Sunday, July 17, 2016

July 1

  1. Seeing the wonderful community engagement at the Edinburgh Central Library
  2. The not-so-secret hidden stairs behind the bookshelves!
  3. Hearing about the Edinburgh Youth Talks Program
  4. Special collections at University of Edinburgh New College Library
  5. The World's End pub
All the Details:
Edinburgh Central Library

My window view of Arthur's Seat
My first day in Edinburgh began with a breath-taking view from my dorm window of Arthur’s Seat, the main peak of mountains near Holyrood Park. After a quick breakfast, our class set out for the National Library Scotland. The library was not open yet, but we were able get coffee and look at the gift shop before we headed across the street for our first appointment of the day at the Edinburgh Central Library.
First, we were given a tour of the many spaces at the Central Library. There was a beautiful reading room where the shelving actually opened revealing hidden staircases to the gallery and more shelving. It was the perfect feature to show a group of librarians because we were all extremely impressed and excited by the idea of hidden passages filled with books. We were also very excited to take a look through some of the card catalogs that are still used at the library as they work to digitally catalog their materials.

Book cases that open to reveal hidden stairs!
The day we visited, there was a program going on in the Children’s Library. The kids and parents were all sitting around one of the librarians reading a book and singing. It was such a warm, happy place! I was very impressed by the large number of parents and kids in attendance at the program, and there were also other kids picking out books and playing in a small arts and crafts area. It was obvious that the library does an excellent job of bringing in kids and their parents from the community. We were also shown the music library, a small teen area, and the main lending library. One thing that stood out was the library’s process for book reservations. They use recyclable book jackets that keep reservations private and easy for patrons to locate when they arrive to pick them up. The library also has a number of community events and clubs for their patrons that keep the library a central part of the city.

After our tour, we got to hear some of the library staff talk about projects that they participate in for the community. More than anything, I was struck by the Youth Talks Program that helps to support teenagers in the area. It seems like the library and other groups in Edinburgh have really come together to provide safe, enriching experiences for teens to participate in during their free time. There was also a Digital Toy Box Program aimed as exposing children to STEM based classes and concepts. Overall, I was very impressed by this particular library’s interaction with the community. I think this is one of the main criteria in distinguishing a productive public library.

New College Library, Edinburgh University

New College Library
In the afternoon, our class had our last group trip over to the University of Edinburgh’s New College Library. Located in a beautiful old church that was built by the Free Church of Scotland, the New College Library is home to the School of Divinity. We were able to look at some of the library’s special collection materials in the Funk Reading Room, as well as the basement level rooms of stacks. The library has been able to digitally catalog about 60% of their collection so far, and still utilized card catalogs. The main focus in this library is print materials, therefore there are few computers available, although students are able to bring their own devices. The library is able to house many of the items needed for both the graduate and postgraduate students at the School of Divinity, making it a central space of learning for these students. As this was our last class visit, we said our goodbyes to everyone before heading out to explore Edinburgh.


Now that class was over, we had some time to relax and enjoy the city before everyone left for more traveling or the trip home. Friday afternoon I went with my friends, India and Emily, to meet Emily’s husband that had just gotten to town. We spent some time at The World’s End, a historic pub that was once located at the gates in and out of the city of Edinburgh. Later that night, India, Jess, and I ordered Indian food and watched a movie while we waited on our laundry. It was a great way to unwind after a month of focusing on school. We had one more day in Edinburgh before the first part of my trip would come to an end.

Friday, July 15, 2016

June 29 & 30

  1. Durham Cathedral
  2. Durham University uses fur-trimmed graduation robes!
  3. Harry Potter themed advertisement at Bill Bryson Library
  4. Bishop Cosin's Library
All the Details:
Durham University Libraries

Durham Cathedral
Our group spent most of Wednesday travelling to Durham by coach. Once we arrived we took a quick walk through the city to Durham Cathedral. The walk took us through the historic city, over the river on a bridge, and up the hill to where Durham University was celebrating graduation. I was extremely impressed by the amazing graduation robes adorned with white fur, which were especially unique, and the women walking the steep, cobblestone roads in their heels. Due to a very busy graduation schedule, our only opportunity to see the cathedral was by attending the Evensong Service. We also got a quick walkthrough of some of the other rooms before the cathedral closed. Our group then headed down to have dinner in town.

The next morning, we had the opportunity to tour some of the many libraries of Durham University. Since the university was established in 1832, they have a vast collection of materials both old and new. The university focuses on research, which means that the libraries must cater to scholars looking at a variety of materials. We were shown the various libraries by the extremely helpful Library Director, Jon Purcell. First, we were shown the Bill Bryson Library, which is a modern, open plan library with tons of space for students to work in the environment of their choice. This library has already had a huge extension added to the building, and has plans for even more space to be added as the university continues to grow. The library accommodates students with various spaces and goes the extra mile to meet their needs, such as providing eating spaces and a separate study room for postgraduates. The library also houses the university IT department so that students view the library as the place to go for help. Also, I absolutely loved the library’s advertisement in the front lobby comparing it to Hogwarts! I have added Hedwig's Theme to the video, which you can see by clicking here!

Next, we headed over to Palace Green Library, where the special collections are held. Here, we were able to visit the café, Somme 1916 Exhibit, and Children’s Learning Space before checking out Bishop Cosin’s Library. Bishop’s Cosin’s Library was a awe inspiring space. The wooden shelving, spiral staircase, and leather bound books had every one of us gasping as we walked through the door. Not only is the room amazing, but the books themselves are extremely rare, many of them acquired from continental Europe before devastating fires destroyed thousands of books in France. We were also able to see books from the Sudan Collection, as well as the digitization and conservation labs. With both modern and classic examples of libraries, Durham has done a wonderful job connecting the university to the community through their exhibitions and accessibility to the public and students alike.
Bishop Cosin's Library
Bishop Cosin's Library
Photo retrieved from:

After visiting the Durham University libraries, we drove over to Ushaw College to see their library and archives that are managed by Durham University. Ushaw College was home to a self-sustaining Catholic community during a time when it was illegal to be Catholic in England. The students here would have studied theology, although the library and archives hold various materials relating to other subjects as well. The librarians as Ushaw College were kind enough to show us American related texts from their collection. These included maps, music, histories of Native Americans, and documents from Catholic missions in America. Since the closure of the college, Durham University has managed the cataloging of the invaluable resources in Ushaw’s libraries. At the end of our day in Durham, our class made our way to Edinburgh by train.

