Browsing Category:

In the Archives

London Days 9-11: Revisiting, Researching, Returning Home

I am back in the Sunshine State as my incredible trip to London, England has come to a close. My trip was a blessing in so many ways and as much as I wish I had made my way to London sooner, I think having this as my first trip at this point in my life was exceptional timing. I do not think I would have had the experience I had- appreciate everything as much as I did- had I gone sooner. I am very grateful and cannot wait to go back. But there is still more to tell on my last few days in London.

On my 9th day in London I wandered back over to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Unlike that previous Sunday, I was finally able to go inside Westminster Abbey. Understandably, I do not have photographs from inside as it is a church, a place of worship, and photographs are not allowed; however, take my word for it, the inside is magnificent from the stain glass windows to the intricate memorials and tombs. You can see history moving through time with the architecture and the tombs, and overall, it is just a beautiful place. Yet, it is a very overwhelming place. It is hard to focus on one thing at a time because no matter where you look or step, you are faced with the resting place of multiple people. Because of this, I decided to venture back to Westminster Abbey the following day as well. I think going back to allowed me the ability to see things I missed the day before. And I also declined the audio tour the second day; instead, I sat several times and just took in everything I was seeing, everyone I was seeing.

After Westminster Abbey, I ventured back to the Tower of London. After going the first time earlier that week, I knew I had to go back. Much like my second trip to Westminster Abbey, I had missed so many things my first time visiting. I took a lot of time to go through each tower and really just look at the architecture and the very interesting graffiti that is carved into the walls of the towers. I was struck by how tight and narrow the hallways and staircases are. It made me wonder what it would have been like to be in such a claustrophobic place with the very real possibility of losing your head. Speaking of which, I was also able to go inside the Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula where many who did lose their heads ended up. It was such a beautiful little chapel. It was also somewhat funny, the small group that I entered the Chapel with, four of the group members asked, “Where is Anne Boleyn buried?” Put my want to see where she is buried aside, I thought to myself, “I wonder how many people ask for Anne’s cousin Katherine/Catherine Howard or Lady Jane Grey?”

The following day, day ten of my trip, I took the day a little easy and just wander around the city aimlessly. I got on the tube that morning and randomly got off at a stop not far from Buckingham Palace, so I decided it was time I see the Queen… the current living Queen that is- in my entire trip I saw a number of queens (Elizabeth I, Mary I, Mary Stuart…). Anyway, I strolled through the park and made my way to one of the gates of Buckingham Palace.

As it turns out, I was somewhat on time for the Changing of the Guards. Personally, I think people were waiting to see if the Queen and/or her family would emerge. It certainly seemed like many thought she was coming out because once the band and change of guard happened, everyone walked away looking very disappointed; however, I was excited to have had the experience. I think my favorite part was the band playing “Summer Lovin'” from Grease. I have to say, not what I was expecting at all.

By the time the Change of Guard took place and I wandered around outside Buckingham Palace and walked The Mall, I found myself at Trafalgar Square. I ended up going back into both the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, looking closely at things I had missed and revisiting a number of paintings and portraits.

Day 11 was bittersweet. I spent this last day at the Imperial War Museum in their Research Room, taking 800+ photos of some really incredible treasures that I cannot wait to use in my research. In my time researching, I was finding new things and thought of something I could add to my thesis that would enrich it. It is a component that I had never considered because I did not know there was much to go on; however, thanks to my time at the Imperial War Museum, I have that component.

After researching, I went through the exhibits again, the World War I exhibit two more times, before I bid the IWM a farewell. As I said it was bittersweet, but I reminded myself I will be going back… very, very soon.

I stayed at the IWM right before it closed and decided to make my way back to my hotel. By that time it was 7pm and I had to be ready for a very early morning to head back home. When I got back to the hotel, as I was packing, I went through all of the books and pamphlets I received from each place I visited and did not find myself sad to be leaving, but excited to have had the trip and to make my way back. I know all of the places I visited- Westminster Abbey, Hampton Court, all the museums including the IWM, everything!- will be waiting for me.

03/03/2017
/

London Day 7: Research at the Imperial War Museum

Yesterday I spent some time in the Research Room at the Imperial War Museum. They were kind enough to pull some items from their archives for me. Let me say that if you are ever going to do research at the Imperial War Museum, they make it an incredibly easy and smooth process. All I had to do was search their collections online and fill out a form online with the catalogue information of the items I wanted. I cannot remember how long they say to wait for a response as to whether or not they can accommodate your request, but I heard back in less than 24 hours. In reserving a time, they have two time slots- 10am-1pm and 2pm-5pm. Once they have approved your request, you receive an email with all of the instructions on how to prepare, as well as what you can and cannot bring.

I was a little nervous yesterday morning as I was not entirely sure of what to expect, but when I arrived at my designated time of 10am everything I requested was already pulled and ready to go. The woman who was there (I wish I could remember her name!) was friendly and great in explaining what I could and could not do. Their rules are extremely straightforward. I was allowed a pencil, paper and my laptop if I so chose. I was also allowed a camera, but three things: no flash, no shutter noise and it cost £10 for a camera pass for the day. I was going to purchase the pass before I sat down with the materials, but the woman who helped me gave great advice- look at what I have first and then get the pass if necessary as they do not offer refunds on the pass. After looking at the things they pulled for me, I ran and grabbed a pass right away. I wish I could share the photos of the amazing things I looked at, but per the agreement with the Imperial War Museum, I cannot digitally share the photos online. If I ever decide I would like to use the materials in a publication, the woman also gave me information on how I could go about it; however, this is not the case, so I cannot share the photographs.

You are allowed three items at a time at the desk space. I had three war nurse personal papers pulled. The first set of papers I opened ended up being more so focused on the Second World War. I scanned through the papers to see if I could find anything of interest for my research, but it was out of my date range and there really was not reference pertaining to my research. The other two items I had pulled are gold for my research. The first one is a sort of hybrid scrapbook-diary from a nurse in World War I. I think a lot of the written portions of the book were extracts from her diaries and personal letters and then she had so many newspaper clippings, photos, ration books, medical papers, pamphlets- it was everything any historian could ever dream of, and it was right there in my hands. The book contains about a 100 pages (maybe more), so for the sake of time, I followed the advice of my professors and snapped photos of everything before sitting and reading. That process took some time, but it was well worth it. Now I have the pages to go back to and look at more in depth. After photographing for my research, I sat and just took in the book itself, slowly scanning the pages and looking at each item this nurse chose to include.

The other item I had pulled was a set of three journals from another nurse. These journals are difficult to read due to the handwriting, but I lucked out- there was a partial transcription of the journals with the physical journals. I am excited to utilize these in my research as well.

I am set to return to the Research Room at the IWM before I leave London. I was originally scheduled for one more session, but the staff at the IWM helped me get another. It really has been an absolute privilege to have not only visited the IWM’s exhibits, but to research there has been a dream come true. I am eternally grateful for the opportunities I have been given.

23/02/2017
/