Thursday, 11 July 2013

Greenwich- National Maritime Museum & Royal Observatory

On Monday, 7/1, we took a commuter boat to Greenwich called the Thames Clipper.  I sat outside to see some sites along the way, and it was really nice.  When we got to Greenwich, we saw some beautiful, symmetrical buildings designed by none other than our good friend, Christopher Wren.  Our first stop of the day was at the National Maritime Museum.  They have a brand new archives department, and we were able to see some amazing manuscripts.  It was really exciting because we could even flip through and read a couple books! One book was a spy book from 1588 from the Spanish Armada.  It listed the ships available to the King of Spain.  In the book there are about 130 ships listed, which we know is accurate.  We also saw letters from the King (signed El Rey), and an original song by Queen Elizabeth.  There was a lot of material about Lord Nelson from the 1800s, and about pirates from the 18th century.  What is very interesting about these pieces we saw is that they are actually used as part of the curriculum for secondary school students, and they want to start to include younger students as well.  The students try to transcribe handwriting from a certain period.  This is difficult because there were no set was of spelling words back then.  Next, our guide took us to the Caird Library on the second floor of the museum.  This library is not well known, but they are working on ways to advertise it more.  They have a new reading room that is 2 years old.  I really enjoyed the technology in the library.  There were ways to scan manuscripts and look at microfilm.  The most interesting to me was a screen where you can choose a kind of ship and see the plans for it digitally.  They still have a lot of work to do on digitizing the collection, but it is still very cool to see what they have done.  Then we went on a tour of the stacks where they keep materials that are not on display.  It is a new and enhanced system.  They don’t need to store collections off site anymore.  They have storage for collections on the 2 floors above the library and 1 below.  We couldn’t take pictures here because of security, but it was interesting to see how they keep their pieces organized.  They arrange by format and then section.  We also saw the biggest lift we have ever seen. It was humongous.  I wish I could’ve taken a picture!!
After our tour, we had a few hours to look around Greenwich.  We went outside to see the ball on the top of the Royal Observatory that rises and drops everyday at 1:00 pm Greenwich Mean Time.  It was cool to see.  Then we hiked up the steepest hill I have ever seen, all the way up to the Royal Observatory.  We went inside and saw John Harrison’s clocks.  I had just read Longitude by Dava Sobel so it was amazing to see the original clocks he made.  I made sure to set my watch according to the atomic clock, and we took pictures on both sides of the Prime Meridian! It was very fun. 

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