June 28

Just the Highlights:
Tuesday was our group's last day in London, so we spent the day exploring and spending time with wonderful new friends!
  1. Saying hello to Peter Pan
  2. Exploring Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's love story at Kensington Palace
  3. Wandering through Hyde Park
  4. My friend India realizing that the music we could hear in the distance was actually Coldplay doing a sound check for their performance later that night, so we sat on a bench in the park until they stopped playing!
  5. Enjoying tea and scones for the 100th time!
  6. Going to at least three different book stores and looking at all the wonderful books
  7. Accidentally, ending up in a very upscale bar and ordering the most expensive cocktail of my life!
  8. Having dinner with friends at our favorite restaurant, Bill's Restaurant Shoreditch
Peter Pan
A Smoked Margarita

Bill's Shoreditch

June 27

  1. Watching The Imitaiton Game with friends
  2. Seeing the amazing computers
  3. Learning about all the secrecy at Bletchley Park
All the Details:
Bletchley Park

Enigma Machine
Our library science class set out for Bletchley Park on Monday morning, which would be our last group outing in London. In order to have an idea of the importance of Bletchley Park, a few of us had watched The Imitation Game staring Benedict Cumberbatch the night before. The movie, centered around Alan Turing’s work as a code breaker at Bletchley Park during WWII, was a beautiful and emotional tribute to Turing, and provided some background knowledge of code breaking. When we arrived at Bletchley Park, the introductory exhibit showed that there was actually much more happening at Bletchley, other than the dramatized events from the movie. We learned about the process used to break codes and the many machines, like the Enigma Machine, used to create and break the codes.

Due to the large size of Bletchley park, we decided to focus on a few of the areas to explore. First, we were able to tour an exhibit about the relationship between the technical advances at Bletchley and our current World Wide Web. It was extremely interesting to see how progress made during the war has had a lasting effect on the world. Next, we made our way through the museum that features a reconstructed Turing-Welchman Bombe, a huge computer that helped to break codes. The museum did an excellent job of showing the public how the different machines and computers worked. We then went on a walking tour throughout Bletchley and learned about the different people and jobs that existed here during WWII. The stories of people living in secrecy at Bletchley was fascinating. They couldn’t talk to their friends or families about anything that they did at work. This also meant that people working in different buildings within Bletchley had to keep secrets from each other. It would have been extremely difficult to live in an environment that was built on so much secrecy. Finally, we took a look through the beautiful mansion house.

Turing-Welchman Bombe
Bletchley Park Mansion

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

June 25 & 26


  1. Beautiful decorations and gardens at Hampton Court Palace
  2. Beautiful gardens at St. Dunstan-in-the-East
  3. Beautiful carriages at the Royal Mews
  4. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!
All the Details:
Hampton Court Palace
Clock Court

Saturday morning, I took a completely empty tube to Waterloo train station before catching a train to Hampton Court Palace. The former home to many kings and queens of England, has many exhibits and sprawling gardens for visitors to explore. I began my tour by entering the gate and heading to the center of the palace courtyards, or Base Court. Each tour then takes you through a different route of the castle. I admired the Great Hall, kitchens, and apartments of Henry VIII, as well as an exhibit of the monarch’s younger years. The rooms were beautifully and lavishly decorated, capturing the overindulgence that most people associate with Henry’s reign. “Young Henry VIII’s Story” did a wonderful job of communicating the difficulties that Henry faced as a child and new king. It was extremely interesting to look at his life before his infamous six marriages.

Next, I explored William III’s Apartments and the Georgian Story. The former, began with a beautifully painted staircase that courtiers would have ascended to be presented to the king and travelled through ceremonial spaces and private rooms. The rooms emphasized the great spectacle that was made of monarchs in the late 1600s by showing how spaces we see as private now, such as a bedroom, were actually places where nobles had access to the king. The Georgian Story was filled with intricate white paper costumes, used to show how courtiers would have dressed in the early 1700s. After exploring the courtyards and kitchens, I also took a walk through parts of the gardens. These are the types of gardens that cover huge expanses around the palace and would take hours to explore properly. Unfortunately, I didn’t have hours before my train, so I looked at everything I could before heading back to the station. The Rose Garden was by far my favorite, filled with huge rose bushes situated around statues. Since Hampton Court was a place that I had learned about in both European History in high school and Early Modern England during study abroad at BISC, I was extremely excited to be able to finally visit it myself. The audio guide provided excellent information and both the indoor and outdoor displays were fabulous!
A dress made of folded paper
Rose Garden

St. Dunstan-in-the-East

The next day Melody and I went to check out a church called St. Dunstan-in-the-East. This church is unique because it no longer functions as a church, but as a public garden space. The church dates back to 1100 and has experienced many repairs and patchwork over the years. After severe damage during the Blitz in 1941 it was decided that the church would not be repaired. Instead, in 1967 the City of London converted the space into the public garden seen today. The rough, cold stone against the crawling, green foliage make this garden a special kind of hauntingly beautiful. We walked around admiring the gardens and taking pictures, having a wonderful time!

The old wall of the church surrounded by the garden

Buckingham Palace Royal Mews & Queen’s Gallery

After visiting St. Dunstan’s, we headed over to Buckingham Palace. Although, the palace itself is not currently open for tours there are two attractions worth seeing. We explored two art exhibits in the Queen’s Gallery; one honoring Scottish artists and one featuring the work of Maria Merian. We saw many parallels between Maria Merian and Beatrix Potter, who both studied natural science as well as art. Then we headed over to the Royal Mews, which hold the horses, carriages, and vehicles used by the Royal Family. The horses had just been fed, so they were not very social, but we did get a chance to admire the beautiful carriages they are trained to pull. The carriages are covered with jewels, gold, carvings, and symbolism. The most recent one even has air conditioning! It was fun to look at all the beautiful creations that are used for transportation around London!
The Diamond Jubilee State Coach

Monday, July 11, 2016

June 24

  1. The coats of arms inside the Middle Temple dining hall
  2. My classmates putting up with me while I took 100 photos of all the coats of arms
All the Details:

Middle Temple Law Library

Middle Temple is one of the four Inns of Court, which also includes Inner Temple, Gray’s Inn, and Lincoln’s Inn. In order to become a lawyer or barrister in England or Wales, students must join one of the four Inns. The Inns traditionally served as the community for students to live in and learn from. Although students no longer contain their lives within the confines of the Inns’ buildings, they are still the hub of learning for those studying law. The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple began in the 13th century and was the headquarters of the Knights Templar.

