Monday, March 30, 2009

Reading Text in Rolled Documents

For the past three years, in the course of my teaching conservation and preservation at St. Kate's, I've mentioned the challenge of reading texts hidden in rolled or multi-layered objects such as scrolls. Kevin Driedger noted the following video on his blog and I thought I'd share it here as well. It is exciting to think about the texts that may come to light through the process described in this video. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Evan Ira Farber 1922-2009

There was one bit of news that hit me just as I was arriving in London on Ash Wednesday that I pondered the entire time I was in England, but didn't comment on until now: the passing of Evan Ira Farber. His obituary, as given by his good friends at Earlham College is here. Evan was the library director emeritus of Earlham and, as the obituary states, "a dominant figure in the academic library world." He "developed a new concept of college libraries and college librarianship in the 1960s, '70s and '80s and encouraged hundreds of college students to enter the library profession."

By the time I met Evan I'd already decided to enter the profession. But he still had a huge impact on the direction of my career. In graduate school I was very interested in bibliographic instruction, the way to intertwine the library and its collections with teaching and curricula. Today we call it "information literacy"; back in the '80s it was "BI." And Evan was the center of the BI universe. For my final paper for the MA I decided to write about Evan and the Earlham program he had established. In the course of my research I corresponded with Evan and talked with him over the phone. He was very generous in supplying information, much of it finding its way into my paper (which you can find listed in WordCat): "A study of the influence of the Earlham College library user instruction program on bibliographic instruction within the library profession." [2], 135 leaves ; 28 cm. (M.A.)--University of Minnesota, 1982. Happily, a copy found its way into the Earlham library collection.

But my connection with Evan did not end there. My first professional position was at Barat College in Lake Forest, Illinois (sadly, no longer in existence.) Barat had been an active participant in the Earlham workshops and I wanted to take advantage of that relationship and experience the workshop first-hand. So a year or so into my tenure I gathered a few faculty members and together we travelled to Earlham.

Here's a bit more from the Earlham obituary: "It was as College Librarian at Earlham College from 1962 to 1994, that Evan made his mark. He became one of the country's most articulate spokespersons for college librarianship and bibliographic instruction. Hundreds of academic leaders and librarians studied the model college library program he created at Earlham. They attended Earlham and then Earlham-Eckerd conferences on bibliographic instruction and the college library, and then returned home to apply their knowledge at their own institutions."

"Evan's leadership in college librarianship ran counter to the conventional wisdom of the time and he spoke, consulted and wrote prolifically to counter those accepted ideas. Perhaps his most famous thesis, that "the library is not the heart of the college, the teaching-learning process is," not only rankled his peers, but also caused them to rethink their professional roles and the services offered by their libraries. In debunking such conventional wisdom, Evan illuminated the real importance of the college library and articulated ideas that today have become central tenants of modern librarianship: the meaningful value of a college library is the degree to which it helps students learn and faculty teach. College librarians' most important responsibility is to work closely with the teaching faculty to educate students about how to use information resources as a key part of their education. This is the legacy he leaves and the challenge he places before present and future librarians."

"His influence extended beyond Earlham College and its model program." Indeed, it did. When I came to Earlham to participate in the workshop I had the chance, finally, to meet Evan face to face. We met in his office and there, on the table, was a copy of my paper. I don't remember everything that we talked about, but I did sense his appeciation of my work. At the same time, there was a sense of modesty about the man. He, indeed, did bring people together through the workshops. But I think he saw the greater worth in what was being taken away and adapted to local situations at campuses around the country. I also remember an added bonus of our meeting, the chance to meet Tom Kirk, another influential member in the BI field who worked closely with Evan.

I remember, at the time, a deep sense of appreciation and thanks for everything Evan was doing and for how he had shaped my own sense of librarianship. I shared this with him at the time. And I do so now. He was one of the giants in the profession. Thank you, Evan, for your generosity and energy and passion and sharing. I will always treasure that time when our paths crossed.

Clay Shirky, worth reading

A very interesting post by Clay Shirky, well worth the read: Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable. I need to re-subscribe to his blog!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Back home!

Just a short note to say that I'm back home safe and sound. The trip to Minneapolis, like the many little expeditions I took over the last two weeks, went smoothly. I'm very thankful for health and safety during my trip. A cold, the flu, a sprained ankle or anything of the sort could have put a real damper on my time. But nothing like that happened. Sure, I had to deal with a couple of sore feet and blisters early on, but those didn't hinder me from doing what I wanted to do and seeing what I wanted to see. And they (my feet) got better as the trip progressed (plus, they were self-inflicted injuries and therefore something I could control, to some extent). Anyway, all of this is just to acknowledge thankfulness for a trip that went through the two weeks without a glitch, hitch or hindrance.

As for the final hours in London, I tried to nap between midnight and five in the morning, but wasn't very successful. Everything was packed and waiting by the door, so at five I headed down to the desk, checked out (I was told the afternoon before that the desk was always open, 24 hours a day, but I'm afraid I disturbed the slumber of the one on duty when I wanted to check out) and walked over to the Russell Square Underground station. It didn't open until 5:30 (something I hadn't been aware of before hand), so waited about twenty minutes until they opened the gates. From there is was down the lift to the platform and then off in the train for terminal 4 at Heathrow. I think it took about an hour from Russell Square to the airport, so I arrived just as I had hoped, about three hours before flight departure.

I didn't have any luggage to check so got my boarding pass, went through security, and made my way to gate 9. Along the way I spotted a coffee shop so (wanting to use some of the last of my change) I ordered a decaf and blueberry muffin. About twenty minutes later I was back to order another blueberry muffin and a chocolate twist. (My coffee mug was huge, so of course I had to have something to go with it.) Careful planning pretty much paid off; I had less than two pounds left on my Oyster card and about four pounds left in change, most of that in pound coins (that I can use the next time I come to London).

A pleasant surprise, in the person of Phil Styrlund, greeted me at the gate. Phil had been in the UK and other parts of Europe on business, giving a number of keynote addresses to various meetings. He was now on his way home. (We met through our wives; Phil's wife and mine have the exact same birthday and had taught together at Minnehaha Academy.) It was great to see him again and catch up. We both have an interest in C. S. Lewis and English pubs, among other things. He knew about one of the pubs I visited in Portsmouth.

Pretty soon our flight was called and we headed on board and to our seats. We were about ten minutes delayed from our take-off time, but made the time up in the air (cruising most of the time at 40,210 feet, plus or minus a couple of feet). During the flight I watched a couple of movies--Quantum of Solice and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen--and tried to catch a few winks. There was a bit of unexpected turbulence, but all-in-all it was a smooth flight. We had a hard touchdown in Minneapolis, but made it to our gate (G9) without problem. From there it was through Customs and then a call to Beth (who had been skiing earlier in the day with my sister) to pick me up. They were having coffee at IKEA, so it was a short wait for me before they came to get me. And then it was home, to be greeted by Grover (the pooch we've been taking care of for friends).

This was supposed to be a short note--it went on for a bit longer than that--but now I'm home. I'll be back in the office on Monday. Between now and then I'll try to take it easy, watch the high school hockey tournament on television, and try to get my body and spirit back into a new time zone. I was hoping for Spring when I returned. I'll probably get a hint of it this weekend. Yesterday, however, it was about 10 degrees F (-12 C) when we got off the plane. This has been a good old-fashioned Minnesota winter.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Last day in London

Well its just about time to come home. In about ten hours I'll be checking out and heading to the Tube station for the ride to Heathrow airport. I have a mid-morning flight and will arrive back in Minneapolis in the mid-afternoon (I still can't quite work out how that happens when you fly to the west).

