Bletchley Park – The Speed of Information

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The Tunny Gallery and the foundation of computer technology.

The final group tour of the trip! So many memories and so many adventures. The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC), located at Bletchley Park, is an independent organization housing the largest collection of functional historic computers in Europe.

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The Colossus – the world’s first computer still functioning!

It was amazing to see the history of computers and how quickly the technology has advanced. These machines represent so much more than just a piece of technology – they represent a problem solved and the trajectory of information. These machines were created with the purpose of code breaking and obtaining information.

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The WITCH – The world’s oldest original working digital computer

To me, the Library and Information Science World is much larger than the traditional idea of library work. Technology is a stable prevalence in our lives and the information world as a whole. Thus it is critical to understand and respect the history of the vehicle for this information growth.  Librarians and information professionals hold a power to assist in facilitating technology growth – moreso than maybe many realize. Teaching technology to others is critical in this process as well. I am looking forward to integrating technology into my career as my interest in research grows. Knowledge management and research services are steeped in technology and I hope to be a part of the trend in these services.

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Printing our names in code
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Bletchley Park – the main building in all it’s kooky architecture.

For my book review assignment I read “The Secret Life of Codebreakers” by Sinclair McKay, which was a fascinating account of the men and women who made Bletchley Park the success it was working around the clock in less than accommodating circumstances to help in the war effort. It was amazing to have read the detailed account of Bletchley Park and then actually place the details in the actual location.

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Alan Turning’s Desk!

Kew Gardens & Herbarium

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Current display on William Hooker coordinated by the graduate assistant trainees. 

To begin with we were introduced to part of the special collections as well at the current exhibit on William Hooker. This exhibit was curated by the current graduate assistant trainees which reflected their own research work. I think that this is a fantastic way to collate research and collection/curation design. It helps to see individual items of the collection arranged in order to tell a cohesive story. This added to the value of the individual items as well as showcase the collection as a whole. And it is a perfect opportunity to education the public! One of my goals while in school is to gain experience in curating a collection.

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Mandrakes anyone?!

The collections at Kew Gardens include information about the garden’s history, periodicals, as well as an extensive collection of botanic illustrations.  In fact, the archive contains over 7 million sheets of of paper, with over 200 thousand illustrations.

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Handwritten letter from Beatrix Potter requesting support in having her sketches of fungi considered for accuracy.
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Placard for the previous picture.
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Herbarium – filled with specimens

The herbarium was by far my favorite aspect of the library. I am particularly interested in specimen collections and libraries that are outside the realm of the ordinary. I think the idea of the library transcends the standard books on a shelf scenario.

“Herbarium has a central role for research on plant biodiversity, with seven million specimens, including approximately 350,000 type specimens.” – From the Herbarium website. The Herbarium serves an important role in not only preservation but in ongoing research of species.

For more information and a visual tour

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Fiona Ainsworth – showing how the specimens are stored and organized within the Herbarium.
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Look Ma! Top of the World.

Kew Gardens as a whole was a scenic serenity immersive experience. I particularly enjoyed exploring the tree tops, which was one of the coolest ideas I’ve seen for experiencing nature. One could easily spend a whole day getting lost in the greenery.

Central Library – Edinburgh

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Looking down at the Edinburgh collection.

The Central Library in Edinburgh is another one of my sites for my research topic. This location offered a very interesting and different view of services for patrons with disabilities. About a year ago, the Central Library removed most of their computer equipment designated for the seeing impaired replacing them with Ipads. This freed up the space to create a children’s library. This article details the process of the change and the goal of providing excellent services to patrons. Edinburgh’s library goals are driven by the UK Six Steps to improve access to the collections and services. These steps drive many of the day to day choices the library makes to achieve their overall mission.

The library turned their focus to outreach service for those with difficulty accessing the library. Options include having transport to the library, a home delivery service, or access to a mobile library. For more details about each of these programs, check out this website.

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Beautiful books in the research section.

I was extremely excited to see that Central Library hosts a program for those with dyslexia. Partnering with an awareness group called Dyslexia of Scotland this group has been quite successful.  For children there is a reading group called “Chatterbooks” and in the near future they are rolling out a reading group for adults. Volunteers in these programs often have experienced dyslexia themselves, therefore this reading group is also an opportunity for mentorship.

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Bookable work room – let’s user collaborate or have a quiet space to study.

After speaking to the librarian, Sarah Forteath, as a follow-up to the dyslexia services I discovered that the library plans to roll out a software called “Boardmaker” designed to help those with ASD. This software will assist those with literacy issues or with difficulties finding the right words to convey their needs. After looking into this software I discovered that libraries worldwide have already adopted using it.

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A picture from the top of Authur’s Seat. Such an amazing view.

One of my favorite experiences in Edinburgh was experiencing a bird’s eye view of the city and surrounding landscape. It was an incredible view and the weather decided to clear up and show some sun.

It’s the Freakin Weekin…

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Childish Gambino dropping his classic and newly acquired beats to the delight of the masses.