We were lucky enough to be shown around Middle Temple by librarian Renae Satterley. The library at Middle Temple focuses on American and European Union law. We were shown around the library main floors that contain two levels of book shelves. We were told that there were also two basement levels for storage and a climate controlled level for rare books. The library, unfortunately, has no classification system, due to the idea that classification labels detract from the appeal of the ‘Gentlemen’s Library’ look. There were also two rare globes from the 16th century on display at the front of the library; one depicting the Earth and the other the sky.

Next we were shown through some of the more luxurious rooms that would have served as drawing rooms and smoking rooms for the lawyers of the Middle Temple. My absolute favorite part of Middle Temple was the dining hall. Its walls, as well as the wall of the hallways leading to it, are covered in hundreds of coats of arms. The coats of arms represent the ‘readers’ that have presented lectures at qualifying sessions that are attended by the students. Students must attend twelve of these sessions that usually involve dinner and a lecture, debate, or performance. Each lecturer or ‘reader’ then has their coat of arms placed on the wall. The beautiful display of colors and symbols was mesmerizing!

June 22 & 23

  1. Revisiting Herstmonceux Castle for the first time in four years!
  2. Tea at Chestnut's Tea Room
  3. Exploring the gardens
  4. A Midsummer Night's Dream
All the Details:
Herstmonceux Castle

Four years ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to study at the Bader International Study Centre (BISC) at Herstmonceux Castle. Since arriving in London, visiting the castle again had been at the top of my list of things to do. I had even convinced my friend Melody, another student in my Library Science program, to join me in a day trip to East Sussex!
Herstmonceux Castle

We woke up and headed to the train station, but unfortunately missed our train by two minutes. The next train was scheduled to leave in 30 minutes, but after waiting for about 20 minutes we found out that that train was cancelled. We spoke to some of the station workers and ended up taking a different train to Brighton instead of directly to Polegate, which is closest to the castle. Once we made it to Brighton we took a train to Lewes and another train to Polegate where we met our taxi. It was so great to be in the English countryside again, watching the rolling hills and groups of sheep out the window of the taxi. When we made it to the castle I actually made Melody turn away from it until we had passed the trees, so that when she turned around she got the full view of the castle and moat. This had been the way I had gotten my first views of the castle four years ago on a coach from Heathrow airport, and I knew it was the best way to appreciate the beauty. I will admit that I got a little emotional seeing the place that I had spent six of the best weeks of my life.
First we took a tour of the castle. It was so much fun walking around and seeing the courtyard, classrooms, ballroom, and staircases that had been my home away from home. I also enjoyed the look on the faces of the other people on the tour when I told them that the dungeon they were seeing just happened to be under the floor of the classroom I spent most of my time in four years ago! After the tour, Melody and I were able to speak with the assistant librarian at the small castle library. She told us about how the library was currently focusing on weeding duplicate print materials and building up their online resources. Since the BISC is owned by Queen’s University in Canada, students at the castle have access to the same databases that Queen’s students use, as well as access to the castle library and University of Sussex library. The library also has silent study spaces in the reading room and a group space for students to work collaboratively. 
After exploring the castle, we had tea at Chestnut’s Tea Room and spent some time in the beautiful gardens. Melody was so nice about letting me reminisce and tell stories about my time at the castle. We walked through all the gardens, saw one of the peacocks, and spent some time enjoying the sun. Before heading back to London I was able to get some small souvenirs. When I studied at the castle I didn’t buy anything with the castle crest on it, which I have regretted for years, so I was happy to be able to buy a mug and tea towel. I loved being back at the castle for the day and our train ride back to London was much less eventful than our trip getting there!


The next day our class travelled to Stratford-upon-Avon with some other students from the British Studies program. After a long coach ride, we were ready for breakfast! We found a great restaurant that had great food, coffee, and tea. We then took some time to explore the town where the great playwright, William Shakespeare, grew up and raised a family. We had a limited amount of time, so we explored the shops and the cathedral where Shakespeare and his family were buried. Unfortunately, due to a lack of time and the high cost, we did not go into the home and birthplace of Shakespeare. We walked toward the Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre and enjoyed the garden statues that honor the playwright and his characters. There was also a line of adorable small boats, all named for Shakespeare’s female characters. After exploring, we headed to the theatre to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream! The British Studies Program had gotten all of us tickets, and a few of us were lucky enough to sit front row! The show was amazing and hilarious, especially when the character Puck climbed over our row of seats and sat on us!
Boats named after Shakespeare's characters

Sunday, July 10, 2016

June 21

  1. A book signed by Benjamin Franklin
  2. Common Sense with lines hand written to protect the printer from charges of treason
  3. A singing Mephistopheles
  4. Kit Harington!
All the Details:

Maughan Library and Special Collections, King’s College
Benjamin Franklin's signature in the top right

Our visit to King’s College focused mostly on a few of the special collections books that were brought out for us to view. We were told about ‘chap books’ that were printed on cheap paper and sold by traveling salesmen. These were interesting to see because they would have been extremely important in the education and literacy of the common people of the time. We also looked at a book from the St. Thomas Hospital Collection, which served as a terrifying reminder about what people used to think of a medical information. The books included illustrations of strange mythical beasts and unusual medical advice. The colored text and illustrations make this book particularly interesting because they make it look more like a fairy tale than a medical text. The librarians at King’s College had specifically retrieved some of the American texts from their collection, which meant that we got to see a copy of The Charters of the Province of Pennsylvania and City of Philadelphia bearing the signature of Benjamin Franklin and a copy of Thomas Payne’s Common Sense. In this printing of Common Sense the delicate political passages have been left out and then filled in later by hand in order to remove blame for treason from the printer. It is amazing to think that these materials have been preserved in the UK, even though they relate to the USA. There was also a travel guide of North American with large fold-out maps and a huge Bible from the 1600s that included handwritten current events from the time of use. One of the more recent materials was a collection of poetry about Syrian refugees that was attached to a cloth body bag. This inclusion of recent material shows how important special collections and conservation are even when the materials are not typical books.
Hand written sections in Common Sense

We were also able to see one of the library’s exhibitions. This particular exhibit was created to connect with the many Shakespeare 400 celebrations around the country. Instead of focusing on text by Shakespeare, the library chose to display information about the world that Shakespeare lived and worked in. Each case showed what life in London was like during this time.

After seeing the special collections and exhibition, we took a quick walk through the main library and reading room. The library has been updated to accommodate the needs of current students. There are self-service kiosks, private study spaces, a beautiful and silent reading room, and spaces for group meetings. Like most other academic libraries, King’s College is constantly reassessing student needs and adapting the library appropriately.

