July 8: Mortimer Wheeler House - Museum of London
The LAARC (London Archaeological Archive Research Center) holds all the items that are not on display elsewhere. It is 11 years old, and the building was not originally built for archives. For example, the building already had a sprinkler system installed so they had to worry about water damage to the materials. LARC has over 25, 000 pieces in the collection, and they are constantly loaning them out to museums and other places. This is the world’s largest archaeological archive! 99% of the pieces are donations. They also have a really great volunteer program here, as they rely very heavily on volunteer work. A lot of the volunteers’ time is spent re-cataloguing and re-packaging the items better. They want all of the items packaged the same in clear bags so you can see them clearly. The bags have two labels, one staple, and a piece of foam. They are waterproof and rip proof. The LAARC has set up YouTube videos of the process for their volunteers. I thought this was a great idea.
The archives are organized by year of the site excavation, and then alphabetically. This is interesting because it is not by item category. In the processing area, every excavation is given a three-letter code (the street area) and two numbers (the year). Then it is given a context number of where it was found and which site and which level of ground. The items all have numbers that can be looked up in MIMS (Museum Information Management System). In the processing area, the items come in, are washed, and then labeled and packaged. Researchers can find out anything about any excavation in the research library. They can also remove items for photography, research, etc. Researchers often come in the see clothing for reenactments.
One of my favorite items we saw was the Buckingham Palace telephone exchange. It was huge and there were so many rooms on the board. Very cool. I loved the toys and games room. There was everything from old board games to furbies to royal wedding memorabilia. We saw the original telephone booth model that is still present all over the city. We also saw some of the 17th century things they are currently working on in the processing area. We saw a 16th century spoon from before they started using forks. There was also a stone cannonball that was used as a prop from the theatre where Shakespeare was an actor! Oh, and bones. There were lots and lots of bones at the LAARC. It was a great visit. It is amazing to look at these historic items and gain insight into what life was like back then.