Tuesday, 22 September 2009

finding Harry Potter

"Small wonder that spell means both a story told, and a formula of power over living men." ~J.R.R. Tolkien

It's always kind of sad at the end of each Harry Potter book, another year at Hogwarts has passed, Harry must go back to his miserable Muggle life. He misses his friends and longs for the magic of the wizardry world where he truly fits in. This is how I feel. I am very fond of London and it's magical energy. I've been working on this blog every day since I've been home and it's been hard to bring closure to this experience. I have a ton of more research to share, but there's just too much...

I must put the Nimbus away for now until London will have me again. Thanks to this experience, my future has never been more uncertain. My nightly Nimbus ride took me places beyond own imagination. The moments I cherish the most were so beautiful, beyond pictures and words and blogs. My adventures in the London Underground showed me parallel universes with just three minutes between each portal. I loved going down the rabbit hole only to emerge and try to make sense of the mad world around me. Here is where the Knight Bus comes to a screeching halt and I get off, and try to move on with my life. I'll never forget all the friends I made and people who have touched my life forever in a very cosmic way.

I'd like to thank FindHogwarts.com for guidance and inspiration in my search for Harry Potter in London.

I have photo albums for the rest of the trip, links are below. I recommend clicking Slideshow in the top, right corner of each album. Check out my pictures please for highlights from the rest of my time in London including:

Skateboard park in Waterloo

Wicked the Musical

Girls night out

Haunted London

Coco Before Chanel movie @ the Barbican

Tower of London &
Underground Heroes exhibit

Housmans Radical Bookstore &
my birthday pictures

The Coal Hole pub

Beatles Magical Mystery Tour &
Hyde Park Speakers Corner &
Hard Rock Cafe London museum vault &
the London Eye

Dali Universe &
Arcadia the play

Sherlock Holmes Museum &
Bunhill Fields cemetery &
Hamleys toy store &

Stonehenge &

Highgate Cemetery &
second visit to British Museum

The Globe Theater &
high tea at Fortnum & Mason

Links for Paris and Amsterdam photo albums:

Hard Rock Cafe Paris
Pere La Chaise Cemetery Paris &
Picasso at the Lapin Agile
Place de la Tour Eiffel &
The Louvre
Amsterdam canal ride
Bibliotheek Amsterdam
Van Gogh Museum
Brussels & Amsterdam

I still haven't made a dent in writing about all the Harry Potter stuff I saw and researched. I highly recommend The London that Inspired Harry Potter Tour by londonwalks.com. Check my photo album of this excellent Harry Potter tour in London. These London Walks are a really excellent, cheap way to see and learn all about London.


"Nothing like a night-time stroll to give you ideas"

Let's put the cat amongst the pixies: Harry Potter isn't just kids' stuff. There are very real tales - and real locales - behind the stories of Harry and friends. Those tales, those locales inform this walk. Was there really an invisibility cloak? What's the truth behind the Philosophers' Stone? What place inspired Diagon Alley? Where was the legend of Dracula born? Where in a famous movie did a werewolf go on a rampage? There's good gripping London stuff behind a lot of the Harry Potter goings on - everything from characters' names to the origin of monsters. We'll solve a mystery or two: e.g., where is the entrance to The Ministry of Magic and can we get in? In short, this walk is a serious study of a subject more fantastical than fiction. And, yes, there's even some magic. As one walker put it, "dead brilliant."

Harry Potter in Latin
Bath, England

Friday, 14 August 2009

Telling Tales: Fantasy and Fear in Contemporary Design @ V&A

Telling Tales: Fantasy and Fear in Contemporary Design

“The fairy tale, which to this day is the first tutor of children because it was once the first tutor of mankind, secretly lives on in the story. The first true storyteller is, and will continue to be, the teller of fairy tales.” ~ Walter Benjamin

Personal reflections: This exhibit is a supreme example of how our desires and fears are manifested in fairy tales. To find this exhibit was a great treat because I’ve been researching magic and fantasy in British youth literature while I’m here in the UK. My research project will examine how youth relate to magic and fantasy to help them confront the mysteries of life and their own fears. The “huggable (nuclear bomb) cushions” art piece inspired me to think about how fantasy in literature is often just moral lessons in disguise, “allowing us to literally embrace our fears.”

all photos from www.vam.ac.uk

The exhibit Telling Tales: Fantasy and Fear in Contemporary Design at the V&A explores the recent trend among European designers for unique or limited edition pieces that push the boundaries between art and design. All of the art is inspired by the spirit of story-telling. A narrative quality connects all the objects. They tell us tales through their use of decorative devices, historical allusions or choice of materials. By referring to fairy tales, conventions of status display, or anxieties about mortality- our fantasies and our fears- these objects call on a pool of shared experience.

