Monday, 20 July 2009

National Maritime Museum

July 20

For a museum that I did not expect to have much interest in, I was very intrigued by the Maritime Museum and Library. The original library opened in 1937. Sir James Caird is credited with forming the basis of the library, therefore it is named in his honor. The Caird Library is rich with its original oak bookcases and treasures behind glass doors.

This is one of the largest maritime libraries in the world. The collection covers emigration, navigation, piracy, astronomy, naval architecture, and the Navy. There are rare books, journals, charts, maps and manuscripts. Currently they have about 3 to 4,000 library users per year, and 15-18,000 electronic library users. Due to construction, the library is only open three days per week instead of the usual six. The library is funded by the Department of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and major private donations. The staff, including head librarian, consists of about thirteen members.

In order to open the collection further, the goal is the digitize more of the items but as always, funding is an issue. The first priorities for electronic access is family history accounts and then crew lists-because these are so extensive and used to trace family heritage.

Rene explained the rare books in the Caird Library, and Mike went over the manuscripts. I held in my hand a very tiny, old relic book. According to library legend, it is made out of the wood of the wreck it tells the history of. The Royal George at Spithead went down in August of 1782-and each book varies a bit in its account. The in-house conservation team of four has done a flawless job at keeping these books in top form. Another interesting item was the first book published in the Antarctic in 1908.

There is an electronic library that can be accessed only from inside the museum, but you can visit the library and see some of it's collection at their website,

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