I spent most of the day at the Tower of London. That's the White Tower to the left, finished by William the Conqueror sometime around 1100. I walked to the Tower by way of the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange. It was a nice day for a walk; by the time I came back to my digs I'd logged 18,946 steps on my pedometer. I arrived at the Tower shortly after it opened at 9am and investigated some of the grounds on my own before coming back to the main entrance gate for a guided tour by our Yeoman Warder, Bob. He was very good. I probably read and remembered somewhere that the Yeoman Warders live on the grounds of the Tower, with their families. They are locked in every night at 10. What I didn't know or remember is that you have to have put in significant military service (in any branch but the Royal Navy; they're not eligible for consideration, according to Bob) before you can apply and be considered as a Yeoman Warder. Bob had served for thirty-six years. He was both informative and comical as a guide (with a bit of the drill sergeant thrown in) and took us to various locations within the Tower grounds, ending at the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula (St. Peter in Chains). After the tour another member of our group took a picture of the two of us. Here's that image for your viewing pleasure.

Our tour with Bob lasted about an hour and then we were free to explore the grounds on our own. I went to see the Crown Jewels first. It did not take long to understand why they are so heavily guarded. I don't think I've seen so many diamonds in my life. One is the size of an egg. Between all the gems and gold it pretty much takes your breath away. Its quite staggering. Its also staggering to think that at least a few of those pieces are used on at least an annual basis by the queen. I wondered how they're transported from the Tower to palace when they're used; under heavy guard, I'm sure. After the Crown Jewels it was off to the other towers and parts of the grounds. Early in the afternoon I popped into the "New Armouries Restaurant" for a hot turkey sandwich, some grilled veggies, apple juice and mineral water. While eating, I contemplated the last few sights I wanted to see.

In the end I decided to take the Tube from Tower Hill to Victoria. This also gave me the chance to check the balance on my Oyster card to make sure I had enough left on the card for my trip to Heathrow in the morning (I do). From Victoria I headed for the Vauxhall Bridge. I had decided that one of my sights would be another fortress on the Thames, the headquarters building of the Secret Intelligence Service, sometimes referred to as MI6 (the counterpart to our CIA). From there I walked up Millbank to find the headquarters of the Security Service, MI5 (similar to our FBI) at Thames House. I then headed across the Lambeth Bridge to get a peek at Lambeth Palace, the official London residence for the Archbishop of Canterbury. I walked entirely around the grounds (I couldn't get into the actual palace grounds) and then went back across the Lambeth Bridge for a final view of the Houses of Parliament, the Thames, and the London Eye. And then it was on to one last sight, one related to Sherlock Holmes. I had seen it on Sunday, but did not have a photograph. It was of the site of Holmes possible lodgings at No. 24 Montague Street, around the corner from the British Museum. I found the building, now the Ruskin Hotel, and took a picture. By then my legs and feet were telling me it was time to head back home. The sun was setting anyway, so I arrived back to my upper floor room and a view of a final sunset in London.

Its been a fantastic trip in terms of work accomplished, people met and sights seen. But I'm ready to head for home. I've got 40+ pages of notes from my research that I need to digest, put into a final report to the Friends of the Library and use for updating my Holmes/Doyle bibliography. But that will wait for later. Now its time to pack things up, take a little bit of a nap, and then get up before the sun and head for the Tube and airport. I hope you've enjoyed following my travels here on this blog. If you're a friend of mine on Facebook you've had a chance to look at my pictures as well. I'll be happy to share those photos with any of you that aren't on Facebook. One small warning in advance--I've taken somewhere around 580 pictures on this trip, so it may take a little time to view them all. Anyway, that's all from London. My next post will probably come from the other side of the Pond (unless I have a late-night inspiring thought to add here before taking off).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A note on time stamps on postings

I'm not sure what's happening with the time stamps on my blog postings. The last one says it was posted at 3:10 pm. Its actually five hours later than that in London, i.e. 20:10 (or 8:10pm). I thought I changed this setting earlier, but possibly not. Not a big deal, but just wanted to note it. Throughout the trip I've generally been posting in the evening (although today I posted while working at the BL). Enough said.

Tuesday after the BL

Just wanted to give a quick follow-up on the rest of my day at the British Library. It turned out that the "Three-Quarter" manuscript, designated "Select" by the library, had been sitting in the service area the entire time. A light at my desk was supposed to alert me to its readiness, but such light never shone. But no damage done. I had the chance to see the manuscript anyway. That was after having an afternoon coffee/tea break with Kimberly. I gave her an update on my travels and we had another good chat. I'm really glad we could get together for a second time before I head back home. She's off giving a lecture tomorrow; I'm sure it will go well for her.

After coffee/tea it was back to the manuscript reading room and a chance to look at the "Missing Three-Quarter" work. As you may have noted from the BL catalog description I posted earlier, it was a joint gift to the library, representing both sides of the Pond. It includes Vincent Starrett's bookplate and autograph along with a separate dedication/gift page from the donors. The binding, in vellum, is similar to other ACD manuscripts that I've seen, including our own "Horror of the Heights." I needed to return the manuscript (and get back my reader's card in exchange) a half-hour before the reading room closed, so I was back to the desk just before 4:30. From there it was back to the locker room to collect the rest of my things and then spend a little time out-of-doors on the plaza before meeting Catherine and Andrew.

The three of us met about an hour later; Andrew treated us to coffee (and me a muffin) from the BL cafe. We found a table (it was quite busy when we arrived) and had a good conversation for almost the next two hours. We talked about my visit to Portsmouth, the upcoming conference at Harvard and other things Holmesian and literary. Andrew gave a talk at the BL about a week ago for the Friends of the British Library. We caught up on other threads and before we knew it the time had flown. My only regret was that I'd forgotten to pack the Norwegian Explorers pin to give to Catherine; it was still back in my room. I'll either drop it off at the library tomorrow or give it to her at Harvard in May.

In some ways its hard to believe that I have just one full day left in London before its time to go home. In other ways I'm ready to pack up, head home and stop living out of a suitcase. I've got a few more sights/sites to check out tomorrow (given to me by friends both before and during the trip) related to Holmes. I'm planning on doing those later in the day; the Tower of London is calling and will most likely be the first thing on the agenda. No pictures today. I'm sure there will be some tomorrow. Time to put up my feet.

Still waiting for the Missing Three-Quarter

I'm still waiting for the Holmes story manuscript, but here's a description from the BL manuscript catalog:

50065. 'THE ADVENTURE OF THE MISSING THREE-QUARTER', by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; bef. 1904. Autograph fair copy with autograph corrections, partly in pencil. Differs slightly from the first edition printed in The Strand Magazine, xxviii, 1904, pp. 123-35, and reprinted in The Return of Sherlock Holmes, 1905, pp. 308-36. See B.M.Q., xxii, 1960, pp. 54-6. Formerly owned by Vincent Starrett (bookplate, f. ii; signature, f. ivb), and, until 1959, by Rollin Van Nostrand Hadley (bookplate, f. iii). Presented (inscription on f. vb) on the occasion of the centenary of the author's birth, 22 May 1859, through the Friends of the National Libraries, jointly by James Bliss Austin, Lew David Feldman, E. T. Guymon, Rollin Van Nostrand Hadley and Edgar Wadsworth Smith, all of the United States, and by the Sherlock Holmes Society of London.
Paper; ff. vi+26. Folio. Circa 1904. White vellum binding.

I'm hoping it will show up soon. We'll see.