This weekend began with the first non-academic day. I had been looking forward to this for a very long time. I had fantastic tickets to the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park. It is one of the largest music festivals in the United Kingdom. This provided me with the fantastic opportunity to experience the local culture without feeling like a tourist. I particularly enjoyed listening to popular UK hip-hop for the first time. The concert lasted all day with a fantastic light show and fireworks. 

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Kendrick Lamar dazzling the audience with his enthralling story telling and visual displays. Fully appreciated the encore. Lamar puts on the best live shows I’ve seen to date.
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Showing off my awesome new hoodie at Stonehenge. First day I felt a slight chill in the air. Amazing to cross this off the ole bucket list.

The following day was less musical but nonetheless exciting. The group toured Stonehenge which is one of the greatest mysteries human has attempted to understand and explain. I thoroughly enjoyed the depth and story telling quality of the audio guide. I also, thought it was a brilliant idea to provide the audio material for ticket holders for up to a year after their visit. I wish more institutions and museums would invest in and promote “follow-up learning” (I’m coining this term now). Places such as Stonehenge are a fantastic opportunity to cultivate further learning, research, and life inquiry.

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Posing in front of the legendary Winchester Round Table.

After Stonehenge we stopped in the quaint town of Winchester, which held many historical treasures. I stood on the spot commemorating the 800th year of the signing of the Magna Carta. Picture above I am standing below the Winchester Round Table inspired by the lore of the Knights of the Round Table. This table is speculated to have been constructed some time between 1250 and 1280 during the reign of Edward I. The paint details were redone around 1522 and it is quite incredible to stand below something that has withstood the test of time. This type of iconic history is something we are unable to experience in the States.

For a quick visual look check out this video.

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Beautiful view of Britain’s oldest High Street.

Winchester also sports the oldest High Street in Britain, which dates back to pre-Roman times. The road was originally so well used that an eroded track was created. This eventually drew enough attention as a throughway that people ended up settling in this very location. The Romans decided to construct a marketplace and this core idea has remained to this day as we walked through the booths of people selling their wares.

British Museum Archives…in the belly of the beast

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Discussing treasures of the British Museums Archives

    The earliest records held within the British Museum Archives date back to 1753 and were the Trustee Meeting notes. These notes detailed the committee’s decisions and how they shaped the trajectory of the museum. From a collection standpoint these bound records are in a disjointed order which impedes finding needed information. Many archivists face this frustrating dilemma as these collections not only need to be accessible but also preserved and cataloged.

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This gem was originally from the British Library – a letter of library research intent from Bram Stoker.

The Museum Act of 1963 called for complete transparency of Board decisions. This allows public access to understanding how the collection has grown. Extensive staff records have been meticulously kept which provides a rich detail of the staff history. This is regularly accessed by individuals seeking ancestry information. To me, this acts as a shining example that it is incredibly difficult to say whether or not a piece of information will retain value over time.

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Photograph showing the destruction of the British Library during WWII

The entire history of the museum is well documented within these archives – detailing the highs and lows of the collections, staff and the building uniting them both. Francesca Hiller, the head archivist, shared stories of the importance of having time and funding to properly preserve and organize a collection. Without this foundation both the collections and the persons attempting to utilize it suffer. There are artifacts within the British Museum whose origin and history that are lost and unknown – thus leading to questions that are unanswered.

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Me in front of a caryatid from the Porch of the Erechtheion on the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. This is one of the original 6 and the remaining 5 can be seen at the Acropolis Museum.

Seeing the caryatid was on the top of my must see list of London. When I visited the Acropolis in 2008 I was shocked to realize that many of the porch maidens were replicas as much of the Acropolis had been disassembled and placed into protective custody. At this time the Acropolis Museum was under going constructions so I was not able to see any of the original architecture. I made it my mission to see an original and today was that day. I was truly euphoric being feet away from such iconic architectural history.

Picture I took while in Athens in 2008. These are mainly reproductions seen here.
Picture I took while in Athens in 2008. These are mainly reproductions seen here.

The Power of Knowledge 

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The entrance to the Bodleian Library – also the sight where the infirmary for Harry Potter was filmed.

The Bodleian Library

This beautiful library was founded in 1602 by Thomas Bodley (at this point the most understated and coolest librarian I’ve heard about). At this time he was the first lecturer of Greek. With his help he created a brilliant reading room to serve the geniuses of Lewis and Tolkien.

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The Weston Special Collections Library across from the Bodleian Library

While photographs are not allowed in the stacks one can think of the type of environment that houses old, musty, and beautifully archaic books. The sunlight is natural, filling the room with a literary warmth as approved readers are allowed into the study area. Books on the shelves are sometimes bound in boxes to preserve their integrity in boxes that are “aged’ with vegetables dyes. Dr. Griffis has coined a very apropos term “bibliocarnage” to describe an act of book burning often too popular in war time.

The Queen of England spotted Bodley’s talent and made him a spy with a literal license to kill. The library was paid for and rebuilt within a year. One million of the 13 million volumes are currently digitized and available online.