The exhibit flows through three dramatic sections. In The Forest Glade a background of printed gauze screens and dappled lighting evoke the forest of myths and fairy tales. Against all the evidence of an industrialized, globalized, high-tech world (or perhaps because of it) some contemporary designers are retreating to the pastoral setting of fairy tales, myths and nature. In so doing they return us to our most primitive state. No doubt their designs are escapist, even naïve, and can be quite deliberately childlike. Their faux-rustic objects look as though they belong in a forest glade straight from classical mythology or northern European fairy tales, or perhaps even the biblical Garden of Eden. But these designers are deadly serious about wanting to disengage us from ordinary life and reconnect us to a state of innocence and wonder.

“Fig Leaf’ wardrobe, 2008
photo from www.vam.ac.uk
Adam and Eve were the first to wear fig leaves. Ironically, the wardrobe only becomes “dressed” when the user is not.

A distorted palatial atmosphere will be the setting for second section. We now leave the Forest Glade and enter The Enchanted Castle, furnished with marvelous and fantastical objects. Many recall design in the 18th century, a period that was frequently evoked by later writers and illustrators of fairy tales. The 18th century was also the age of the rise of the novel, a new way to tell tales. Early novels, such as Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders (1722), were descriptions of the material world of Georgian life, as were William Hogarth’s print series, such as Marriage a la Mode (1745). In both, style and design were a visual language that indicated social and worldly status.

Morality of fairy tales relies on oppositions of good and evil often taking a visual form.
Witch Chair, 2004
photo from www.vam.ac.uk
The Witch Chair is scaly, dark and sinister.

Princess Chair, 1968
photo from www.vam.ac.uk
The Princess Chair is like a child’s fantasy of Cinderella at the ball, effervescent, elegant, light and fanciful.

Kiki Carpet Special, 2001
photo from www.vam.ac.uk
Changes of scale disorient us so we see familiar sights in new ways. The texture and pattern of carpet are wildly out of scale with the room. The same disorientation of shrinking and growing was sought by Lewis Carroll in 1871.
“But, grandmother, what big eyes you have,’ she said. ‘The better to see you with, my dear.” ~Little Red Riding Hood, 1857

The final section uses spotlighting and diagonal walls to create a disconcerting Heaven and Hell. At the end of the 19th century, the advent of psychoanalysis opened up the subconscious and offered new interpretations of drams and the imagination. With this came a renewed awareness of mortality and a sense of anxiety about the mutability of life, which Freud described as the “death drive.” Inspired by this, we here present works that evoke the universal conflict of life and death, heaven and hell, judgment and salvation. Some of these designers refer to the forms of Baroque art; others conjure up memento mori – reminders of our mortality. Still others create agitated designs that explore our anxious state in troubled times.

Huggable Cushions, 2004
photo from www.vam.ac.uk
These cushions diffuse our horror of nuclear annihilation by allowing us to literally embrace our fears. We are infantilised, as the atomic subject is made into a child’s object. The soft toys, therefore, act as psychological prostheses using irony to help us confront what may at first seem impossible to face, the threat of total nuclear desolation.

All notes for this journal entry come from the exhibit program at the Telling Tales: Fantasy and Fear in Contemporary Design at the Victoria & Albert Museum. In addition to extensive notes on fantasy, the program had quotes, interviews and the text of a Grimm fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Waterloo and Charing Cross public libraries

Slideshow of Waterloo and Charing Cross libraries and more

I wanted to see more public libraries in London, so I made my second extra library visit a sort of field trip to some nearby libraries. I started with Waterloo, which is where I'm staying. I actually found Waterloo Public Library when looking for my local discount grocer!