Tuesday at the British Library

At the moment I'm at table 1049 in the Manuscripts Reading Room of the British Library. I came right after opening this morning and went first to Reader Registration to get my reader's card. This process goes very quickly, provided you have all the necessary documentation. For me it was driver's license, passport, and business card. You fill out an online form, review and agree to the regulations for use, and then sit for a picture and the production of your card. The card is good for three years. After registration I went down to the locker room, found a locker for my bag, coat and sweater. It costs a pound for use of the locker, but you get your money back when you open your locker with the key; much like our lockers back in Andersen Library. I grabbed my laptop, pencils and notepad, put them in the BL plastic carrier bag, and headed to the Manuscripts Reading Room. I'd done some research last night so knew what manuscripts I wanted to view. After presenting my card to the attendant near the door I found a table, got set up, and then went to the service desk and requested a couple of application tickets to request the items I wanted to see. Then it was back to my desk, fill out the requests, put them in the metal wicker basket back on the counter, wait for the items and do some additional background research on the web. This meant registering for the BL's free wireless service, another quick and easy procedure.

Here's a description from the BL's manuscript catalog of the first item I looked at:

63596. CASEMENT PETITION PAPERS: correspondence and papers of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Clement K. Shorter, editor of The Sphere, concerning their petition to the government to reprieve Roger Casement, sentenced to death for high treason, 29 June 1916; 1916. Partly printed. Purchased from David J. Holmes Autographs, Philadelphia, Cat. II, lot 62, 7 Aug. 1985.
Paper; ff. 176. Individual items mounted and bound in dark green morocco with gilt tooling, including Irish emblems, by Rivière, in a cloth slipcase. 288 x 233mm.
1. ff. 2-3. One of twelve privately printed copies of A Petition to the Prime Minister on behalf of Roger Casement by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1916).
2. ff. 4-22. Correspondence between Conan Doyle and Shorter, July 1916, including a draft, 2 July, to Shorter from G. Gavan Duffy, Casement's solicitor; letters to Doyle and Shorter from the Home Office acknowledging receipt of the Petition; and a letter from Shorter on the same subject, 26, 27 July; 2-30 July 1916, n.d.
3. ff. 23-61. Thirty-seven printed petitions, returned to Shorter, signed by supporters, the latter include: William Archer, Arnold Bennett, G. K. Chesterton, Will Crooks, John Drinkwater, John Galsworthy, Alice Gomme, Maurice Hewlett, Jerome K. Jerome, John Masefield, H. W. Massingham, C. P. Scott, Ben Tillett, Sidney and Beatrice Webb and Israel Zangwill.
4. ff. 62-75. Newscutting from the New York American; 14 March 1915. Printed. Containing Casement's allegation that Britain tried to kidnap him in Norway.
5. ff. 76-176. Eighty-six letters, eighty-four of them to Shorter and two to Conan Doyle, relating to the petition, from supporters and opposers; 1916. The writers include: Alfred Austin, John Burns, Viscount Bryce, Sidney Colvin, Edward Carpenter, J. L. Garvin, Viscount Haldane, Rudyard Kipling, Sir Arthur Pinero, Eden Phillpotts, George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells and W. B. Yeats. Two replies were written copies of the standard letter sent out with the petition by Shorter on 7 July.

I just finished looking at this about a half hour ago. I'm a little concerned about seeing the second manuscript I've requested, one of the Holmes stories, "The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter." While working through the Casement manuscript one of the staff members came out to talk to me about my request for the Holmes story. It turns out that this manuscript is a "Select" case that requires a letter of introduction in order to view it. I indicated that I was a curator of rare books at the U of M and asked who would be the person to write on my behalf. Basically, the answer was someone who knows me and could vouch for my character. The staff member indicated that they could sign off on my request as a "one off" but that I would need a letter if I had requests for other such manuscripts. I assured the staff member that this was the only one I was interested in at the moment, so my request could go forward.

That was a few hours ago, however, and I'm now a bit worried that I won't have enough time as I've agreed to meet Kimberly for tea/coffee at about 3:30. I've still got more than an hour, and maybe they'll hold it for me if I have to step out a bit. We'll just have to see. The only other item on my agenda is later, at 5:30, when I'm meeting Andrew and Catherine. Let's see how the afternoon unfolds. More later, but I'll say this for now--its interesting being on the "other side" of the fence as a researcher. The reading room is quite full. It brings back some memories of my undergraduate days when I spent time in the manuscript reading room of the Newberry Library.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Monday in London

I couldn't resist taking this picture yesterday. Its of the "Texas Embassy" cantina near Trafalgar Square. I'm wondering if someone from the "Lone Star State" is behind this. Leave it to a Texan to create their own "embassy" in a world capital. Don Hobbs would be amused. Maybe he's visited?

Not too much to report; its a working day. I've spent most of the day catching up on writing, e-mail, updating my blog, working with photos, and keeping in touch with Andrew Lycett. It looks like we'll be getting together tomorrow. I don't know if Catherine Cooke will be able to join us, but am looking forward to seeing Andrew again. I may still wander up to the British Library for a few hours yet today. Other than that there's not much on in terms of wandering about the City. I'm still hoping to visit the Tower of London (the last item on my checklist of things to do and see), but we'll have to see how things unfold. I thinking at this point that most of tomorrow will be spent at the British Library. I may see if Kimberly is available for coffee. Its now coming up on mid-afternoon, so I may search the BL catalog and put together a list of things I'd like to look at tomorrow. Maybe I'll save the Tower for my last full day. The end of the trip is drawing nearer, but its been very good and productive.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sunday in London

My day in outline: Charles Dickens' House Museum and Library, Great Ormond Street Hospital, British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Trafalgar Square, Admiralty Arch, Whitehall, No. 10 Downing Street, Horse Guards, Churchill Wartime Cabinet Rooms Museum, Parliament Square and Churchill statue, New Scotland Yard, and evensong at St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Pedometer count today: 15,837. My feet are back in working order. And I'm pooped! I'll flesh out these days, but wanted to get the outlines down so you get some sense of what I've been doing since Thursday. The picture at left is of the British Museum.

Here's the fuller version of my day. Last night I plotted a number of sites on my map of London and decided to follow the trail I'd marked out for as long as daylight (and my body) allowed. I'm a very short distance from the Charles Dickens' House Museum and Library so wandered south from my digs to get a couple of photos. The house was not yet open, but I was not planning on an extended visit. From there I headed back to Guilford Street and then south to Great Ormond Street and the Children's Hospital. I had a recollection that there was a Peter Pan sculpture near the entrance to the hospital and wanted to see it, if possible. The author J. M. Barrie bequeathed all his rights to his work, Peter Pan, to the hospital. Over the years those rights have generated quite an income for the hospital, but I believe that Peter Pan has, or is about to, enter the public domain and the income from those rights cease for the hospital. I walked along Great Ormond, found the entrance to the hospital and with it the small garden to the left of the entrance that contains the Peter Pan sculpture. With a few more "snaps" in the camera I headed southwest to Russell Square and then on to the British Museum.

There are a number of references to the British Museum in the Holmes canon. For instance, we have Holmes saying in The Musgrave Ritual, "When I first came up to London I had rooms in Montague Street, just round the corner from the British Museum, and there I waited, filling in my too abundant leisure time by studying all those branches of science which might make me more efficient." I myself walked Montague Street and wondered where Holmes might have stayed. And, on entering the Museum, quickly sensed what riches were housed within its collections. I spent quite a bit of time viewing exhibits from the ancient world, especially Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Rome. And, of course, I had to see the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon. I took a number of pictures, especially of some of the cuneiform inscripts and cylinder seals, but also of some of the more monumental pieces. The old Reading Room is not accessible to the public, but I did enjoy the chance to wander through the Enlightenment exhibit in the area that once housed King George III's library. That library is now at the British Library, displayed much like the books at the Beinecke Library at Yale. One could spend hours, if not days, at the British Museum, but I wanted to see some other sights so after a couple of hours moved on.

