Our morning began with a tour of the British Library. The charming and entertaining Mr.Kevin Mehmet, one of the Library staff, showed us around this wonderful and relatively new (opened in 1998) facility. I think it is safe to say that we as librarians love the "behind the scenes" view of a library , and this was especially true for the British Library. Mr. Mehmet shared information and statistics with us as he showed us the hidden workings of this enormous facility. One of the interesting aspects was the book transfer operation which is a sophisticated, high-tech operation at its finest with over 1 1/2 miles of tracks within the library which moves books and other items requested by patrons throughout the building. As a repository library this institution receives a copy of every item published in the United Kingdom and Ireland, which totals about 3 million new additions per year. The 11 reading rooms are typically full of library users, who, if they each read 5 items from the collection each day, would still require 80,000 years to see the entire collection!
We then toured a portion of the library including the tower of books donated by King Charles lll which totaled around 90, 000 items. The tower is the centerpiece of the library which was designed around it in accord with the King's wishes that his collection be visible and utilizes by readers. We also viewed the Magna Carta, original manuscripts from Milton, Bronte, Wolfe, and music and lyrics (including one on an old envelope) from the Beatles.
A quick lunch was enjoyed in the on site cafe and then I headed off the the Foundling Hospital Museum just down the street. The original building was opened in 1741 to house abandoned and unwanted children and became the first real art museum in the city. Founder Thomas Coram prevailed upon his upper-crust friends, including Hogarth, Gainsborough, and Reynolds, to donate artwork to the museum. Coram than invited patrons to visit and view the artwork in hopes of soliciting their donations to help finance the operation of the hospital. Handel was a benefactor of the hospital and left a copy of the Messiah and a monetary donation to the hospital in his will. Visitors can view items from Handel's estate including his will and libretto and can also listen to his music in the comfort of a lovely gallery setting. The building also houses a fine collection of furniture and silver, including a Paul Storr salver.
Back to Stamford Street after another busy day.