Doctor Faustus

Tuesday afternoon I stopped by the TKTS ticket booth to look at discount tickets for London shows. I was able to get a ticket to see Doctor Faustus starring Kit Harington for that night! Having read the Christopher Marlowe play in high school, I had a general idea of the dark plot line. It is definitely not a play for everyone, as it involves many intense and possibly offensive scenes. However, I enjoyed seeing how the cast made every choice purposeful. The play was set in modern times which made Faustus less of a doctor and emphasizes his arrogance. Taking into account that I have not seen another version of this play, I was particularly curious about two of the choices made for the play that I found unusual. First, the stage is very narrow and tall and the set used was fairly short. The rest of the tall black space was left with no screen, set, or color. My personal interpretation was that it made Faustus’ earthly world look small and insignificant in comparison with the spiritual worlds of Heaven and Hell. Mephistopheles, the main demon interacting with Faustus also often comments on how everything outside of Heaven, including Faustus’ world, is Hell. So possibly the darkness surrounding the set was to show that Faustus was already in Hell, even before selling his soul. Another choice that I found interesting was that both acts started without the usual dimming of lights, requests to turn off cell phones, or even ensuring that the entire audience was seated. At the beginning of the play, Faustus was on stage with his servant Wagner for about five minutes before the actual start time. Faustus sat staring mindlessly at a T.V. screen, while Wagner vacuumed. When the play did start there were still audience members finding their seats which made it difficult to focus. At the beginning of Act II, Mephistopheles sang karaoke style for a few minutes as people returned to their seats. This was especially entertaining since the actress, Jenna Russell, along with the other demons wore t-shirts with Kit Harington’s face on them for the beginning of the scene. The show was intense and interesting and the acting was amazing!

After the show I waited patiently for autographs from Kit Harington by the stage door. Unfortunately, Jenna Russell didn’t stop to sign anything, but Kit Harington spent quite a long time taking pictures and signing programs for fans. By the time I got up to the front of the crowd he stopped signing things and taking pictures and told everyone that he had to leave. As he walked away I looked at him and held out my program. I must have looked pretty pitiful, because he walked over, signed my program, and then turned and went inside. I think the fact that I wasn’t taking 100000 pictures probably helped since signing a program is much quicker. I was so excited to have caught his attention and have my program signed!

Program signed by Kit Harington

June 20

  1. Original Peter Rabbit and Squirrel Nutkin drawings
  2. Learning about Beatrix Potter's early life
  3. Cats and Coffee!
All the Details:
Blythe House

Original drawings of Peter Rabbit
Monday began with a class visit to Blythe House to see the Beatrix Potter Archives. We met with the archivist, Emma Laws, and Andrew Wiltshire, from the Beatrix Potter Society, who shared with us their knowledge about the collection. Ms. Laws explained that both the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum use Blythe House to store materials and archives. However, the building will most likely be sold soon, which would mean moving a huge amount of materials from both museums. The Beatrix Potter Collection consists of donations, gifts, and materials on loan. A large part of the donations come from Leslie Linder, a close neighbor of Beatrix Potter. Much of the material would actually be too expensive for the museum to purchase themselves, so loans and gifts are a very important part of the archive.

We were given some basic information about Beatrix Potter’s life growing up in London and receiving an education. She was very close to her younger brother, who was sent to boarding school while Beatrix was educated at home. Her family spent summers in Scotland, where Beatrix’s love for nature grew. We were able to see one of her earliest sketch books from when she was eight years old. This book shows that her deep interest in both science and art started at a very young age. One of the sketches was of various caterpillars with detailed descriptions on the opposite page. We also saw a drawing, done when Beatrix was eleven, of a dead bird. The attention to detail and anatomy was evident in every piece.

Beatrix received art training in pencil and watercolor, pen and ink, and oil painting. As an unmarried woman, she would have lived at home with her parents and art would have been a skill to learn in order to find a husband. She drew mostly plants and animals and would even kill animals in order to examine their anatomy in details. Ms. Laws showed us a drawing of a bat which corresponded with letters between Beatrix and her brother regarding the poor health of the captive creature. Her brother suggested killing the bat in order to avoid its suffering, and based on the accuracy of the drawing we can assume this is what she did. We also saw some uncharacteristic artwork which included drawings of fungi done with the aid of a microscope and still life works for art school. All of the work we had seen up until this point revealed how Beatrix Potter came to be the illustrator and author that we all know and recognize. 
Original drawings from Squirrel Nutkin
Beatrix Potter’s first published works were Christmas card designs, but her famous works starting with Peter Rabbit did not appear until later, with much encouragement from her friends and family. Beatrix became close friends with one of her governesses, Annie Moor, who married and had many children. Peter Rabbit, based on her actual pet rabbit began as a letter to Annie Moor’s oldest son when he was sick. My favorite pieces to look at in the collection were the sketches that show how Beatrix Potter studied her animal subjects, like Peter, from every possible angle. Although the original letters were written for fun, these other detailed examinations show her dedication to drawing accurate representations of the animals. Another remarkable piece in the collection is the original letter of Squirrel Nutkin accompanied by the ‘dummy manuscript’ used to lay out the text and illustrations for the published book. I loved seeing how something as simple as a letter to a child could become such an iconic piece of children’s literature around the world. A somewhat disappointing fact that we learned was that when Beatrix married at age 47 and finally moved out of her parents’ house, she almost completely stopped writing and illustrating. This halt in her artistic work shows that it was a hobby rather than a specific career choice. This information sets her apart from many writers and artists who choose this lifestyle because they thrive outside of usual social circles. Beatrix spent her time writing and illustrating until she could fully be a part of the accepted social circles of married women. This visit was particularly eye-opening because it allowed us to look at a specific author/illustrator that we think we know and learn about what shaped their life and work.