From the Museum I headed over to Charing Cross Road, in search of the legendary address of "84 Charing Cross Road." I found the site and noticed a number of other booksellers along the way. I didn't take any pictures during this part of my stroll, but you can check out this website for more information on this famous literary address.

Moving south along Charing Cross Road I came to Garrick Theatre, a statue of Henry Irving, and the National Portrait Gallery. I hadn't intended to visit this gallery, but knew that some of Doyle's family were represented in the collection, so stepped in for a look. I concentrated on the Victorian artists, looking for any portraits by a Doyle. I didn't find any, but there is a way to search the collections through their web site. If you enter "Doyle" as a search term you'll get a number of hits for items related to Doyle family members.

After an hour or so in the gallery I moved on to Trafalgar Square, a view of the National Gallery (sorry, no time to visit, but I'll put it down for a future visit), Nelson's Column, and the Admiralty Arch, where I snapped a few more photographs before moving down Whitehall. I wanted to get a better view of No. 10 Downing Street then I had during my first visit, so headed in that direction. Along the way I stopped at the Horse Guards where both horse and guard(s) were on display and available for pictures. I took advantage of the situation and snapped a few shots. From there it was down Whitehall to catch a glimpse of No. 10 Downing Street. Access is now limited so the best you can do is get a look through the fencing and gates and on down the street. But it was still great to see.

Walking a little farther south I spied a sign directing me towards the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms. I had not intended to visit this museum today, but as it was only about 2pm I had plenty of time. So I turned off Whitehall, walked past the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and came to the entrance of the Churchill Museum. This was one of the "must sees" on my list before I left home, so I was thrilled to finally get the chance. I've been a long-time fan of Churchill, so this was a special experience. It was very nice to get an audio guide as part of the admission price; this interpreted much of what I saw in the underground spaces. The biggest surprise for me was the extensive Churchill Museum that is adjacent to the Cabinet War Rooms. I spent a long time looking through the exhibits and videos. One thing that was particularly interesting to see again was a video clip from Churchill's funeral. I remember seeing some of this on television as a young boy. I didn't think of taking pictures during the first part of my visit, so don't have a photographic record of the Cabinet Room or some of the earlier rooms on the tour, but I took a few pictures during the later half of the tour. I think I was worried about conserving my batteries; I wanted to get a picture later on of the Churchill statue in Parliament Square (which I did). This, indeed, is a "must see" for anyone interested in Churchill and WWII; highly recommended.

On coming out of the Churchill Museum I noticed that it had rained while I was underground. But now the sun was out and the sky a deep blue. So I took myself over to Parliament Square and a view of the Churchill statue before moving past Westminster Abbey and down Victoria Street to the last item on my checklist for the day--New Scotland Yard. It wasn't hard to find, although I had to turn the corner before finding the revolving sign that I've seen on some of the mystery programs on television. A short way up the street from Scotland Yard was another surprise, one I wasn't sure I'd find--the earlier headquarters building for the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS/MI6). It was located on Broadway and looked just as I'd pictured it in my mind. I thought of all that had gone on in the building as the Kim Philby saga unfolded. I also thought of one of my favorite spy movies, "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" based on the book by one of my favorite authors, John le Carré.

From Broadway and spy story memories I moved back up towards Trafalgar Square. Here I was met with another delight and surprise in the form of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Out of curiosity I went up to the church to check their schedule for the day. It was just a few minutes before 5 and an evensong was about to begin. I decided to take the opportunity and went in for the service. I'd missed an evensong in Portsmouth and was determined to get one more in before I left for home. This was the perfect time and place. St. Martin-in-the-Fields seems to be a very active church, with a sensitivity to its surroundings and an outreach to the community. It was a good place to end a very full day.

After evensong I wandered back toward "home," stopping along the way at the same market I'd visited during my first stay to buy a sandwich (crab and sweet corn), some mineral water, and cookies (chocolate chip). Then it was back to my room. I uploaded more pictures from the day and was pleasantly surprised when Clarisa popped up on Facebook Chat. She's on the West coast, in Oregon, with the Gospel Choir from North Park. Apparently her bus is fixed with wireless, so she could communicate while on the road. Pretty neat! It was great to touch base. I also chatted earlier with Steve Forbes, an old friend from North Park days. By 10pm the eyelids were starting to drop and it was time to call it a day.

Saturday: Farewell, Portsmouth; Hello, London

My Saturday in brief outline: check-out at Holiday Inn; 10:20 train from Portsmouth Southsea to Waterloo; Tube from Waterloo to Euston station; walk to Goodenough Club; check-in, catch up, and take it easy. The image to the left is from Waterloo Station.

There's not much to add about my Saturday experience. I arrived at the train station in Portsmouth & Southsea just minutes before the 10:20 train was set to depart for London. It was a faster train then my journey south, with fewer stops, so we made good time. I believe I arrived at Waterloo around noon.

The Tube was busy, but not overcrowded, so it was a fairly painless trip on the Northern Line to Euston station. From there I found my way out of the station, walked east along Euston Road and crossed over near the British Library for the walk south along Judd Street. This was a different route then I'd taken before from the British Library, but it was just right and not as crowded as Gray's Inn Road. At Brunswick Square the road jogged east and south and then to Guilford Street and the walk east to Goodenough College and Club. It was early afternoon and still before check-in time, but it turned out they had a room ready for me. It took a bit of huffing and puffing to make it to the top floor with my luggage, and to work out the maze of corridors and doors, but well worth the struggle. The room is sunny and bright (a welcome change from the basement room I had on my last stay) and overlooks the square.

I settled into the room and spent the rest of the day catching up with e-mail, news and uploading photos to my Facebook page. I had 1,000+ items waiting for me on my Google Reader, but absent a newspaper or much other news from the states for the last week it was a nice way to catch up on happenings back home. (I did get two days of USA Today during my stay in Portsmouth.) All in all a quiet day. I spent the final part of the day mapping out my activities for the remainder of my stay in London. It didn't take much to fall asleep. It was a full week.

Friday and my sixth day in Portsmouth

Its Sunday night and I thought I'd get caught up with everything by now, but I'm still a little behind. So, in the interim, I'm going to give you a really short outline of the last few days and then come back and edit and fill out the days a bit. The image to the left is of the building that houses the Portsmouth City Museum and Records Office.

As for Friday: walk down Kings Road to site of Doyle's surgery; back to Archives to spend last couple hours looking at radio scripts; wonderful lunch with Claire, Neil and Stephen Baily, Head of Cultural Services, Portsmouth City Council at the American Bar; most excellent exhibits and an amazing tapestry at the D-Day Museum; late afternoon walk along the shore; and the special gift of an evening concert by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra: Mussorgsky : A Night on the Bare Mountain, Brahms : Violin Concerto (soloist, Sergey Khachatryan), Strauss : Also Sprach Zarathustra. Conducted by Carlo Rizzi. Thank you, thank you, thank you Claire!

OK, here's the longer version. I'd been in Portsmouth all week and had not yet made it to the site of Doyle's original surgery so I thought that better be the first thing on my agenda. After breakfast at the hotel I gathered up my bag and headed east on Kings Road. I'd seen the location of the surgery on an earlier map, a photograph of Doyle standing outside No. 1 Bush Villas, and a photo of the current building and plaque so I knew that if I stayed on the south side of the road I'd eventually come to the spot. Its a very short walk east of the museum and easy to find. I took a number of pictures of the building and area, including one looking south that seemed to have some buildings that survived the bombing and may have been around when Doyle lived there. It was nice to find the spot and get some sense of the area. Doyle was very methodical in terms of where he located his surgery relative to other doctors. It also turned out to be a high traffic area with a number of accidents that Doyle could attend to. He was a master "networker."

