Tuesday, 5 June 2012

A couple more cities ticked off

The past few weeks have been pretty hectic for me as I try to fit in my internship, class and travel.  Firstly, the internship is going spiffingly well and I am currently elbow deep in daguerreotypes, archival envelopes and velcro.

My desk last week

Class I am finding a tad more challenging but, on reflection, in a good way.  For once, the online class format is being well done by the tutor and he even provided us with a space to negotiate the syllabus - it is refreshing to be treated like an adult by a professor and to alter the course to be of maximum benefit to us.

Two weekends ago, I and a couple of friends drove to Toronto, now affectionately referred to as T-to.  It was a wonderful city full of interesting architecture and public art, that didn't make you want to bulldoze several blocks of buildings.

The weekend we chose happened to be 'Doors Open Toronto', which is basically Open Cambridge, but in Toronto.  We visited the Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library at the University of Toronto, with its beautiful shelving and central elevated exhibition area.  This was attached to their main University Library, which also houses the iSchool!  All-in-all a pretty sensible place to put the iSchool.

Last weekend I flew down to DC to stay with a friend and her sister (in Vienna...).  I think that I saw every memorial the city had to offer (The Korean War Memorial closely followed by Martin Luther King Jr. were my favourites in case you were wondering).

We also made a trip to the Library of Congress (obviously) and had a peek at the main reading room, which was jolly nice and full of people on a Saturday morning.  The entrance way was decorated with famous quotations about books, which I thought was a nice touch but probably overlooked by many.  It was a bit like an old version of what Cambridge Central Library has tried with the quotations painted high above the shoppers in Lion Yard.

After a 2 hour wait and 100 obnoxious 8th Grade students crawling through the security gate, I arrived at my professional Medina, the National Archives.  It was all very nice to see the 'special' documents but I was actually more enthralled by the Public Vaults and the exhibition therein.  Of particular interest was a wall with rotating parts answering patrons' questions as to whether the archives held information concerning certain subjects.  So, there was information regarding where you could find information about relatives in Titanic, or relatives who had immigrated to the US or someone who had applied for a passport in the eighteenth century.  This wall pointed patrons towards the various sources that they could use and gave the probability of the answers being held in the Archives.  I thought that this was a great idea to cut down on the number of enquiries that they receive but, in reality, how many people would make the trip to the exhibition before enquiring?

National Archives of the US

The next interesting part that surprised me was a whole corner dedicated to digital archiving.  Questions such as 'How do we archive emails?' etc. were bandied about freely and there was an interactive quiz, part of which I failed.  Now, I am not being big headed, but if I, as an archives intern, can't understand the quiz well enough to pass then there is something a bit wrong with the quiz!  Apart from the rather weird ways of explaining stuff, the quiz did tell you all about metadata and keywords as well as how to tell what to scan and what sort of format to save it in.  I was heartened to see this in the exhibition and, overall, very impressed with the attempts made to get the public to appreciate what archives are for.

Also: we found this gem in the Library of Congress shop - I wish someone had told me before I forked out for a Masters!


  1. ho ho busy little librarian! if only you could buy a masters in a box. glad to hear that you are zooming about and enjoying the great libraries of the world. if only the romans had stayed away from Alexandria...
    best wishes from
    Mrs Carey - stuck in rainy Hutchesons' Grammar!

  2. Mrs Carey! So lovely to hear from you. I hope that you have been enjoying the Jubilee celebrations, I wish I could have been home for them! Hope all is well apart from the rain.