Later in the afternoon, Megan and I celebrated her last day in London with a trip to a cat café! It was definitely a unique experience! Once we arrived we were taken to our table in the two story café and ordered coffee and cake. The walls of the room were covered with platforms for cats to climb, and there were various types of cat beds, toys, and fun places to explore. We immediately found many cats napping in the sunlight in the café window and one (Wookie) asleep in a hammock! Next we spotted a small black and white kitten named Peter. He was sweet and playful, and even spent some time sitting on people’s laps and tables. Downstairs there was a huge wooden tree that lined the walls and provided a fun place for the cats to climb. There was also a wheel that they could exercise on. Both the cats and the staff were very friendly, and it was fun to pet and play with the cats while enjoying our snacks. It did make me miss my cats at home a lot though.
Peter the kitten
Cat climbing tree

Sunday, July 3, 2016

June 18 & 19

  1. Singing along with all the people in Trafalgar Square
  2. Seeing some of the most iconic places in London
  3. Getting a sunburn for the second time in London
All the Details:

West End Live

Sitting on the fountain in Trafalgar Square
Megan and I decided to spend our Saturday and Sunday at West End Live, which is a huge celebrations of musicals in the west end of London (and it’s free!). There was a gigantic stage set up in Trafalgar Square and a huge line snaking all the way around the square and down the side streets. We were lucky enough to get a spot in line that got us through the security check point right as the first song, from Motown-The Musical, started, and we were able to find a seat on one of the fountains! We spent the day singing and dancing along with the performers and crowd. It was a great way to see snip-its of shows like Wicked, Les Miserables, Matilda, The Phantom of the Opera, and Jersey Boys. On Saturday, we stayed until around 2pm when we got hungry and had to go get fish and chips at a nearby pub. After eating we walked past Westminster Abbey and Big Ben before crossing to the other side of the Thames. We then walked along the river and crossed again at Millennial Bridge (Death Eater Bridge for Harry Potter fans!).

Big Ben and the Parliament Buildings
Sunday we arrived earlier for West End Live and got even closer seats on the fountain. Megan and I had come prepared this day and brought our own lunch so we could enjoy more of the shows. The show opened with The Lion King, and then there was a performance from a Michael Jackson tribute show called Thriller Live, and some other well-known musicians and entertainers. One of the very best performances was from Samantha Barks, who sang “On My Own” from Les Miserables. After the performances we did a short walk over to Buckingham Palace before calling it a day due to exhaustion and some pretty bad sunburns.

June 16 & 17

  1. Randomly deciding to go see the Palace Theatre on a whim, and actually getting tickets to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child!
  2. WB Studio Tour Passports (that are actually meant for kids)
  3. Platform 9 3/4 and the Hogwarts Express
  4. The Hogwarts Castle
  5. Seeing the Cursed Child play #KeeptheSecrets
  6. Ravens at the Tower of London
All the Details:
The Palace Theatre

Thursday was the start of mini-break, so I had four days without any academic trips. Thursday was also the most amazingly magical day! Megan and I had woken up early in an attempt to locate her luggage. It had not been properly delivered after being lost at the airport and we had been dissuaded from trying to pick it up ourselves by my mom. We took advantage of the morning by arranging to have it dropped off at my dorm since they had had difficulty finding where Megan was staying. After that we made our way to Covent Garden to have breakfast and find Megan some new clothes to wear until her suitcase arrived. 

The Palace Theatre, London
After shopping we were wandering around when we decided to go see the Palace Theatre where the new play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, is opening this summer. We planned to take some pictures and then continue exploring the area. However, when we were taking pictures we noticed that there was a group of people going in the side door to the box office. Tickets for preview performances have been sold out for months, so we figured we would see if there were any tickets for the weekend’s performances, but we weren’t expecting anything. We asked at the box office and were originally told that there was one ticket available for the performances that would be Thursday and Friday night. Since the play is in two parts, there were consecutive shows on Thursday and Friday or both parts on Saturday. We knew that we needed two tickets, so we didn’t think we would get to go, but then a woman walked up behind the man at the ticket counter and said something to him. We anxiously watched him click around on his screen before looking up to tell us the he actually had two tickets for that Thursday and Friday night! At this point, I’m not completely sure what exactly happened. There was some jumping and squealing and gasping, and lots of giddy laughter. We checked the price of the tickets, which were not as expensive as we thought, along with the location of the seat, which were supposed to be good, and headed outside. Outside we had an intensely emotional fan moment. For two girls that had grown up reading and watching everything Harry Potter, this was a huge opportunity to be a part of the newest instalment of the story and characters that were extremely close to our hearts. There was hugging, tears, and so much giggling that people on the street were giving us confused looks. We had just successfully gotten tickets to one of the most highly demanded shows in years, and we were spending the afternoon at the WB Studio Tour of the Harry Potter film sets, props, and costumes!

WB Studio Tour London

Butterbeer, Butterbeer Ice Cream, and my HP Passport
After calming down enough to get ourselves organized, we took a train and then a bus to get to the WB Studios. I will not go in to great detail about everything included in the tour, but know that it included sets, costumes, props, and anything else related to the making of the Harry Potter films. The tiny set of Harry’s Cupboard Under the Stairs was amazing to see. It was placed next to the line for tour entrance, so it created the mood for the whole experience by starting us at the beginning of Harry’s story. As the tour began, I found an embossing station for children to emboss a symbol on a “passport” to mark different parts of the tour. I convinced the tour worker that we were huge Harry Potter fans, and she gave us each one of the kid passports. We were able to create a great souvenir very easily! The minuscule detail used in each and every piece from the movies was mind blowing. It was also amazing to see some of the bigger set pieces like Privet Drive, Platform 9 ¾, and the Hogwarts Bridge because they made you feel like you were truly part of the magical world. My all-time favorite part was the model that was used to film outdoor shots of Hogwarts. Although it is obviously smaller than an actual castle, if you stand in the right places you can visualize the iconic views from the movies. We also treated ourselves to Butterbeer and Butterbeer ice cream (I liked the ice cream better than the drink)! The tour was amazing and showed us tons of items and details from the movies. I absolutely loved feeling like I was part of the magical world for the day!

Hogwarts Castle

Cursed Child

Since I have vowed to #KeeptheSecrets, I cannot reveal anything about the play. I will say that it was beautiful, emotional, hilarious, scary, and a true continuation of the story and characters that are treasured by so many people world-wide. I was pretty much teary-eyed throughout the entire Part I performance, and sobbed uncontrollably at the end of Part II the next night. Most of the time this had much more to do with nostalgia that actual sadness. I am always immensely impressed with J.K. Rowling and her ability to create something that continues to connect with so many people on such a deep level. I am now looking forward to reading the script that comes out at the end of July so that I can attempt to relive the experience.