Naomi was our tour guide and she was a complete delight – so engaging and excited to share the history of the library. One of the best stories she told was of a worker who discovered that a past borrower had defaced one of the books in pen – signing her name. When she reported this to her colleague they discovered that it was the signature of Elizabeth I reading “Elizabeth R.”. I  was not sure about the “R” included in the signature but a quick Google search informed me this stood for Regina. Interesting fun fact!

Next we learned about the rise of Copyright law coming into existence 409 years ago. Much of my current job deals with copyright and I’m glad to see that after 409 years no one still knows how it works and how libraries play into it. The UK has an amazing agreement set back around the establishment of Bodleian library that the first copy of anything published goes to the library. This agreement also meant that these copies would be chained, shelved spine in, and labeled according. *This spot was also the iconic site in Harry Potter of the banned books section

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Lit a candle offering at the University Church – a beautiful place of worship

Explored the nearby University Church which also featured some graves in the floor near the alter. A small portion of the building has been turned into a small cafe which was quite crowded. It was a nice blend of history, sanctuary, and modern gathering place.

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Henry Moseley: A Scientist Lost to War – Diary of Henry’s Mother reporting the news she received of her sons passing.

An artifact from the new exhibit detailing the life of Henry Moseley. For more information please visit this site.

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From the Museum of History in Oxford – made to profess love to another – quite clever and different from the rest of the dials on display

I thought this was an incredibly sweet and geeky idea. A diptych dial created as a gift to show a loved one just how much you love them. The creator of this would have fit in well modern geek culture society. I’m sure at this point all his scientist friends teased him mercilessly.

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Museum of the History of Science – Something Jamie Lannister would find useful.

I’m not sure if it’s academic or not to keep making connections to Game of Thrones and historical artifacts I see but there it is…

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The Museum of the History of Science – An example of understanding house fires

This case display was very interesting to me as I did not know/think that people in the early 1900’s would construct models to test things like fire safety, lighting strikes. Its seems very innovative.

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Stuffed European Hedgehog – Natural History Museum in Oxford – Might be the coolest I get to one alive or dead…

The National History Museum was a hoarders dream…so many, many artifacts. At one point the collection is was stored in glass covered drawers for people to pull out and inspect. You could probably spent weeks here and not see everything.

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Feels Good! Shiny rocks!!

The BMGF

View of the building from the cafe across the street

This morning I had a fantastic opportunity to check out the London offices for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Beautiful building – BMGF level 5

Background

Last quarter I worked on a research project for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) in investigating how development professionals use knowledge management systems or techniques to stay up to date in their current field. We conducted a series of interviews following a specific questionnaire and a landscape analysis on the current tool space. The results shows there is no ideal tool used by professionals on the whole. Each professional had a very varied technique to seek out new information to help inform their decisions. Often these techniques were not as detailed as they could be. I thoroughly enjoyed this research project and helped package ideal solution options. Building knowledge sharing systems/solutions is of great interest to me as a knowledge professional.

Before finishing up this project I interviewed for an internship with BMGF starting in the Fall. I was extremely excited to receive the great news that I was chosen. I will be working along side the sole librarian (official title is Director of Knowledge and Research Services – which is an interesting discussion of how librarians are represented and thought of in the private sector) on a myriad of projects and daily information services. Must of what I will be doing will be a follow up of the research project including collection development, restructuring the library portal, streamlining knowledge flow, among other projects. Open access and open data is a very hot topic at BMGF as they take a stand to push toward total open access of the research they fund. I’m looking forward to the wealth of information I learn and the projects I will complete.

TPN – Technology Partner Network

The meeting I attended this morning…just past the immaculate Buckingham Palace is a building also fit for royalty…was the inaugural meeting of the Technology Partner Network. This group of eight has joined together to use their skills to help solves major issues plaguing the world. The solutions are found within the technology sectors in which they are experts. For example one gentleman has developed a technology that can use a certain area on the map to send out an SMS emergency message to anyone within that range. It does not require a database of personal numbers. This is incredibly helpful in situations such as Ebola outbreak. Information sharing and behaviors during emergency situations is an important and large part of LIS. Another partner is working to solve the issue of youth exchanging sexual favors for vouchers for internet time so that they are able to complete their studies. Internet access can be so expensive and difficult that mothers will go without eating to ensure their children can study. It certainly proves that the digital divide is still an issue needing to be tackled.

After introductions there was a wonderfully detailed overview of the BMGF beginning with history and leading to the process of grant creation. I appreciate the BMGF values such as “All lives have value” and “Independence allows us to take risks for innovative solutions”. The goal of the TPN is to extract greater value and maximize the impact of the projects the BMGF can fund. Currently, they use the knowledge management service Yammer to communicate as a group. Many expressed the inefficiencies of this current system and discussion about improvements  followed. The grants given by the BMGF fall into the following categories: global health, global development, U.S programs, Global Policy & Advocacy, and Communications.

The idea that librarians are so much more than the buildings they work in is very appealing to me. As libraries themselves transforms so should the definition of what it means to be a librarian. I would love to see more librarians/Information professionals working in the space of advocating for change and development in places that desperately need knowledge and technology services. Just as important as preserving the past it is critical to improve the now and future.

Fun fact: The words you use and the way you write, creates a literary fingerprint.