Sunday, 15 July 2007

Class Trip to the British Library

Thursday, July 12, was a terrific day because our class had a fantastic guided tour of the British Library! (The photo at left shows several of my classmates in the lobby on a unique bench that is a sculpture of a book!) We divided into two groups and my group's guide was a darling young German woman who has worked at the library for a year. (Her English was superb. Just one time she couldn't remember the verb ''comply,'' as in ''to comply with copyright''!) She explained the magnificant building officially opened in 1998. (The library is located next to St. Pancras Station, which peeks out from the upper right of the photo with me in front of the library.) It is one of the ''world's greatest libraries ... along with the U.S. Library of Congress, the National Library in Paris, and the State Library in Moscow.'' The library collection has more than 200 million items (the LOC has 250 million) and it exists for ''everyone who wants to do research -- for academic, personal, or commercial purposes.'' Registering for a Reader Pass gives free access to the 11 Reading Rooms.


Our guide wanted us to see the Foyle Visitor and Learning Center inside the new Centre for Conservation, which opened in May. But unfortunately, it was closed for ''installations'' on Thursday. We did get to tour Sir John Ritblat Gallery's ''Treasures of the British Library.'' It has the incredible ''Turning the Pages'' interactive display system developed by the library and Microsoft. By just touching the screen, you can virtually turn the pages of 15 important and treasured books, including the original Alice in Wonderland and sketches by Leonardo da Vinci! And of course our German guide made a point of showing us the library's copy of The Gutenberg Bible.

I made a beeline for the permanent philatelic section downstairs. As all my longtime Kiwi friends know, I particuarly enjoy New Zealand stamps. (Alas, I don't get too many anymore because of email!) The Pearson Gallery features temporary exhibitions and it currently has ''Sacred: Discover What We Share.'' (''The world's greatest collection of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim holy books.) I loved seeing a piece of the Dead Sea Scroll, which apparently is the first time it has been exhibited in the United Kingdom.

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