Megan and I before the show

Tower of London

On Friday, we used the day to enjoy a traditional English breakfast and tour the Tower of London. We listened to a "beefeater" tour guide, saw the ravens, stood in awe of the crown jewels, walked across the tops of the walls, and investigated the inside the various towers. It was especially fun for me to be able to tell Megan some of the English history that I have been reading about for my class. That night we also went back to see Part II of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

June 15

  1. Brexit Flotilla
  2. Archives and more old books
  3. Megan came to visit me in London!!!
All the Details:
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

View from the Thames
Wednesday morning, we took the Thames Clipper boat to Greenwich, which meant that we had a front row seat to the Leave vs. Remain flotilla. We were aware that the country was gearing up for the referendum vote, but this was the first time that the campaigns became a prominent part of our day. Luckily, we missed the water hose fight between the two parties, but we did see a large boat of policemen pass our boat and head towards the collecting group.

Once we made it to Greenwich, we walked to the National Maritime Museum to see their library and archives. First, we saw some books and documents relating to various maritime events. We saw material relating to Captain Matthew Webb, who was the first to swim across the English Channel. We were shown an article detailing Webb’s unassisted swim in the Illustrated London News. Another archival material we were shown was the diary of Captain James Spratt detailing the Battle of Trafalgar. His account was lively and detailed, sounding more like a description of a pirate movie than a naval battle. Another artifact was a ticket for admission to Admiral Horatio Nelson’s funeral, accompanied by the somewhat stomach turning account of the preservation of his body leading up to the funeral. 

Next, we were taken on a tour through the main library and reading room before exploring some of the stacks. The library has spaces available for patrons looking for somewhat quiet study areas, as well as silent reading spots. They provide printing and imaging technology and computers. The library materials include records of the Admiralty, select Crew Lists, rare books, maps, folios, periodicals, and pamphlets, all relating to maritime topics. It is a rich collection of materials that are extremely helpful, especially for researchers.
National Maritime Museum Archival Items
While we were at the National Maritime Museum my friend from college, Megan, was traveling from the airport to meet up with me in Greenwich. I was so excited to hang out with her in London! We did have a problem with her luggage being lost and then not delivered properly, but we were able to work it out the next morning. On the positive side, our luggage mishap resulted in Thursday being the most AMAZING day! 

June 14

  1. A quick walk in Hyde Park past the Prince Albert Memorial
  2. Smelling an old boot that has been up Mount Everest
  3. Cream Tea...again
All the Details:
Royal Geographical Society

Our visit to the Royal Geographical Society was unique because we did not see book stacks or tour the library rooms. Instead we had the opportunity to learn about some of the items collected by the society from early exploration. The archive collects books, objects, images, and writings from and about world exploration. These materials are used in exhibits and academic study. The Principle Librarian, Eugene Rae, told us the stories of the objects and the adventurers that they came from. We were able to see objects, maps, and images of Arctic exploration done while explorers were looking for the Northwest Passage. Mr. Rae was able to show us maps and charts from the expeditions that travelled by boat through the Arctic. It was extremely interesting to see how maps have been changed and updated with modern technology. Some of the older maps include land masses that are so incorrect, it becomes obvious that the unknown portions were just filled in using the map maker’s imagination. We also saw material from exploration of central Africa, specifically the search for the source of the Nile. The stories of this type of discovery are amazing because we have become so reliant on modern mapping and GPS that we forget that there was a time when these technologies didn’t exist. No one could open a map and trust that is was 100% accurate, they had to walk the land to determine what was real. Along with these items, we also looked at objects and writings from Scott, Shackleton, and Amundson’s discoveries and travels in Antarctica. One of the most fascinating things about Shackleton’s voyage is that the crew brought a printing press along with them and printing poems and stories of their journey. All the stories and explanations were very detailed and interesting.
Artifacts from Mount Everest expeditions
I thought that some of the most captivating objects, were those that came from the climbing of Mount Everest. We saw a climbing boot from George Mallory’s 1924 ascent, and heard the story of the suspicion that he may have been the first to summit the mountain. However, this theory cannot be proven because the camera from the expedition was not recovered, and both Mallory and his climbing partner Andrew Irvine died during the climb. There were also artifacts from the successful attempt by Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay. It was a great experience to be able to see and hear about each of these amazing explorers.
After the Royal Geographical Society, we headed out to find cream tea. At this point tea and scones have become a necessary part of the day. We also went out for dinner later that night to discuss our research papers with our professors. We went to one of our favorite local places, called Bill's. They have huge pots of tea and wonderful, fresh food!
Cream Tea

June 13

  1. Barbican Public Library
  2. A wonderful, colorful children's library
  3. Sharing stories of interesting things that happen when working at a public library
  4. ZTA Trivia night
All the Details:
Barbican Library

Monday was the beginning of another week of library visits. We started with the amazing Barbican Public Library, which is one of only three public libraries within the original London city limits. We were given the grand tour by Jonathan Gibbs, who is the IT and Operations Librarian. The library is located within a group of buildings that make up the Barbican Centre. The large centre caters to theatre, art, dance, film, learning and music. It took our group some time to figure out exactly where the library entrance was within the mass of buildings, but once we found it we met up with our librarian/tour guides and were ready to go. We started with a quick look at the reference and information desk and the self-service check-out kiosks. The entrance space also includes an exhibition space for local artists to display their work. I thought that this was an excellent way to engage the public in the library space. We were led through the shelves containing non-fiction, fiction, periodicals, newspapers, audiobooks, and DVDs. One interesting feature of this library’s organization is that their original shelving is not adjustable, so the Dewey Decimal order must sometimes be interrupted so that large books can be placed on other shelving. The library has done an excellent job of labeling this shelving so that patrons can still locate the materials they need. Along with large books, some other sections have been pulled from their usual Dewey placements to make them easier to find. The travel section in the library was very impressive, containing a number of guide books and maps for places around the world. There is also a young adult section catering to teenagers, a display of materials for adults learning on their own called “Skills for Life”, a Crime Collection of vintage books, and the London Collection of books relating to London topics from 1939 to the present. Mixed in with the book shelves, there are also a number of study stations and computer areas.
Open, multi-level floor plan at the Barbican Library

After showing us around the main library, Mr. Gibbs spoke with us about the environment of the space. Due to the multi-level design and open ceiling and staircases, the Barbican Centre is maybe not always the quietest space. Mr. Gibbs talked about how events in other parts of the centre can disrupt the library at times, but usually it is not a problem. There are a number of people that use the library for a study space, borrowing material, internet access, book clubs, and courses offered by the library. The library was kind enough to have tea and biscuits for our group in their staff room, which gave us an opportunity to talk more with Mr. Gibbs. One of the questions we asked was about the weeding process used in the library. The weeding is carried out by stock librarians so that the library can accommodate as much material as possible. We also shared personal stories of the daily events of working with the public including people leaving strange things inside books and trying to sleep in the library.