Waterloo public library

It was a busy library and I was excited to learn that it is also an active job resource center. In addition to regular lending services and instructive programming, the library also has a room dedicated to assisting jobseekers. In hard economic times, it was no doubt this library was thriving and staff were doing their best to keep up. In fact, they were so busy, I was not able to interview any librarians. I picked up tons of pamphlets and literature on all kinds of literary subjects and information resources. Overall this library has a great community feel, easily accessible, easy to share info/resources. Of special interest to me was the dedicated children's library. a nice collection plus play area in front windows of library.

Waterloo public library

Once again I found the Questseekers summer reading program theme, a childrens librarians worldwide can appreciate those busy summer reading program days! It was great to find such a gem of a community library so close to my London home in Waterloo!

Waterloo public library

Just a couple of Tube stops away is Charing Cross Library. I was surprised to learn when I arrived that this library serves the Chinatown of London. This library was rich with Chinese reading materials and resources.

Charing Cross Public Library

Charing Cross Public Library

It was a large library and also very busy. It had an urban feel and was open late!

Charing Cross Public Library

There is a music collection with a wide range of CDs, there are frequent Employment Advice sessions, and regular sessions for the Under 5s are held in the library.

Charing Cross Public Library

call the goverment from the library!
Call the goverment from the library! I think this is an excellent idea, let's share this one in America!

Check out my pictures for the rest of the days activities!
Dr. Martens store, combat boots
Rough Trade record store on Brick Lane
Rootsmaster vegan double-decker bus

Pictures of Waterloo and Charing Cross libraries and more

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Scottish Storytelling Centre and Library

Slideshow of Scottish Storytelling Centre and more

Scottish Storytelling Centre

I was really excited to discover the Scottish Storytelling Centre while walking around Edinburgh. It was the perfect thing for my day off Edinburgh to do one my extra library visits for class. I was especially excited to learn the Centre does have a Library, and I was able to access the library and learn all about this innovative new Storytelling Centre in Scotland.

mural: A Mile of Stories by Julie Lacome

Whether you’re looking for an entertaining evening out, fun family activities or the chance to discover more about Scotland’s stories and the art of storytelling, the Scottish Storytelling Centre is the place to start. We present an exciting programme of live storytelling performances, theatre and literature, plus exciting visual arts, workshops and training events. Our programme aims to promote storytelling as a vibrant contemporary artform and to provide opportunities for everyone to celebrate Scotland’s rich storytelling heritage.


The Storytelling Centre has only been open for three years. I had the opportunity to explore the interactive exhibits and storytelling areas.


interactive exhibit: Raised in Edinburgh and steeped in Scotland's stories, Robert Louis Stevenson contributed to many different literary genres. Vistors can touch the green button at the bottom right of each panel to sample Stevenson's tales of travel adventure historical romance and his poetic and spiritual vision.

The George Mackay Brown Storytelling Library

Of special interest is the The George Mackay Brown Library on the 2nd floor. The Library and its associated education facilities are named after the Orkney poet and storyteller George Mackay Brown, who was the founding patron of the Scottish Storytelling Centre. The library is supported by The Barcapel Foundation, The Russell Trust, St Margaret's Chapel Guild and many individual gifts and donations. Additional volumes are loaned by the Scottish Arts Council Literature Department.

The collection includes folktales and fairy tales from around the world, plus an extensive collection of Scottish fairy tales. The collection also has teacher resources and some juvenile fiction. One section of the library has a collection of preschool books on display. Recently one of the storytellers has volunteered their time to organize the library. This library is an excellent Ready Reference resource for any involved with childhood literacy.




Check out my pictures to see the rest of the days activities!
George Heriot's School, J.K. Rowlings inspiration for Harry Potter
Fringe Store, the gift shop for the original Fringe Festival of the world
Ghost & Ghouls Trail, haunted tour of Edinburgh's underground vaults

Pictures of Scottish Storytelling Centre and more

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

National Archives of Scotland

Slideshow of National Archives of Scotland and Poltergeist Tour

I would like to thank our professor, Dr. Teresa Welsh, for arranging these in-depth and behind-the-scenes tours of British libraries. Today, like many of our library and museum tours, we were taken into the stacks to see and sometimes handle rare collections. It has been a privilege to be treated as professional librarians abroad. I’ve heard librarians can’t even get behind-the-scenes tours at the Library of Congress, but over four weeks we have seen stacks, conveyor systems, digitization, conservation, processing and cataloging. The librarians of Great Britain welcomed us, shared valuable knowledge and took interest in American libraries as well.