After my visit to the Doyle site I headed back west and then north to the Guildhall. I hadn't made any firm arrangements with Claire as to where to meet for lunch, so decided that the archives was the best spot for her to find me. Besides, I still had about a dozen scripts that I wanted to look at from the collection. I found Michael at the archives and he very kindly pulled the scripts for me. A little bit later another volunteer, Sarah, showed up and I had the chance to meet her. For the next couple of hours I was buried in the scripts. I found a few that were written by Edith Meiser. I don't think this was noted in the CALM database, so I'll send that information to Michael later on when I'm reviewing my notes. Sometime around 11 or 11:30 Claire called the archives; it was the first place she thought I might be. We agreed to meet in the foyer of the Guildhall at 12:15 for the short drive to lunch. I finished looking at the last script a couple of minutes before it was time to leave. I bid Michael farewell and thanked him for all his assistance during the week. It was very good to get to meet him and spend some time with him in the archives. I'm sure we'll be in communication in the weeks and months ahead.

Claire found me in the foyer and we headed off on a short drive to the American Bar. I had walked past this restaurant a number of times on my way to the dockyard and Gunwharf Quays, so it was a familiar sight. We found Neil and Stephen waiting for us and settled down to a good chat and wonderful meal. I'm very thankful to Stephen for his support of my visit. I had the chance to tell him of my experiences and impressions during the week, i.e.
  • the collection and exhibit are impressive
  • the collection's breadth and depth are quite remarkable, especially in the area of spiritualist and movie/television materials, but in much else besides
  • our two collections compliment each other very well
  • it is important to keep working on matters of access, especially in providing a single portal for discovery and research
  • it would be good to speak to the technical people involved with Spydus to see about the possibilities of crosswalks with CALM and MODES
  • the city of Portsmouth has much to be proud of. It is a very interesting combination of old and new. The museums are very interesting and loaded with content.
  • I couldn't possibly fit everything into my visit and hope very much to come back (with my wife) to spend more time enjoying the city, its culture and history
That's just a thumbnail expression of my week. It was a very engaging and informative time exploring the collections, getting to know some of the staff connected with the project, and exploring the city and its rich history. There is much to be proud of. I want to reiterate here how very impressed I was with how much work has been accomplished in such a short time and how the extensive use of volunteers has made this possible, guided by the project staff. I came to Portsmouth with a preconception that much of the collection is not yet accessible. This may be true, to some extent, but I was very pleasantly surprised with how much is already processed and accessible. Close to fifty percent of the archive has been entered into CALM, most of the books appear to have been cataloged on Spydus, and museum content entered into MODES. I didn't have the chance to see MODES in operation, or to get a sense of what remains on that front, but it seems that the project staff have a firm grip on the intellectual content of the collection as a whole. One challenging area, for the library, seems to be with the periodicals. I understand the challenge, but hope they'll tackle this chunk of the collection to make it equally accessible. Viewed from the outside, I would give the project an enthusiastic "thumbs up" for all that they've accomplished. Well done! And keep up the good work!

Part of our conversation at lunch also revolved around the academic connection with the collection. Here access is the key. This, and the need for a more controlled study/reading space should be nailed down before the collection can be truly opened for use by students and advanced researchers, especially as it might relate to specific academic disciplines, programs or curricula. My impression is that the project is moving along the right lines; the discussions should continue with the technical people to create a single portal that will withstand a great deal of traffic (i.e. not crash and cause frustration). Once this is accomplished, and a secure and quiet space provided for researchers (as much as I enjoyed chatting with the volunteers) the collection will be poised for its next leap forward. At the same time, the collection will see more electronic traffic, in the form of e-mail requests, especially for electronic scans of the wealth of material from the visual archive. The knotty questions of copyright and permissions will need to be dealt with. My impression was that the staff and volunteers are already working on these matters. It will be good to have policies and procedures in place to deal with these requests. I would be happy to share any expertise that we might have, and to have our digital collections people talk with the Portsmouth team, if that would be helpful.

Finally, there is the question of long-term space. I think it will be very important for the collection to find a single physical home for the entire collection, one that provides climate controls and security. I understand that such a facility is being thought of, and would encourage continued work on this, even in this poor economy. If our own Andersen Library experience is anything to go on, a new building with attractive user space and controlled collection space will garner even greater attention for the Doyle/Green collection and quite possibly pull in other related collections, thus enhancing the cultural depth of the city and its existing collections.

Well, as you can maybe tell from my extended discussion, it was a good lunch. The food and company were both excellent. I invited Neil to our 2010 Holmes conference and promised to be in contact with additional details and information as the planning unfolds. Again, I can't express my thanks enough for the kindness and support Stephen and Claire have shown me during my visit. This will be a week to remember, cherish, and build upon.

After lunch I had another treat in store. Claire brought me to the D-Day museum and arranged for my admission to see the amazing tapestry and exhibits. This was another bit of icing on the cake. The Overload Embroidery is 272 feet in length, the largest work of its kind in the world. It is simply spectacular! My visit began with a fifteen minute film that puts the museum in context. This film was also well done. After viewing the film I began my tour around the room, looking at each of the panels from the tapestry. Once I reached the end of the embroidery I moved to the exhibits. The website maybe says it best: "in the Museum's displays visitors experience the sights and sounds of Britain at War - the air raid warden's living room in the Blitz, the factory resounding to the strains of 'Music while you work', and troops preparing for D-Day in their forest camp. The climax of the displays is a dawn to dusk reconstruction of the Allied landings by sea and air on D-Day itself - World War II's 'longest day'." I would encourage you to check the link given above for more information on the museum and tapestry. It is well worth a visit.

After the D-Day Museum I walked south towards Southsea Castle, built during the reign of Henry VIII and from which he witnessed the sinking of the Mary Rose. I didn't go into the castle, but walked around the perimeter and took some pictures. (Let me also encourage you to explore all the informative web pages created by the Portsmouth City Council for its museums. They are a great resource.) From Southsea Castle I walked back towards the city and my hotel. It was a beautiful afternoon and a wonderful way to get a few more views and breaths of sea air. Back at the hotel I took a little nap before the final candle on the cake, a concert by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Claire arranged for this final gift of my visit. It was a wonderful evening of music. I've noted the program above. Let me just say here that the performance by the young soloist, Sergey Khachatryan, was inspired. There were times I found myself holding my breath and on the edge of my seat. What a treat! And what a way to end my visit to Portsmouth. I found Claire at the end of the concert and thanked her again for a wonderful week. I am looking forward to our continued communication and collaboration. I told her, in parting, that we will welcome a visit from her, whenever that might be possible.

From there it was a quiet walk back to the hotel. The pubs and clubs were alive with music and merrymaking. For me it was a silent word of thanks and then off to bed.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Updating Posts and Thanks Again!

Just a short note to let you know that I'm going back over some previous posts and adding links to other sites. I didn't have the time to do that in Portsmouth, but wanted to update things so that the reader, if interested, could find additional information. (I'm also catching a few misspellings and other goofs; the editor in me is coming out.)

I'm back in London and spending a quiet afternoon catching up on some work. Thanks, again, to Claire, Michael and others in Portsmouth. I felt as if the red carpet was rolled out for my visit. It was a wonderful and productive time. (I'll write more about my last day in Portsmouth a little later on.)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Thursday and my fifth day in Portsmouth

Here's another shot from the historic dockyard and the aircraft carrier Ark Royal. I've got a few hours of 'net connection left from my hotel room, so I'll give you a brief update on the day. It was pouring rain when I got up and stayed that way for most of the morning. It was also on the cold side. Time and again there were hints of snow flakes, but for the most part it was rain. This was the first day on my trip that it was bad enough to use my umbrella.