We were also able to see both the Music Library and Children’s Library. Both are lucky to have spaces that are within the library, but separated from the main library area. The children’s library offers excellent events for the public including rhyme time, various clubs, and support for local schools. There is a summer reading program, film club, comic club, book clubs grouped by age, and programs that help struggling readers. One of the programs that was particularly interesting was a nation-wide program called Book Start. It provides small pouches of books for every single child in the UK. The libraries receive the books and then send them out to the children in their area. It is a wonderful way to encourage reading from a young age. The music library also does an excellent job reaching the public. There are places for musicians to advertise, practice, study, and interact. They even have a song index that makes it easier for patrons to find the music they are looking for.

The excellent tour allowed us to see the entire library and answered all of our questions. In particular, I loved the Children’s Library and hope that I can go back for another visit. This library has been one of my favorites so far because it is a place where I could see myself working.

Zeta Tau Alpha Dinner

After our tour of the Barbican, I raced off to meet with the London Zetas Abroad Alumnae group. I was lucky that I would be able to join them for dinner and trivia while I was in town. It was great to be able to talk with them about Zeta and living in London. I was reminded of the great bond between sisters across the U.S. and the world. Being a part of Zeta during my time at college was wonderful, but I also have an immediate connection with sisters wherever I travel. Although we were pretty terrible at trivia, it was a fun night of meeting new people.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

June 11 & 12

The USM British Studies program offered two optional day trips which allowed us to take coaches to see Dover Castle and Canterbury on Saturday and Stonehenge and Winchester on Sunday. It was great to get out of the busy city for a little while (even though we missed the Trooping of the Colour for the Queen’s birthday) and enjoy the rolling hills of England.

A window sill inside the main tower
Dover Castle

The castle is an imposing grey building perched at the top of a green hill. Its outer walls protect the central tower and hide many underground tunnels. When we entered the castle, a few of us decided to venture off and explore since the castle wasn’t busy yet. We found a great area to take some pictures, but at the same time we inadvertently led another group of tourists up to the same area, which meant that by trying to avoid crowds we had now put ourselves in the middle of one. We instead chose to explore the medieval tunnels under the castle. We had a ton of fun climbing stairs, walking through passages, and finding (unwelcome) spiders! After the tunnels we were able to spend some time in the gift shop before heading towards the main exhibit and tower. On our way we met a wonderful woman that hosts ghost tours at the castle, and had an entertaining chat with her. The exhibit explained how and when the castle was built and its importance to the area, while the tower showed how the residents would have lived at the time. We had a great time admiring the architecture and fancy furniture! We were also able to take a brief look at the World War II tunnels that were used as barracks for soldiers. After walking up and down hills, tunnels, and castle stairs we were exhausted, but had had a great time at Dover Castle!
The outside view of Canterbury Cathedral


We also visited the town of Canterbury on Saturday. I had joked the previous day that I was going to buy a copy of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and read it to everyone in middle English as we drove to the famous site of pilgrimage. I have a feeling that it wouldn’t have been well received by the entire coach. When we arrived we found a pub called The Shakespeare where we ate lunch. We were a little disappointed to find out that the Canterbury Cathedral of historical fame was actually not open, so we had to find other sites to see after snapping a few pictures of the outside. We ended up finding the wonderful Hospital of St. Thomas the Martyr Eastbridge, which is not a modern hospital, but acted as a place of safe haven and worship to those on pilgrimage to Canterbury after the murder of St. Thomas Becket in 1170. We were able to hear the fascinating history of the museum from one of the employees and learned that the facility still houses and aides those in need. We were able to see remnants of beautiful old frescos, a small chapel, and an amazing stained glass window. It was a wonderful way to learn more about the community. Finally, we took a quick walk through a public library, because that’s what happens when a bunch of librarians are let loose on a town!


On Sunday we had another early morning coach ride. This time it took us to Stonehenge, the site of the famous Neolithic monument! Personally, Stonehenge is one of my favorite places that I have ever been. I think I could literally spend hours there soaking up what I feel is a deep sense of history and power. Now, this feeling could all be credited to one too many Outlander novels, but to me the idea that people spent such a large amount of time and effort on Stonehenge proves that it is a place of immense importance. The site has remained remote enough that you can still feel surrounded by nature as you walk around the monument. This closeness with nature, ancientness of the stone, and the mystery shrouding the methods and reasons for its creation make Stonehenge a truly magical location. I was especially excited that we had a short period of sunshine while making our way around the path. We actually almost left, but after deciding to spend a few more minutes enjoying the beauty of the monument we were rewarded with about three minutes of sunlight!

The Winchester Round Table

After Stonehenge we traveled to Winchester. We visited the Great Hall at Winchester Castle to see King Arthur’s Round Table. Although the table is painted to show King Arthur and his knights, the table is believed to have been built for King Edward I of England in the 13th century and was later painted for King Henry VIII. The large table is actually hung on the wall to allow visitor to view it without exposing it to possible damage. The paintings show Arthur’s knights placed around the table with Henry VIII in Arthur’s place above a Tudor rose. I have always loved Arthurian stories, so seeing the admiration and respect that kings of England had for the legends was amazing. Like Stonehenge, the mystery and stories surrounding the table and King Arthur intrigue me. Along with the stained glass coat of arms, the table makes the Great Hall a magnificent room. I also loved the small garden outside the Great Hall that was built for Queen Eleanor. It was a beautiful small space that would have been perfect for a queen to use as a private garden escape. Before leaving Winchester we were able to stop by the wonderful cathedral where Jane Austen is buried. We saw the plain stone marking her grave in the floor of the cathedral, as well as the more elaborate dedications that were added by her nephew and the public celebrating her writing. We had a great weekend seeing so many important sites of England!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

June 10


  1. Enjoying the peacefulness of Regent's Park
  2. Finally feeling a sense of accomplishment about my school work
  3. Appreciating the amazing amount of time and attention to detail that goes in to library conservation
  4. And apparently I didn't take a single picture this day...

All the Details:

Regent’s Park

On Friday morning I decided to head to Regent’s Park to get some school work done. I love how easy it is in London to go from a busy area full of loud tourists to a peaceful setting like the parks. I was able to sit on a bench and enjoy the day, and actually got a lot of work done. Then I headed over to the British Library to meet up with my class.

