Monday, July 8, 2013

Toys & Games Favorite: The Urinal

Track 7/08: Mazzy Star: "Into Dust"

This was a pretty awesome day as we journeyed out to East London to explore the Museum of London archeological archives in the Mortimer Wheeler House. The site is home to Museum of London Archaeology and its field staff, the London Archeological Archive Research Center, and the processing areas for the finds and soil samples from more than 8,500 excavations. Everything not on display at the Museum of London or Museum of London Docklands resides in this building. It was not designed as an archive but originally a steel tubing warehouse, and despite its rather large size, they are nearly at capacity with the volume of artifacts currently stored there.

There are various areas relegated to different collections, one example being the Social and Working History collection. 90% of donated materials end up in this collection which is divided among 6 rooms with different themes such as "Toys and Games" which we toured. While some items are what you might expect (vintage board games, antique tin toys) others were quite surprising; our group released oohs and ahs over my particular favorite, the royal urinal (pronounced by our English guide as 'yer-EYE-null') removed from the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden (royalty relieved themselves here!). Another royal artifact they have is the switchboard from Buckingham Palace - neat!

More along the lines of the expected contents of the archives, in the processing area there are shelves upon shelves of cases of bones. The London Archeological Archive Research Center is the world's largest archeological archive and there is 10.5 kilometers of shelving of material recovered in cases that are each labeled with a 5 digit code consisting of 3 letters (indicating the street/area of excavation) and 2 numbers (indicating the year the excavation started). A third number is added to the code for unusual or particularly displayable items. The soil conceals more than bones, and we explored a plethora of pottery and other articles such as a Tudor period spoon (did you know that dinner forks did not come into use until the 18th century in England?). There's a lot of history hiding in all of the dirt they sift through here.The policy is to keep everything as the archeologists want to see totality to learn about the assemblage, but this means materials to house everything, which contributes to a collection of £7 million just in cardboard. The whole place is a one stop shop for all aspects and processes of archeological research, and it was great to explore the museum archive branch of the profession.

For an evening activity, four of us acquired tickets to see a stage adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre (it's the 200th anniversary of P&P this year!). Just walking to the venue was fun as Regent's Park has gorgeous gardens. The performance was really well done, the acting was fantastic, and the entire center of the stage revolved.

The park is such an awesome backdrop for a theater, and we had a great night for our show. I was yelled at for snapping a picture of the stage as the set design was copyrighted, but those tickets were pretty pricey and hey, I'm a rebel so I feel justified in posting it anyway (take that, mean blonde usher).

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