I spent most of the morning at the City Library sitting in on a meeting with Claire, Michael, Katie, and Neil. I met Katie and Neil for the first time today. Katie works at the City Museum and is responsible for exhibits. Neil is the academic advisor for the project and connected with the University of Winchester. The purpose of the meeting was to review items selected by Katie and Michael related to "The Hound of the Baskervilles" for updating one of the cases in the exhibit on display in the museum. They started first with the books and then moved to the archival materials (which included some very interesting stills, cards and posters from various movie adaptations of the Hound). There were also some other items, like pieces from a chess set. As the morning progressed the various items found themselves in either a "yes" pile or a "no" pile. The "yes" pile will be considered further in terms of what will work best in the exhibit case. There will be some additional material sought, e.g. Jeremy Brett and Ian Richardson items, but they seemed to make a good start on selecting items for the case. It was very kind of them to let me sit in on the meeting. Claire has a very busy schedule (which makes me even more appreciative of the time she's given to me) so bowed out of the meeting early on. I'll see her again tomorrow, along with Neil, for lunch. That will be my last full day in Portsmouth.

After the meeting broke up I made my way to one of the online catalogs in the library and played around with some searches for Conan Doyle, etc. I was able to do a keyword search on the collection name as well, so this gave me a pretty good idea of how much material is cataloged and in the system, i.e. somewhat around 6,700 titles. I believe this catalog is accessible from the web, so I'll have a chance to play around with it some more when I get home. But it does all the things you'd want a catalog to do such as narrow or sort search results. Most of the collection appears to be in reference, i.e. it doesn't circulate but is available for use in the library. I think that's a good thing.

After my time with the catalog I left the library and headed back to my hotel. I was going to take advantage of that time (and the poor weather, or "rubbish" as Claire characterized it) and get more work done, taking advantage of my 24 hour internet connection. But my room had not yet been made up and I didn't want to have to hassle with the cleaning staff, so decided instead to head back to the historic dockyard and use up as much of the rest of my ticket as possible.

I went first to see the hall that houses the remains of the Mary Rose. This was a ship in service during the reign of Henry VIII that sank (in his sight) during a battle in the 1500s (sorry I don't have the exact date) off the Solent near Portsmouth. It was raised during the last couple of decades and is undergoing preservation. The remains of the hull are being sprayed with a special wax that will get into the wood and preserve it. So when you go into the hall housing the ship you see the hull awash from sprayers. What is on display is very interesting and gives you a good idea of the structure of a Tudor warship. After the Mary Rose I went across the way to two more galleries that are part of the Royal Naval Museum. One gallery was devoted to Lord Nelson and the other to the sailing Navy. By this time I was just at the right place to catch the next harbour tour in a small launch. We sailed past much of the naval berths and drydocks and got some very nice views of ships, the city and the harbor. It was a bit nippy on board, with a brisk breeze and little sun, so by the end of the tour most of us had huddled in the enclosed part of the craft. Back on land, I walked across the way to the Mary Rose museum to view many of the artifacts that were retrieved during the underwater archeological process and to warm up. Here is another perspective on Tudor England, one that was very much hidden until the ship and some of her contents were re-discovered. After the Mary Rose Museum I criss-crossed over to the HMS Warrior. This is a much larger ship than The Victory, but actually had fewer crew (about 705). It was both sail and steam powered and in service in the mid-nineteenth century. The self-guided tour brings you through all the decks, down finally to the hold, boilers and engine room. I didn't have to stoop as much on board this ship and managed to make it all the way through without banging my head. Back on the upper deck the sun had returned. The late afternoon was bright and a little crisp. My feet were telling me that it was time to head back to the hotel.

So here I am, updating the blog, downloading photos, catching up on e-mail, etc. I've got about three hours of connectivity left before I'm shut down. If I think of anything else between now and then I'll shove in another post. Otherwise, you won't hear from me again until I'm back in London later on Saturday. Cheers!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wednesday and my fourth day in Portsmouth

Well tonight I'm going to take the plunge and purchase twenty-four hours of internet time. In my free moments I've been trying to keep an eye open for some kind of free internet hot spot, but I've not come across any. I really need to check in and see what's been happening back home, so at this point there's no way around it. But before I log in and start the clock running I'll recap my Wednesday.

I worked in the archives this morning and into the early afternoon. My plan was to look at more items, but late last night I came up with another reason to continue working in the Calm database--it would allow me to search for booklets and pamphlets that may not yet be listed in my Doyle/Holmes bibliography. I was able to check everything from 1994 to 2004, so feel that I came away with a pretty good list of items to check. I think at this point I've got about ten pages of notes plus some printouts, so there's a pretty good record of my research and its results. When I get back home I'll take the time to cross check my bibliography.

Shortly before 1pm I left the archives and took a stroll across the plaza to the public library. It turned out that nothing was scheduled with the library staff on the project so I ventured through three floors of collections and was very impressed on how busy it was (so busy, in fact, that I saw few open public terminals; those that were open were dedicated to the online catalog). I was tempted to spend some time searching, but realized that I'll be back at the library tomorrow for a meeting with the exhibition staff, so I'll try to get some exposure to the Spydus system when there are some staff who might be able to show me some of the fine points. Equally tempting, and one that I sucumbed to, was the sunshine and good weather. So I took the afternoon off (my back was also showing signs of starting to spasm) and walked over to the historic dockyard district. After a walk around (I found out that the large ship I spotted on Sunday was the aircraft carrier Ark Royal) I decided to spend a bit on a ticket that would allow me into the various ships and museums. My timing was good for the 3:10 guided tour of Vice Admiral Nelson's ship, The Victory, that was so key in the Battle of Trafalgar. For its time (I think it went into service about 1760) it was an amazing warship. The cost of the ship in today's money would be about 50 million pounds. I had to watch my head during most of the tour so I wouldn't bump it on the ship's timbers, but beyond the stooping it was a very interesting tour of the ship. We traveled through all the decks, down into the bowels of the ship, and also saw the spot were Nelson fell in battle on the upper deck. There's a lot of information out there on Nelson and the battle, so I won't go into more specifics here, but I'm really glad I took the tour. It opened a new dimension to this point in history. If I heard correctly from the guide (who was very good), the crew was over 800. After the tour of the ship I went across the way to a museum dedicated to more information on The Victory and the Battle of Trafalgar. I stayed until the museum closed at 4:30.

After that I wandered around a little bit more. All the other exhibits in the historic dockyard close about the same time, so I'm going to make at least one (and maybe two) return visits. My ticket is good for a year (with the exception of The Victory and the Mary Rose, the ship from the reign of Henry VIII, and a harbour tour--you're only allowed one visit per ticket for those features), so I'll have plenty to occupy any remaining free time I have in Portsmouth. It looks like I might have tomorrow afternoon free and later on Friday; we'll just have to play it by ear. My feet are still playing havoc with me, so the going is a little slow, but I'm managing.

It was turning much colder as the sun was going down so I headed back to the hotel for the evening. The forecast is for frost in the morning and temperatures near freezing. I'm certainly getting a variety of weather.

Tuesday and my third day in Portsmouth

At the moment windblown rain is pattering against my hotel window and its just about ten at night. But, regardless of the rain, its been an excellent and productive day. I am more and more impressed with the work that has been accomplished by the staff and volunteers at Portsmouth. Let me take you through my day. The picture is of the Guildhall, where the Doyle archives are located.