Our second full day in Scotland, we visited the National Archives of Scotland.

Their mission is to preserve records as an agency of the Scottish government and make the records accessible. The library has three buildings, 160 staff, eight websites and two Divisions, the Records Services Division and the Corporate Services Division. The library has over 70 kilometers of local records shelving, from 12th century to 21st century. The General Register House is used by students, researchers and the public to research ancestry. To access the print and electronic materials, researchers must apply for a Reader’s Ticket. The librarian shared with us some special items from the collection. We saw letters from 1838 that had vertical and horizontal writing crisscrossed and overlapped to save expensive writing paper. Also rich with history was the court documents from the Burke and Hare case. We also saw Suffragette material.

Megan, a science librarian, asked me to join her to visit the Surgeons’ Hall Museum.
I found it amusing that I was the only one willing to go with her; she knew I’m into the creepy stuff! We had great fun at the Museum and also shopping around Edinburgh, we found some good counter-culture stuff. The Museum was closed when we arrived, but the very nice gentlemen at the door let us take a five minute tour, and he even showed us the Medical Library, which doctors can’t go in there until they’ve passed their exams. The Hall also has Sherlock Holmes fame.

Medical Library,

I was delighted to find the witchy little Wyrd Shop, “Scotland’s oldest occult store.”

The Wyrd Shop

I learned the meaning of “hedgewitch.” I also LOVED the list of house rules, “Pax Wyrdica”! They told me all the rules are necessary based on actual events in the shop. Rule #16: Only one re-incarnation of Aleister Crowley in the shop at any one time!

do we look scared?

Edinburgh is known for its haunted history. I took advantage of the ghost tours available for entertainment and history. The Mackenzie Poltergeist Graveyard Tour is possibly the scariest tour in Edinburgh, and I love the chance to tour a graveyard. Turns out Greyfriars Kirkyard is a very historic graveyard, with some Harry Potter connections as well!

Mackenzie Poltergeist Graveyard Tour

J.K. Rowling sat in Elephant House, writing much of the early Harry Potter novels in the back room overlooking Edinburgh Castle and Greyfriars Kirkyard. It’s likely this scenery inspired the mystical settings of Harry Potter. Did J.K. Rowling use Greyfriars Kirkyard for ideas for names of Harry Potter characters? In Greyfriars Kirkyard are graves for Tom Riddle and a McGonagall.

Tom Riddle?

Professor McGonagall?

Greyfriars Bobby is a famous little dog in Edinburgh, supposedly not leaving his master's grave in Greyfriars. He is honored nearby.

Greyfriars Bobby

The view from the graveyard of George Heriot's School at night was really atmospheric! This is the school that Rowling has said inspired Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Could she see the school from The Elephant House maybe? I'm going to visit Heriot's School tomorrow.

school that inspired Hogwarts

Pictures of National Archives of Scotland and Poltergeist Tour

Monday, 27 July 2009

Birthplace of Harry Potter

Slideshow of The Elephant House

Elephant House

I'm sitting at The Elephant House, the place where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter.

The Elephant House: Birthplace of Harry Potter

Elephant House

They have a wall of articles dedicated to J.K. Rowling.
JK Rowling articles at Elephant House

Elephant House

Rowling liked to the view in The Elephant House overlooking Edinburgh castle and Greyfriar's Graveyard for inspiration when writing some of the first Harry Potter novels.
Edinburgh Castle from Elephant House

Ian Rankin, author of the Rebus novels, and Alexander McCall-Smith have both also frequented The Elephant House, as well as many others.

I really love this place! I'm using the internet cafe to finally upload some pictures. I'm sipping my new favorite beverage, Cider (and not that cider beer stuff, the real cider alcohol drink.)
i love cider

And they are playing Michael Jackson and Billie Holiday. Ahhh! Finally... things are have slowed down enough for me to stop and just take in the evening and atmosphere.

Elephant House

friends @ Elephant House

More blogging soon, and don't forget to click on the links to the Photo Albums at the end of most blogs.

Wish you were here!


Pictures of The Elephant House

Edinburgh Central Library

Slideshow of National Library and Edinburgh Central Library

Just across the street from National Library of Scotland is the Edinburgh Central Library.

