Monday, February 19, 2007

Day of war.

Yes, that's right: today I did the Imperial War Museum, as promised. I took the tube out to the south shore of the Thames and made my way there without any difficulty. This city---the parts I've been to, at least---is very well signed and the underground is quite easy to navigate, despite there being about a trillion different lines going every which way. I don't always understand the heavier accents through the PA systems, but signs I can read! (Although I followed a sign that indicated "subway" yesterday, and instead of going to a tube station, I just ended up going under a road and out the other side of the street. A true sub-way, I suppose, but not quite what I was expecting.)

I was soon on my way up to the Department of Documents, a fancy name for a fancy round room near the top of the dome where researchers work with old bits of paper. I had 6 collections pulled and waiting for me. There was a small amount of useful material in them and I was done after about 2 hours.

After eating my sandwich in the cafeteria I decided to have a peek around the museum. Since it was so early I figured I might still be able to do some work at the National Archives before they closed. Alas, it was not to be. I should be realized. This is a war museum, after all, and my personal history with war museums has been to go through them very slowly. I rented the audio guide and bought a glossy brochure (all of which put me back 6pounds) and spent more than 5 hours walking around. It's a pretty good museum, though it was quite crowded today. (The kids are off school this week for half-term break.) And I now have visual evidence that the rubles I saw in the College Park archives were in fact from the North Russian (White) government---which I already knew, because it's written on the bills---but also that the bills looked almost exactly the same as the old imperial notes. How interesting. Earlier in the day I had read in a diary of a British officer stationed in Murmansk how unimpressed he was with the new currency issued by the anti-Bolshevik government because it resembled so closely that of the hated old regime. I saw examples of both currencies in the museum today, and he was right!

But anyway, I did most of the museum, skipping out on the paid exhibits---which looked like they would have been good to see, by the way---and running out of time to see the genocide/crimes against humanity section. But that's ok. I'd seen plenty for one day. It's certainly not for everyone, but as someone who researches war at least in some capacity, I always feel a certain responsibility to visit war museums and such. Maybe one day I'll go on a battlefields tour too!

After the museum I was too hungry and tired to check out the London Eye, but I did see it all lit up in the distance. I was home by 7pm and there was a ton of yummy green Thai curry and other things for me to pig out on. So I did. (I lucked out in this house, it seems, again.) And then I talked with TC for a couple minutes and we made plans to meet up for dinner tomorrow. Should be fun!

Tuesday it's back to the National Archives for me, and then on Wednesday afternoon I've got a research appointment at the Parliamentary Archives. Yes, at Westminster! There's only one document I want to see, but, heck, this way I get to go there. So it's totally worth it. After my few minutes of research is done I plan on being a tourist for the rest of the afternoon before meeting JDS and TC again for dinner, this time for a belated Chinese New Year's celebration.

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