I was up early for a 9 o'clock appointment with Michael at the archives. My desire for the morning and early afternoon was to explore as much of the collection as possible. Originally I had planned to have Michael pull some of the radio play scripts from the collection, but with full access to the Calm database I decided instead to use this tool to get another sense of the breadth and depth of the archival portion of the collection. According to Michael there are about 20,000 items described and entered in Calm. He estimates that there are about 40,000 items in this portion of the collection, so they're about half way through the descriptive process. One large chunk of material that is not presently in the database are Richard's working papers. So, for this trip I won't be able to get a full sense of what this section might include. But the other categories are well represented so by using the search capabilities of Calm I was able to get a pretty good sense of other portions of the collection. Basically, I searched names of Sherlockians, actors, and organizations and discovered quite a bit. I've taken pages of notes that I'll incorporate into a final report on my visit, but I won't give you all the details here. But let me give you a few highlights. There are hundreds of items related to Jeremy Brett, Sidney Paget, and the Baker Street Irregulars. There's a good representation of materials from the Norwegian Explorers and the Friends of the U of M Libraries. Some of our local Sherlockians appear: Bergem, Southworth, Sveum, McKuras, McDiarmid, and Blegen to name a few. I have to admit that I searched for my name and found listings for a couple of my writings. In addition to the Meiser material I looked at the other day there is also a large group of items related to Vincent Starrett and other members of the BSI. The types of material are varied: letters, advertisements, photographs, pamphlets, brochures, etc. This database, combined with the book and object databases, will be a valuable research tool for identifying materials.

While working through the Calm database I had the opportunity to meet three more volunteers: Karen, Audrey, and the most remarkable Cynthia Sherwood. Cynthia described herself (early on in our little chats) as a "bit of a nut case" and a "chatterbox" but what fun it was to talk with her. She is, by the way, 85 years old, the oldest of the eighteen volunteers. She's lived in Portsmouth all but the first eleven or twelve months of her life. Her father worked for the Navy and her family house was described as "the last house in Portsmouth." Indeed, if you google that title (or click here), you'll find a web site about that house, on the point overlooking the harbor. The house is no longer standing; I walked past the site on my first afternoon in Portsmouth. Cynthia is also the president and long-time member (over fifty years) of the local embroiderers' guild and lived very close to where Doyle's surgery was located. She also volunteers with the records office and is full of stories about life in Portsmouth. In the midst of our conversation I asked her a favor: could I take her photograph. After a moment's hesitation, she agreed. I'll post her photo with my other Portsmouth images. I wanted to capture her for memory's sake; she is one of the gems among the many jewels of the Portsmouth volunteers.

Round about half-past one in the afternoon we wrapped up our chat and I finished my work for the day on the Calm database. Close to two I left with Michael for a brief taxi ride to the Carnegie Library in Fratton Road. I had not realized that Carnegie also provided the funding for library construction in the UK, but such was the case. The building includes some very nice stained glass (I took more pictures) and one of the librarians (Linda, I believe her name is) gave me a tour of the upper floor, including a view of one of the original reading desks. Michael's visit to the Fratton Library was for the purpose of giving a mid-afternoon talk about the Doyle collection and Richard Lancelyn Green. His talk is part of the outreach work to make the collection known to the community. Tea and biscuits were offered and I enjoyed his talk and the follow-up questions by members of the audience. About an hour or so later we were back in a taxi for the ride to the Guildhall, where I left Michael for the day. I'll return tomorrow morning to look at those radio scripts.

The walk back to the hotel was a little on the damp side as the rain was picking up, but I made it back without getting too wet. I had a bit of time to myself before Claire came to pick me up at seven and take me out to dinner. We went to an Italian restaurant near the Spinnaker Tower and enjoyed good food and conversation. I've really enjoyed getting to know Claire and Michael and am convinced that there are all kinds of possibilities for a long-term collaborative relationship with the Green/Doyle collection. I'm really feeling good about how this week has gone so far and that much of what I've accomplished is right in line with what I was thinking about when I submitted my original proposal for the staff development grant. I believe the folks back home will be very pleased with what I'll have to report when I return. The sense of the collection's depth and breadth is important, but what I'm especially valuing is the relational connections that are being made with the staff and volunteers. Tomorrow afternoon I'll have a chance to expand those contacts as I meet people involved with the book portion of the collection. I'm also looking forward to exploring the Spydus system that's being used by the libraries. Claire told me over dinner that the system is fairly new to the staff, having been rolled out in December.

At the moment the weather report is on the tube. Scotland is getting snow; we're getting rain and wind. Tomorrow it looks like it will be colder, with a chance of frost on the ground and temperatures just above freezing. I was surprised to see snow on the ground in Washington as the news reported on the Prime Minister's visit to the new President. Claire told me that the paper reported eight inches had fallen in DC; I'm imagining that such a storm pretty much shut down the city. Time to call it a day. It looks like I may have some internet connectivity tomorrow at the library. I was able to get online for a little bit on the terminal in the archives this morning, but there were no USB ports for copying over my blog entries so I'll see what might be available in the library. Claire told me there are some "hotspots" as well, so I may be able to work directly from my laptop. I hope the e-mail hasn't piled up too badly.

Monday and my second day in Portsmouth

I'm still in search of a free or low-cost internet connection. The hotel offers a high-speed connection at 15 pounds for 24 hours. That works out to about $24-26 (depending on the exchange rate) or about a buck an hour. I may have to break down tomorrow night and get a connection if I can't find one elsewhere, but for now I'm holding out. So let me give you a sense of the day.

There was fresh fruit at breakfast, for which I was thankful. At the same time, I'm becoming a bit fond of baked beans at breakfast (along with my scrambled eggs, toast and sausage) so I went forth fortified for what was ahead. It was a very good day. I arrived at the museum with plenty of time to spare (it was only about a five minute walk from the hotel), so found a bench and enjoyed another sunny morning. At ten I went into the museum to meet Claire, who joined me a few minutes later. After introductions, she brought me into the Holmes exhibit and gave me a brief overview. I was then on my own to explore the exhibit and spent the next half hour viewing the displays. It is very nicely done, with a voice over by the patron of the collection, Stephen Fry (the actor I first discovered in the Jeeves and Wooster series on PBS), and some electronic monitors that allow for additional digital display of newly scanned items. I was surprised at the amount of material related to Doyle's spiritualism; I wasn't aware of this depth in Richard's collection. There was also quite a bit related to various movies and manifestations of the Holmes character as portrayed by various actors. Photography is allowed in the exhibit so I took some shots for the record.

After my tour through the exhibit I found Claire in the museum tea room. She very kindly offered me tea or coffee (I chose coffee) and we sat and talked for the next ninety minutes about any number of topics related to the exhibit, collection, and my own experiences with the Holmes collections in Minnesota. It was a great conversation and opener to the week. Round about noon Claire offered to take me on a bit of a drive through sections of Portsmouth. It was the perfect way to get a larger sense of the city. But the best was yet to come. We drove to a carpark at Gunwharf Quays and walked over to the Spinnaker Tower where Claire invited me to take a lift to the top. We had one comic bit before entering the lift--as you enter you are asked to pose for a staff photographer who snaps your picture and hands you a numbered card for possible purchase of the photo after your visit to the top. Claire's comment was wonderful and somewhere along the lines of thinking of a response to her daughter's question about her day: "Oh, I went to the top of the Spinnaker with a strange man." I loved it. Anyway, we got on the lift and traveled 100 meters above ground to the first of three viewing decks. The bottom two decks are enclosed. The top, "The Crow's Nest," is open to the elements from above. On getting out of the lift on the lowest deck you are offered the opportunity of walking across a glass floor that offers a view straight down. I walked across, gazed down, but didn't think to take a picture. Oh well. Then it was over to the glass windows for some spectacular views of the coast, city and harbor. This really put the whole city in context. I had read earlier, in the packet that Claire provided, that Portsmouth is actually an island, something I hadn't known. The view from the tower made it clear. Even though it was a bit hazy, the views were still fantastic. I could see the submarine museum across the water at Gosport as well as the historic dockyard, including HMS Warrior and HMS Victory. We moved up to the second deck for another view and then finally to "The Crow's Nest" before making our way back down to the second level and lift to the ground.