Edinburgh Central Library

When this lending library first opened in 1890, they had closed stacks. This library is an excellent example of a Carnegie Library.

Andrew Carnagie library
bust of Andrew Carnagie, 1891

Notable Carnagie library characteristics at Edinburgh Central Library include the entry steps and the quote on the front of the building, "Let There Be Light."

Let there be light

Currently there are 50-60 staff members. The library uses Library of Congress classification, except in the children’s collection they use Dewey Decimal System. What is seen on the shelves is only 10% of the collection. The library card catalogs are still active. Two-thirds of the collection is cataloged online. The Reference Library has built-in card catalog drawers. The Reference Library used to be segregated; ladies and gentlemen could not sit together.

The Music Library carries “the finest music in Scotland” including bagpipes. It was nice to hear the Scottish music playing in the library. The Fine Art Library carries fine art, art history, architecture and photography books.

Of special interest to me was the Children’s Library.

children's library

Like the other UK libraries I’ve seen this summer, we once again see QuestSeekers as the Summer Reading Program theme. I also saw this library is promoting Bookstart, a literacy program for babies. Check my Children’s Literature links above for more information on these UK public library programs.

children's library

The Children’s library provides storytimes, rhymetimes and book crawl. Children are limited to borrowing 12 books, but there are no charges for damaged picture or board books. The Children’s library collection includes thousands of story books, picture books in lots of languages, board books, information books for homework, toys and games, Playstations, computers, internet, DVDs and books on CD. I found Harry Potter on audio in the children’s library.

Harry Potter

We had a great talk from Librarian Colm Linnane, of the Reading Champion program. He talked to us about some efforts of the library to reach out to readers. He emphasized the importance of partnerships, such as their partnerships with the Edinburgh Book Festival and UNESCO’s Cities of Literature. Their version of The Big Read is One Book, One Edinburgh. I learned that book groups are very popular in Britain. He shared a great source, 826 Valencia, a publisher of books for kids written by kids.

Memorable quotes:
“In public libraries, we don’t do technology as well as we might.” (So true!)
“When you impose tastes on what young people read, you’re not validating them as a person.”
A challenge for libraries is how to make a library visit more meaningful. The library can do things to make sure youth leave the library wanting to come back. One example is Make Noise in the Library Day. Some other outreach efforts include, taking kids to a book store to give them a sense of ownership. Mr. Linnane told us about his experience providing reading materials for bedtime at group homes. When left alone with their thoughts at nighttime, things would go haywire, reading helps! The overall message from him was to be consistent with child literacy.

This was a very insightful discussion to UK libraries. I’m so pleasantly surprised to see such similarities between American libraries and UK libraries. The struggles of librarians are very much the same. We try to do our best to reach out to youth and promote literacy, while also dealing with budget cuts and hard economic times. Reluctant readers can be found anywhere and librarians around the world can share ideas on reaching these youth.

After the Central Library, I followed our professor and some our classmates to the Scottish Poetry Library.

friends at Scottish Poetry Library

Some of the students were using this library as one of the three extra libraries we must visit on own time.

Scottish Poetry Library

“With the motto By Leaves We Live carved into its entrance, the library feels like a tree house- a hidden, airy and welcoming haven.” – The Herald

Scottish Poetry Library

The Scottish Poetry Library is a national poetry resource offering free reference and lending services. The collection includes, contemporary Scottish poetry, a wide range of other poetry, a junior collection, CDs and tapes, poetry magazines, resources for teachers, readings and events.

We had to go to Hard Rock Café for dinner, of course. I’m collecting HRC shot glasses from every city for my friend Gail who lent me her digital camera! For my nightly pub experience, I went to Deacon Brodie's Tavern. The story of the true resident of Edinburgh, Deacon Brodie, was the inspiration for the character of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Deacon Brodie's Tavern

I took the night bus home back to Dalkeith Castle. This "Knight Bus" ended up being quite the adventure. After riding around through pitch black Edinburgh, I finally made my way to Dalkeith. I met a nice girl along the way. I had the chance to talk to her about Harry Potter. She said she loved HP just like most kids. She said Harry Potter is popular reading in Scotland just like everywhere else.

Tolbooth Tavern
Tolbooth Tavern in Edinburgh, Scotland

Pictures of National Library and Edinburgh Central Library