This week's photo shows an inside view of the Library of Congress in Washngton DC. You can go on a tour and look down from above, but I actually obtained a reader's identification card, in order to go onto the floor as a researcher and order a couple of volumes from the stacks in relation to the history of my husband's American ancestor Dan Calwell and family, when we visited Washington in 2007. The process of going down into the bowels of a neighbouring building to apply for the card and be photographed, fingerprinted and interrogated as to my reasons for wanting it and then waiting for it to be approved took some time, but eventually I was presented with my card and was able to go into the library and submit my order, and then sit at one of those desks waiting for the books to be brought up from the stacks. That took well over an hour, and unfortunately when they did eventually appear, one book turned out to be for the wrong year, which was bad luck as it was too late in the day to re-order and I wasn't able to go back the next day, but never mind, it was an interesting experience.
Here in Melbourne we have the State Library of Victoria, which was first established in 1854. The library's most influential founding fathers were Charles Joseph La Trobe, who became the lieutenant-governor of the State of Victoria following its establishment in 1851, and Sir Redmond Barry, who is possibly best known for having been the judge who sentenced Australia's most notorious bushranger Ned Kelly to death by hanging in 1880, and himself died 12 days later from unrelated health problems.
Augustus Henry Tulk was appointed in 1856 as the first librarian of what was then known as the Melbourne Public Library and both he and Redmond Barry worked closely together to develop and expand the collection from 400 volumes to over 80,000 works when Mr Tulk died in office in 1873. In a glowing tribute to the late Mr Tulk published here in the The Argus of 3 March 1873, it was suggested that "The statue of Mr Justice Barry already graces the great reading room; that of Augustus Tulk should be placed alongside it. To these two gentlemen - true brothers in the good cause of popular enlightenment - Victoria owes a debt which it can never adequately repay".
The crowning glory which is the Domed Reading Room was not added to the Library until 1913, when Mr Tulk and the others were no longer around, but I think they would have appreciated it. It was modelled on the designs of both the Library of Congress and the former Reading Room of the British Library, now the British Museum, and at that time it was the largest dome of its kind in the world. Here is some more specific information, from a display panel in one of the galleries around the dome.
Problems developed with falling plaster and leaks, but after major restoration the Dome was re-opened in 2003, and was renamed the La Trobe Reading Room, in honour of Charles La Trobe. There are statues of La Trobe and Sir Redmond Barry outside the library, but sadly the tribute-writer's suggestion extracted above was not taken up, and there are none of Augustus Tulk, whose only memorial seems to be a trendy cafe called Mr Tulk, established at the library in recent years. I wonder what he would make of that?
|Sir Redmond Barry surveys the scene, high on a pedestal in front of the library entrance|
|Charles Joseph La Trobe reading to one side of the entrance|
|and even a bunyip lurking about the garden|
|(From the SLV digital collection)|
Sir Redmond, perhaps waiting for Mr Tulk?
(from the SLV digital collection)
The SLV is a popular and busy place, with several other more modern reading rooms, but to me the Dome is the most impressive. I understand that writers often go there to absorb the historic atmosphere and write their manuscripts while sitting at the desks. No security process or membership card is needed for admission, you just stroll in, but of course a card is required if you want to order books that aren't openly accessible. The viewing galleries on the upper levels contain fascinating displays of rare and historical works from the library collections, and other exhibits on Australian and Victorian history, including for example Ned Kelly's armour, among many other interesting items.
|Inside the Dome|
|Looking down, from a gallery alcove|
|Focus on the light-filled dome|
|View of the library complex from a nearby office block, 35 floors up|
|Zooming in on the dome|
|This early photograph on display in the domed gallery shows people working away at the library desks. Interesting that some of the men did not remove their hats while inside.|
Mr Tulk and the others would surely have raised their eyebrows at illuminations of their beloved library like this one, taken recently on Melbourne's White Night, and would probably have been thankful it was only a fleeting image!
Desks on the floor below the dome are a prominent feature in our prompt, and as I can't end what is essentially a family history blog without some mention of family, I thought I would finish with this photograph of Daniel William Morrison, former surname Morrissey, at his desk in the dairy factory in Canvastown NZ, where he worked for many years as secretary. Daniel and his wife Mary Bridget emigrated to that area of New Zealand in 1875 as a young couple from Cork City, Ireland, aged about 22 and 19 respectively, with their first child Minnie aged 6 months, and had another 14 children, of whom all but four survived to adulthood. He would definitely have needed to work hard to support that large brood.
Daniel died in 1945 and here is his obituary. The ship that brought the Morrison family to NZ was actually called the Hanibal, not the Annabell, and by my calculations, Daniel and Mary Bridget's grandchildren eventually produced a total of 94 great grandchildren, of whom I'm just one.