After the Spinnaker Tower Claire drove me to the Guildhall, site of the Green/Doyle archive. I was a little early for my 1:30 appointment with Michael, so Claire showed me a bit of the archival collection and we had a chance to meet and chat with two of the volunteers, David and Connie. There are about fifteen or sixteen volunteers on the project (actually I found out later there are eighteen) and I was very impressed with the amount of work they and the staff have been able to accomplish in fairly short order. Once Michael arrived Claire was off to other business (thank you for a wonderful morning!) and I had the rest of the afternoon with Michael. He gave me a more extensive overview of the archival collection and described the CALM database that is used for entering collection information.

A little technical note: CALM is based on ISAD-G; when I've got an internet connection I'll do a bit more research about this software. It turns out that three different systems are used to organize the collection: Spydus for the books, CALM for the archives, and MODES for the objects. The three systems can't communicate with each other so they're looking for a single interface that will bring all the databases together in one place for public searching. I also had a chance to show Michael what we have for accessing our collections: MNCAT (Classic and Plus) for books, the DLXS database for finding aids, and Images for scanned material. We're hoping that Primo will be able to tie all three of these together, but in many ways we find ourselves in the same situation as Portsmouth, i.e. needing a single search interface to discover all of our materials. Michael showed me more about CALM and the levels of description offered in the database. Then it was time for tea.

After tea Michael pulled some materials that I had requested related to Edith Meiser (I was curious to see what Richard had in his collection) and then I played around a bit with CALM to search for other materials related to Vincent Starrett and John Bennett Shaw. In the meantime, Michael had printed out a twenty-four page list of materials that matched another search I was interested in, i.e. radio dramatizations (again, related to my interest in Meiser materials). I'm going to study this list tonight and have additional material pulled tomorrow. The Meiser materials that Michael pulled were also calling for my attention, so I spent the last half hour looking at those and making additional notes on searches in CALM. And then it was closing time. (The collections are available from 9am to 5pm.) Michael has some other responsibilities in the morning, but is going to meet me at 9 and get a few things for me. I'll then be on my own for the rest of the morning (and have the chance to meet some other volunteers who will be coming in to work on projects.) David and Connie, the volunteers I met today, are working on organizing the many photocopies of newspaper articles that are in the collection.

I managed to find my way out of Guildhall and walked back to my hotel for a quiet evening. The feet are still aching a bit, but they didn't get as much of a workout today; maybe I'm on the mend. I downloaded the pictures I took today from the Spinnaker Tower and collection and will post them when I get to the internet. Now its time to unwind a bit and see what the BBC has to offer. Tomorrow is supposed to be much colder and wetter. Looks like its going to be that way for most of the week, so today was the perfect day to get up in the tower and get a view of the city. Thanks again, Claire and Michael, for a great start to my visit.

Sunday and the first day in Portsmouth

I'm working off line at the moment because I'm waiting to get some things sorted out on my internet connection. As a result, I'll probably post this tomorrow with a little cut and paste. But while my mind is still fresh let me give you a rundown on my Sunday.

Following breakfast in London House at Goodenough College (where I've had my breakfasts since arriving) I went back to my room, finished packing and checked out about 10. From the club I went back to Russell Square and caught the Piccadilly Line to Leicester Square, where I transferred to the Northern Line and on to Waterloo station. Getting my ticket for Portsmouth was a breeze and after locating the platform for the next train I boarded and found a seat for my ride to the south coast. My train left at noon.

Once out of the southern part of the metropolis the country opened up and I was treated to views of farms and pasture land. I even spotted a deer along the rail right-of-way and some alpaca. There were plenty of sheep and horses as well. I was seated on the right (west) side of the train and spotted some highlands here and there. I'll have to check a map to get a better sense of what I was seeing. One of the stops along the way was Rowlands Castle, a place that was familiar to me from a television program I saw some time ago back home that featured Michael Palin of Monty Python fame. The program was about British railroads (and being a train buff that was enough of an excuse for me to watch) coupled with Palin's search for genealogical information about his family. What I remember about Rowlands Castle was that Palin met some lord of the manor who lived thereabouts and who was himself a train buff, to the extent that he had created a miniature steam railway on his land (and offered rides to interested folks, including Palin). (I may be mis-remembering this and conflating a couple of episodes of "Great Railway Journeys"; I can't find an exact reference on the internet.)

Shortly before 2pm my train arrived spot on time at the Portsmouth and Southsea station. My feet are still pretty sore from all the walking in London so I opted for a short cab ride to the Holiday Inn (my home for the next week). Claire's packet of information was awaiting me at the reception desk which I opened and perused after getting to my room. (I didn't get room "221" but I'm close!) After putting some things away and grabbing a couple of glasses of water (I'm trying to keep myself hydrated with all this walking) I headed out to explore Portsmouth (the pedometer count for the day is 9,763; short of my other day counts, but then you've got to take the train ride into consideration).

The Holiday Inn is a short walk from the water; I headed in that direction. One of the things I was glad to receive in Claire's packet was a map of Portsmouth, so it didn't take me too long to get my bearings. One of the first sights to greet me was the ruins of the Royal Garrison Church. From there I moved to a raised walk along the coast. I noticed a trail, marked by distinctive pavers, and so followed it. This, it turns out, is the Millennium Promenade. And it was a perfect way to move from sight to sight (and site to site) near the harbor. An added bonus was the afternoon sunshine (it was cloudy when I left London), and with a slight breeze it was perfect for walking. The promenade led me to the following: the Square Tower, the Round Tower, Bathing Lane and ultimately to a more modern landmark, the Spinnaker Tower. Along the way I saw a variety of fishing boats, tall ships, pilot boats, tugs, hovercraft, ferries, and other watercraft. Off in the distance, past the Spinnaker Tower, was a modern warship, but I didn't discover its name or type. I'll save that for another day.

After a cheap meal at Subway, at the foot of Spinnaker Tower, I headed back towards the hotel. Along the way I came to Portsmouth Cathedral. So far on this trip I've been incredibly fortunate (blessed, lucky, what have you) when it comes to church experiences. Portsmouth Cathedral proved no different. As I entered I heard organ music. So, after a short walk around the sanctuary, I found a seat and enjoyed about twenty minutes of organ music. The organist (who I didn't have the chance to meet) was practicing (possibly for the evensong scheduled later). I don't know what pieces were played, but it was lovely to just sit on a late Sunday afternoon and enjoy the music in that space. I was tempted to stay for evensong, but decided instead to head back to my room and review some things before tomorrow. I'll check the schedule for the Cathedral and see if there's another evensong on for later in the week. The Cathedral is on the same road as the hotel, so its just a short walk.

When I got back to my room I decided to soak my feet in cold water for about twenty minutes. I don't know if that will help with the pain, but it sure felt good in the short term. My boots are very comfortable and I'm glad I broke them in before I left home. The problem is with those dress shoes; I didn't give them the same treatment. (Note to self: never bring new shoes on a trip where you're expecting to do a lot of walking.) I'm looking forward to tomorrow and the chance to meet the Portsmouth staff. They've been ever so kind in helping to arrange this trip. I hope we can return the favor at some time in the future.

Time to call it a day. By tomorrow I should have the internet connection sorted out and be able to post this to the blog. I'm also looking forward to checking e-mail and Facebook and find out how Beth's visit to Clarisa in Chicago turned out. Stay tuned. These first days were a bit of a vacation (combined with some work). This week its mostly business (with some fun thrown in). It will be good.