On this, our thirteenth day here we visited a totally new part of town to see the National Maritime Museum Caird Archive and Library in Greenwich. We took a riverboat taxi down the Thames to get to the library. Normally we see the water from walking along in the city, so it was cool to get a different view.
When we got to the area where the library was we had a little surprise. There was a movie that was filming there! We heard gossip that it was a movie that had Sacha Baron Cohen from Borat in it. We came to find out later that this was incorrect, and it was Curse of the Hendon that was being filmed there. Regardless, it was super cool to stumble upon that and see the film crew milling about.
Moving onto the library itself, it is very historical and has a very focused collection. Since it is a maritime museum and library, all of its collection centers around Britain’s history with anything maritime, like sea trade, exploration, and the like. Our guides were Mike Bevan who is the Archive Manager and Graham Thompson who is the Archives Assistant. They informed us that the collection they had set up for us to view is from the 18th and 19th century. There was a large table in the front of the room, and it had around 15 to 20 items on it for us to look at. They had a lot of primary documents, like letters and journals.
One of the items was a log book of a ship that transported slaves. It was shocking to see such an old primary document dealing with such a sensitive, awful piece of history. Normally, the only old, primary materials that I’ve seen in a library have been fiction books or religious documents. This showed me a different facet of a special collection, which was especially interesting for me because I work in one now and am interested in possibly working in one in the future.
I imagine that the research needs of the patrons using this collection would be different from other special collections. Their need to use this specific collection would probably be pretty urgent and specific because it seems like these materials are very unique. It isn’t like a published book where you could usually find it elsewhere. People don’t tend to write 20 copies of their journals or letters. So the librarian helping these patrons would have to be very responsive and speedy, as well as being sensitive to the time constraints of the patrons.
This library was interesting for both its collection and what it showed me. I have never seen so many primary documents of such historical importance outside of a museum. It was really eye-opening to peruse them after hearing the history of the library and museum itself.