Oxford University – College, Press, and the Oxford English Dictionary

Friday, we went to the University of Oxford, which is perhaps the most prestigious university to exist. I, a mere 3.2 GPA student, felt quite unworthy to be there, but it was absolutely incredible.

We started our journey with a tour of Christ College, which is quite historical (as is the whole university). Christ College specifically teaches religious studies, and films like Harry Potter and The Golden Compass have been filmed there, as well.

Scenes from Harry Potter filmed at Christ College.

Everything here is so old and full of history, it’s incredible.

Inspiration for the Great Hall from Harry Potter.

 

After our tour, we went to Oxford University Press to learn about the history of publishing and the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

The press is famous for being the first to have ever printed a book, which is quite remarkable. Although they no longer print in-house, the press serves as a publishing company now, and they also help expand literacy across the globe. They have programs to teach children how to read, which I love.

Fun fact: Uppercase and lowercase got their names because capital letters were stored in cases above the lower ones!

We also learned that each year, 1800 new words are added to the OED. Anyone can submit a word to be added to the dictionary, and it then goes through evaluations to determine if it’s used enough (which would be five times in writing by different publications) to be added.

The first dictionary took decades to be compiled, and it took many people to complete it. It was a very expensive process, as well. J.R.R. Tolkien also worked on the dictionary! Super neat.

We also saw an iron printing press, which is evidently quite hard to use, as its heavy. Printers would work in teams of two for 11-hour shifts printing. One would load the ink on the paper, and the other would pull the levers to press the ink to the paper. Because the shifts were so long, they would switch jobs every hour.

Oxford University Press is a huge birthplace to modern media, and exploring it firsthand was an experience like no other.

The National Portrait Gallery

While my primary goal of the weekend was to visit the National Gallery agaiin, Carrie (a new BSP friend) and I decided to visit the National Portrait Gallery as well, since it was adjoint to the National Gallery and it was free.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but it didn’t disappoint.

The gallery starts out with a display of all the royal portraits and takes you through a visual tour of British history.

Queen Elizabeth I!

The gallery took you through all the portraits of the British monarchy, which I was vaguely familiar with from taking European History in high school. It’s so crazy seeing these paintings in person because they’re so old. Some are older than America (a common thing in London).

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William Shakespeare

There were also portraits of prominent figures and staples to British culture.

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Here’s a portrait of Ed Sheehan, which I absolutely did not expect to see.

 

It’s a bit surreal to see modern people in the gallery, mixed in with the 1000-year-old paintings.

Cate Blanchett!

I didn’t expect to have a good time at the Portrait Gallery because I don’t much like portraits, but it does provide to be a nice history lesson.

I think that if you’re into realism and/or British history, you should visit the National Portrait Gallery. I also like that it’s free to go here because when British schoolchildren are learning about history, they can pop on over here to see the portraits of the people they’re studying in person.

Free Evening Standard

One of the major differences between UK and British media (in my opinion) is that London allows the Evening Standard to be distributed at tube stations.

If you walk by the Oxford Circus underground entrance, you’ll be bombarded by people trying to give you a free Evening Standard paper. (It’s kind of the same feeling around homecoming election time at school when people yell at you to vote for their candidate).

This brings up the age-old question of whether or not people should pay for their news, but it’s so interesting because, in America, you have to pay for your newspaper. Local news offers free readings online, but you have to pay to receive a physical paper.

The Evening Standard has also stirred up trouble, I learned during the mayor’s question time.

I think it’s interesting that the Evening Standard hands out papers for free, to begin with because I can’t imagine how they turn a profit. However, it appears to work, as I’ve noticed a lot of people on the tube reading it.

If the mayor deemed this inappropriate, I assume they would just move to another location, but I’m actually not sure about the result of this.

Love Island and British Media

“The Bachelor” may be ingrained in American culture, but it has nothing on the prevalence of “Love Island” in the UK.

As soon as I arrived in London, I immediately began to hear people discuss the latest episode of Love Island. There’s been coverage about it in the newspapers as well, which is different from American media. The newspapers at home aren’t really concerned with TV.

Love Island is such a staple in British culture that you’d think all the Brits knew the contestants personally.

I think this speaks volumes about British media.

Remember when I wrote about diversity in the UK and said that there were many different types of people living in London?

That’s not reflected in love Island. All but one of the contestants are white, and they only speak English, it would seem.

The show has been critiqued because of this, but it’s interesting how British media, while different, is really the same as American media.

Tate Modern

I didn’t expect to have a feminist awakening today, but that’s the great thing about London – you’re constantly surprised.

I went to Tate Modern today because they have a Picasso exhibit, and I really like his line drawings. (The collection didn’t include any, but I still had a nice time exploring his surrealist art).

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Isn’t this cool? I’m a fan.

Modern art can be a bit foreign to me. It’s all up to the artist’s interpretation, and sometimes the point of the work is really ambiguous.

I didn’t go to all the exhibits, but the ones I did visit made complete sense, so I’m quite happy.

My favorite collections explored feminism (both in the art world and in media), media and technology, and how people interpret art.

I love this exhibition (if you can’t already tell). The Guerilla Girls are now my new favorite, and I love that Tate Modern has this included in their gallery.

I never really thought about the woman artist’s struggle, but it does make sense that this is a feminist issue because the only artists I have ever heard of are men.

 

Hear me out: I’ve thought about this a lot. I watched a Netflix Documentary called “Miss Represented” (featuring my favorite reporter, Karie Couric), which explores the intersection between feminism and media. The way women navigate the world of and are represented by mass media is so interesting.

This was one of my favorites! I think the idea that makeup is antifeminist is so interesting.

“A tower of radios playing at once addresses ideas of information overload and failed communications.”

This series explores the elite world of the rich, documented with the same style that photographers often use to document the poor – “an outdated version of the ‘concerned photographer’ but disguised as entertainment.”

 

“How does light affect our perception of colour?”

This was a really cool room. The lights changed while you stood back and looked at the painting, thinking about how your perceptions change as well as your emotional response to color.

Tate Modern was a nice place to ponder and self-reflect.