Monday, June 29, 2015
We visited the London Archaeological Archive Research Center (LAARC) in the morning. Pictures weren’t allowed behind the scenes, but boy did we see some great items!
It’s the world’s largest archaeological archive containing 8.5 thousand different site information. Our tour guide Cat was totally engaging! She took us to see the rows and rows of stacked cardboard boxes containing materials dug up in and around London. Interestingly to us librarians, the materials are organized and classified according to archaeology; they’re in contexts of which they arrive and not necessarily in chronologic order.
London’s history goes back quite a ways. The Romans conquered the city for trade in 43AD; it’s a prime spot because of the Thames River. They have information and materials that date back even farther, if you can believe it. The end of the last Ice Age was about 250,000 years ago around 10,000BC. We got to hold a handaxe (see a picture below from Museum of London exhibit) from that time. *faints* She also allowed us to touch a brick from the Great Fire of London in September of 1666. I had soot on my finger from 1666! *stands up, faints again* That’s the time of Isaac Newton, FYI. Shakespeare had died, but close enough! Right?!
The LAARC is an active depository, but they’re on a bit of a time delay. A 15 year gap to be exact. They currently have archaeological materials stored through the year 2000, but the space in the building where they’re located has room for sites up to 2005. That’s obviously a problem, and one they’re aware of. It’s a moment of crossover between archives, museums, and libraries. Space is not infinite and a line has to be drawn. At what point do you decide “that’s enough?” To what do you say “that’s not important enough to be kept?” For business men and women those questions may be easier to answer than for the archivist and librarian.
In the afternoon we visited the Museum of London where the registered, “cool” archaeological finds are exhibited.
There was a general chronology to the exhibits, but some areas were themed: suffragettes or World War II, for examples. It started in prehistory and worked it’s way to the modern day.
Here’s the handaxe from prehistory…
Other exhibits were called “Roman London,” “Medieval London,” “War, Plague, and Fire,” and on… It was an extremely interactive library. There were things to touch, videos to watch, buttons to push, displays to choose from, sounds in the environment, records to listen to, texts to read, creative inlaid displays, and mounted video screens. My next post will discuss this further.