Wednesday, March 4, 2009

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.

No comments: