My Trip to The British Library

This post will not be full of deep insight.  It will not be full of intelligent ideas and thoughtful analysis.  It will basically be a good story with no moral.  Maybe it will boost morale?  It will be one of those posts where, if it were a conference question it would begin with “I’m struck by…”  So here goes–aren’t you excited already?

Part of my research trip in September was to London.  While I’ve already posted about my time in the amazing EES archives, I haven’t told you about my time at the British Library.  If you’ve never been, and you have the chance to go, it is easy to get to if you’re in London, so you should definitely go!  They have amazing permanent displays, as well as temporary exhibits.  They have talks and lectures open to the public, films, family events and more.  If you’re interested, see What’s On.  If you’re a regular reader of the HARN page, you’ve seen some of my museum reviews, which I sometimes reblog here.  Within those reviews, I usually talk about the museum cafe and shop.  At the BL, they have both, and both are pretty good.  The shop has a lot of items associated with past or current events, and the cheaper cafe (Peyton and Byrne) has yummy lunches and cakes.  One downfall is that they cafe is so popular that it’s hard to find a seat.  If you’re alone and don’t mind sitting with someone you don’t know, it’s usually no problem.

I went to the BL to use their microfiche archives to read copies of the Egyptian Gazette, from its beginning in 1880 to around 1930.  The paper still runs today.  I made it to 1923, so I was pretty happy.  I didn’t find quite what I was looking for, but I found some fun stuff.  This line of ads was pretty standard on the front and second pages of the early newspapers.

Hotel and shuttle ads, Egyptian Gazette, Nov 1894

Hotel and shuttle ads, Egyptian Gazette, Nov 1894

These types of things are fun to find.  Again, I didn’t find much of what I was looking for.  But, I did have a celebrity sighting!  These aren’t particularly rare in London.  I’ve almost literally run into Matt Damon coming out of the Charlotte Street Hotel.

Matt Damon, in Canada.  I didn't have one of him in London.  This one is from the interwebs.

Matt Damon, in Canada. I didn’t have one of him in London. This one is from the interwebs.

I also saw Clive Owen in Hampstead Heath, and a few minor celebrities–Phil Jupitus, anyone?  I saw him at a coffee shop near Oxford Circus 15 years ago.

Phil Jupitus.

Phil Jupitus.

This time, at the BL, I was working away and I heard a voice I sort of recognized, so I looked over, and who was sitting next to me but Rosamund Pike!

She really looks just like this in person.

She really looks just like this in person.

Rosamund Pike was a Bond Girl, in Jack Reacher with Tom Cruise, and most recently in Gone Girl.  She is achieving some fame in the US, but I still have to say “that woman from Gone Girl,” if I’m telling any of my US friends about her.  I chose the short hair picture because this is exactly what she looks like.  She is not one of those celebrities who will be caught looking “just like us”, because she ISN’T just like us.

I texted my husband and he asked for a picture.  I told him if I were in the US, I would have flipped out over seeing her, but as I was in the UK, I had to be British about it.  That is to say, I had to pretend not to notice her, even though I kept shooting her furtive glances.  I know she had to have noticed my weirdness.  I don’t know what she was looking up, but she was there the whole afternoon.  Is she in an upcoming movie?  She got a lot of help from the archivists, but that’s not to say she needed it, but that they were extremely helpful with her.  But, they were also extremely helpful with everyone even if they didn’t stand directly over my shoulder and point things out to me on the page like they did with her.

That was my trip to the BL.  Fun things to read in the Egyptian Gazette, good cakes and tea, helpful staff (really), and the occasional celebrity.  No moral here, except to go enjoy some exhibits and cakes.  But, to be clear, the BL is a wonderful British institution that is free to the public and scholars can freely use most of the resources they have.

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One Response to My Trip to The British Library

  1. harngroup says:

    Reblogged this on HARN Weblog and commented:
    Because I love the British Library and because I once saw Phil Jupitus at Euston Station and he looked so worried I wanted to go and hug him!

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