Like the Deptford Dame I was invited to a bloggers preview of the re-opening of the National Maritime Museum’s Caird Library last Saturday.

The Caird Library used to be housed in the main part of the museum, but with the building of the Sammy Ofer wing the opportunity was taken to move and extend the library into a new space. Caird Library staff can now keep a significantly larger percentage of the 2,000,000 item collection on-site, and items can be retrieved from storage within forty minutes.

Along with The Queen’s House and the Royal Observatory Greenwich, the museum is in the process of rebranding itself as part of Royal Museums Greenwich to tie in with the Queen’s decision to make Greenwich a Royal Borough as part of her Jubilee celebrations.

This event was an opportunity to promote the new wing, the free facilities available at the Caird Library and to show how the three museums are trying to have closer ties with the local community and those interested in Naval history.

I went along with my Twitter pal @mtcrowe as the RMG’s Digital Marketing Officer Emma McLean was happy for us all to bring a plus one to help us spread the word. After an introduction by Emma, Eleanor Gawne, Head of Archive and Library, gave us a talk about the development of the new facility, and with her Caird Library colleagues, a tour in small groups of the new storage spaces.

Unfortunately for us bloggers and photographers, photos were not allowed of the storage areas. However we were told that the storage areas have 9km of shelving spread over two and a half floors. They also feature those really cool rolling racks that you see at universities and wonder if anyone has ever gotten squished in. 😀

After the formal bit we were given plenty of time to have a nose around the new facilities and to look through items the Caird Library team had prepared for us from a list given to us with the invitation.

As you can see from the PDF many of the items listed have information and photos about them listed on the Caird Libray’s site, very useful for research purposes if you can’t come to the library yourself, and also useful in deciding what to ask the team to retrieve from storage.

Below is one of the items I requested to see and as I love maps this was a delight. The maps shows the course of the river from London to the sea.

River Thames printed chart by Richard Stanier dated 1790 ( G218:8/1) includes both the River Thames and the Thames Estuary, with cartouche

Books detailing the sinking of the Royal George whilst anchored off Portsmouth, the ship was built down the road at Woolwich.

An Account of the Loss of the ‘Royal George’ at Spithead, August, 1782… the 27 books that make up this collection are bound in wood taken from the wreck

Medical textbook owned by Captain Bligh, cited as particularly interesting due to its provenance. I had never heard of the term before but take great delight in understanding it now, I aim to use it in conversation to impress in the future. Tee hee.

Captain Bligh’s copy of William Buchan,’ Domestic Medicine: or a Treatise on the prevention and cure of diseases by Regimen and simple medicines with an appendix, containing a dispensatory for the use of private practitioners’ (London, 1779, 6th edition (PBD6069). Originally the property of Captain Bligh and subsequently in the possession of Fletcher Christian and the mutineers on the Pitcairn Islands

As mentioned above, you can access the Caird Library’s content for free, including log books, Admirality records, certificates of competence, letters, diaries, crew lists, business records (including the P&O archive), charts and maps. You can also read the 200 journals they subscribe to, and use their computer stations to access online journals and resources. Photocopying and scanning facilities are available, and content can be saved to USB stick to take home.

Another interesting feature is the hundreds of ship plans that can be accessed using a large touch-screen computer. These plans have been painstakingly scanned in and the staff are aiming to slowly scan in all of the 1,000,000 they have in storage over a number of years. The most famous of ships have had their plans scanned in first, so contact the library to see if your favourite is available.

This is the first local event I have been invited to through my blogging endeavours and having not visited the museum before, oops, it was an excellent event to have been invited to. I hope the RMG carries on with these kind of events as any kind of free public outreach event is an excellent way to encourage people to do something they wouldn’t have done before.

I also had the opportunity to talk to an astronomer from the Observatory and to promote the astrophysics talk my Dad does around the country. Hooray! It is a little dream of mine that one day my Dad will speak at the Observatory round the corner from my house. We also used to visit the park and the Observatory when I was young as we are from the area.

Here are some links to other blogs from this event:

Bloggers Preview of New Library, Caird Library blog

The Caird Library at the National Maritime Museum, Deptford Dame

The Holy Grail of Nautical Books, Night of Bones

The Old Order Changeth, Gentlemen and Tarpaulins

Nerding Out at the Maritime Museum, Ice Floe