British Library Conservation Centre 

At the British Library Conservation Centre we got a small look into some of the ways that the conservation team works with the library and its patrons. They are responsible for maintaining, not only the print collection held by the library, but also the textiles, artwork, manuscripts, and other pieces in the collections. The conservation team is also very involved in the digitization and exhibition processes. Once a year the conservationists take time to create a prioritized list of materials needing attention to help them focus on items that need the most care. They consider how often the item is used, its current condition, and its unique qualities that add value to the collection. In addition, materials that will be on exhibition or loan to other locations must be checked and prepared beforehand. The over-arching idea of conservation is that any work done to a material must always be reversible. As a result, the team has developed fascinating ways of preserving materials in a way that can be undone if necessary.

After a general introduction we spoke with a conservationist that is currently working on piecing together small fragments of documents found untouched inside remote caves. The documents had been folded and stacked together, forming a large pile of papers. It is the conservationist’s job to pull apart the fragments and piece them back together again in their original order. I was in awe of the skill required to take on a project of this scale. We were basically watching her turn a pile of decaying trash into readable text. Not only must she determine which parts of the pile are from which documents, she also has to place the fragments together to form text, digitize the results, and translate the writing. I was extremely impressed by the final result, which was placed inside a protective plastic cover.

Next we were able to see a small demonstration about book bindings. We were shown examples of many different ways that books can be sewn and bound and then got to see blank pages being sewn together to form a whole new book. The goal of a book binder is to preserve the original binding or replace it with a new binding as similar to the original as possible. Sewing the book binding looked like a fun job to have in the Conservation Centre!

We also got to see how the textiles conservationist is repairing two very fragile flags from the late 1770s. Unfortunately, the flags are in very bad shape and have lost almost all of their original patterns and colors. The textiles specialist has been able to flatten them after years of being rolled up and cleaned them to rid them of a large amount of dirt and soot. The time spent on projects like this is absolutely amazing! Another time consuming project we saw was focused on the digitization of the Hebrew collection at the British Library. The conservationist involved in the project showed us how she uses non-reactive fabrics and gelatin to protect the printed materials. This reduces moisture damage to the pages and ink. Overall, the visit was informative and fascinating. I had always known that conservation played a part in taking care of library materials, but I was not aware of the extensive time and precise technique that was involved. Conservation is definitely a topic that I would like to continue learning more about.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

June 9

  1. A fabulous archivist that overcomes library challenges on a daily basis
  2. Camel Leopards
  3. Powerful images of London during World War II
  4. A farmer's market
  5. Richard Madden and Lily James in Romeo & Juliet

All the Details:
British Museum Archives

The British Museum Archives tour was extremely interesting because of the way that the material relating to the museum collections has been organized in the past. No catalog of the archive has been kept, which is in direct contrast to the detailed catalog that was maintained for The British Library, which split from the museum. The single archivist on staff, Ms. Francesca Hillier, must answer all inquiries with only her knowledge of where to look in the collection and help from three volunteers. She spoke of a recent inquiry about giraffes that she had difficulty answering. After looking through many volumes and documents, she discovered that the older materials referred to giraffes as “camel leopards”. Changes like this also make it difficult for the archive to collect and organize materials well. She is currently working on a catalog, but the lack of organization and randomly bound archive materials has made this task extremely difficult. She must constantly make decisions about valuable materials and documents without any precedent leading her choices.

The Reading Room
The collection consists of documents with no relation to one another that are bound into large leather books. Some are labeled Original Papers, others are Committee Papers, and the later are Board Papers. These seem to all be similar collections and the changes in name vary throughout the years with no explanation. There are also financial records and staff records that are kept. There are books labeled Departments in Particular, Departments Generally, and even one for the Committee of Cats which kept track of the many cats living on the premises. Within these groups many are bound in leather, while others are kept separately in boxes. There were also six volumes that were transferred into two volumes and two boxes focusing on Lawrence of Arabia. Some of the more organized and useful materials are original guidebooks that describe in detail how the collections at the museum were set up over many years. Due to the lack of organization, the archivist stated that for much of the information in the collection no one knows the facts and “anyone that does know is lying”. She has now put in place policies that will allow her to aid the archive and museum in moving forward with their collection.

It was sad to hear that the beautiful reading room, built by Sir Anthony Panizzi, is no longer in use. It essentially sits empty and underutilized. It is unfortunate that such a beautiful space and historic collection are not seen by the public, which was the original intent. Ms. Hillier is currently working to have the reading room opened to support public access to the archival records.

One of the most powerful things we saw in the archive was a fragment of an incendiary device and photos of the destruction caused by the bombing of London during World War II. This hit me particularly hard because I have heard the stories of the bombings that my grandmother lived through. To see those pieces of history and to know that they had affected my grandmother was a very emotionally charged experience.

This archive, although it poses many challenges, holds many important and valuable materials that would be rewarding to work with. The archivist has plans to create a catalog and organize the materials in way that would make it more accessible to the public, which is especially important for a public archive. 

Lunch with Jessica Green

After the British Museum, we walked down to a small library that focuses on the Holocaust and genocide. One of the British Studies alumni, Jessica Green, works at this library and we had the opportunity to speak to her about her library work. We walked past the library to a farmer’s market and sat with Jessica while we all ate lunch. There was a great brick oven pizza truck where we got freshly made pizza! It was great to hear about her experiences moving to the UK and working in a library environment. She gave us great information about how her library has been digitizing materials and the struggles that come with this task. This was particularly important because most of us will encounter similar problems since so many libraries are now expected to have a digital presence.

Romeo and Juliet

My signed ticket
That evening we got ready and set out from our dorm to the Garrick Theatre for Kenneth Branagh’s Romeo & Juliet. We were extremely excited to see this new version of Shakespeare’s iconic tragedy. The play was set, still in Verona, but it the 1950s. This was reflected in the costumes and music used to enhance the performance. Richard Madden looked amazing, as always, in his suit, and was the perfect brooding Romeo. Lily James played up Juliet’s immaturity and innocence in Act I with her bouncy and girly body language, but was equally as believable in Act II in her grief over Tybalt’s death and Romeo’s banishment. Her changing maturity throughout the play was wonderfully done. Derek Jacobi, playing Mercutio, was excellently comedic and added great fun to the ultimately sad story. The story was beautiful and frustrating, because the audience so desperately wants the two to avoid the disastrous end they know is coming. This performance was absolutely amazing, a definite must-see! We were even able to briefly say hello to both Richard Madden and Lily James at the stage door, where they were gracious enough to sign autographs. They were both so kind and took the time to make everyone feel special.
Meeting Lily James