order to ensure we preserve our fabulous collections for this and future generations to benefit from.
Happily, I’m able to write about this work in the past tense and last week we moved in the first items. The image on the right shows some of our library books installed on roller racking in the new stores. Amongst the first to be moved was a volume titled Relocating Modern Science. There’s still a long way to go as we relocate modern, slightly out-of-date and even ancient science, along with the rest of our collections. Nevertheless, we’re on the way!
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
Today we closed the doors on the current Caird Library for the last time. As regular readers of the blog will know, we have been planning a move into a new reading room and storage facility, part of the Sammy Ofer Wing, for some time. Now the business of physically moving our collections begins in earnest.
Over the next few months we’ll be moving our vast manuscript and printed collections into their new home. We’ll keep you posted on how we are getting on with news on the blog.
Of course, this isn’t the end of a Caird library at the National Maritime Museum and the new reading room will proudly carry the name of Sir James Caird. The current library has been a pleasure to work in. The reading room has been made an especially enjoyable environment thanks to the interesting and friendly readers who visit. We look forward to welcoming you into our new reading room. See you there!
Richard (Assistant Archivist)
Last week I had an exciting opportunity to be taken on a site visit of the new Sammy Ofer Wing. The site is still a hive of activity (there were over 200 men beavering away at all sorts of jobs and it felt rather similar to Piccadilly Circus in rush hour) so only two other colleagues were able to join our guide.
After signing in and swiping our temporary passes through the gates we had to put on full PPE (personal protective equipment), including gloves, steel capped boots and goggles.
We then plodded past the landscaping, which is in full swing, and the final pieces of Portland stone cladding going up, through what will be the new main entrance to the National Maritime Museum. The lobby spaces are going to be really impressive with views every which way – out to the park, up through the light wells and down the large staircase to the special exhibition space.
We were then taken round some of our back-of-house spaces. I started getting a bit disorientated quite quickly as we kept having to double back on ourselves – one staircase was being finished off so we weren’t allowed to go on it – and the goggles didn’t help.
It was great to finally see what our new spaces are really like after poring over plans for so long. Some spaces seem bigger while others seem smaller but it is true that the final decoration and furniture will make it seem different again. I can’t wait!
Up-to-date information about the Sammy Ofer Wing and the new reading room can be found here.
Hannah, Archive & Manuscripts Manager
The work on the Sammy Ofer Wing, including the new research and reading room and archive stores, is progressing well. We’ve updated the information about the project on the website, so please take a look. The information will be updated every two months, so please check the blog and website in the future.
Eleanor (Head of Archive & Library)
Moderate and fair at 4pm made a signal and anchored in Madera [sic] road
On 18 March Anson anchored the Centurion in port having completed the first stage of her voyage. Here Anson employed Portuguese boats to restock his ship’s water supply, the existing supplies being described as “very bad”, and made preparations to set sail once again. In time ADM/L/C/299 will also set sail for the new store which will form part of the Sammy Ofer Wing. That, however, is perhaps to get ahead of ourselves and for now the logbook is safely on the shelf which will be its home for the next three years.
Ensuring that the manuscripts can be easily retrieved has been quite a task. The photograph above shows the van-load containing the logbook being unpacked. Each crate was assigned an individual number and plans were made of the new store to ensure that each item had an allocated home. The image on the right shows the crates waiting to be taken into the new store where they were finally unpacked.
Saluted the Commadore [sic] with 13 guns, the Falmouth saluted with ditto he returned 13 in answer to both
It seemed fitting to end this series of posts with a salute, of sorts, to the successful move of the logbook of HMS Centurion. As the final photograph demonstrates, it is now on its shelf and as of yesterday could once again be viewed in our reading room.
Richard (Assistant Archivist)