From exile to exhibition: Stirling treasure on tour

This spring one of the treasures of our Archives and Special Collections is setting off on a journey to Paris where it will feature in a major new exhibition on the life of the Emperor Napoleon. The volume is a British military signal book which contained detailed instructions for the garrison guarding Napoleon during his exile on the island of St Helena.

The signal book is a well-travelled volume. It was first used by Colonel Mark Wilks, Governor General of St Helena in 1815. This piece of Napoleonic memorabilia passed through the hands of a number of collectors until it was purchased at auction in New York by the family of Burt Eddy Taylor in 1928. In 1969 Mr Taylor donated his collection of Napoleonic material, including the signal book, to the new university library at Stirling. Now, in 2016 it sets sail again, for the Musée de l’Armée in Paris.

Our signal book being checked by the Emperor before its departure for Paris.

Our signal book being checked by the Emperor before its departure for Paris.

The signal book will feature in Napoléon à Sainte-Hélène. La Conquête de la Mémoire, a major new exhibition looking at Napoleon’s period of exile on the mid-Atlantic island which opens on 6 April 2016. Our small, scruffy volume will take its place alongside an extensive range of items from collections across Europe which have been brought together to tell the story of Napoleon’s captivity on St Helena.

Detail from inside cover of the signal book.

Detail from inside cover of the signal book.

The signal book highlights the lengths the to which the British went to ensure Napoleon did not escape from the island. The inside covers illustrate the flags and signals which were to be used for communication including those for raising the alarm if Napoleon was missing. To limit the chance of rescue by his supporters a garrison of 1,300 troops was placed on the tiny island. In addition four Royal Navy ships patrolled offshore. Within the pages of the book further detailed instructions were laid out in the event of Napoleon’s absence:

‘the Signal Officers of the different posts are strictly enjoined to lose no time in communicating the intelligence personally to the places nearest them where troops may be stationed to the end that patroles may be immediately sent out in every direction to insure the impracticability of any person escaping from the island.’

The procedures put in place evidently worked. Napoleon remained on the island until his death in May 1821.

Napoléon à Sainte-Hélène. La Conquête de la Mémoire

Musée de l’Armée, Paris

6th April – 24th July 2016

New Japan Week display

There is a new exhibition in the display cases in the Library. To coincide with the University’s recent Japan Week events, we have a display of books relating to Japan, some in Japanese and some in English. All of the books are from the Library’s collections.

 

Scotland and Japan flags

Silent Movie Picture Books: Then and Now

In a period when the film critic was becoming more and more integral and popular ideas about the image began to circulate in everyday discussion, silent films, and especially their stars, became increasingly interesting to the general public. Lindsay Anderson’s personal collection of film books houses a number of picture books from this era: collections of stills and glamour shots, occasionally accompanied by descriptions of films or brief histories. These books, besides providing context, stories, and interesting pictures, are a window to two worlds – that of silent cinema and that of its ‘70s revival – which speak to our own.

The biggest difference between these picture books and the few of this kind that were published before 1970 is the shift in intended audience. Older books, like the 1959 Classics of the Silent Screen, call on people’s memories. The introduction appeals to a certain generation, stating its aims as “a rich sampling of some of the highspots of the silent era… to bring back happy memories to those who remember the films and players and to stimulate interest and an eagerness to see them among those who are too young.” For later books, like The Heart of Hollywood or Hollywood Glamor Portraits, the aim becomes more to teach readers about the past and to create a kind of glamorous nostalgia.

Sometimes, the aim is more concrete, as in “ Grandma’s Scrapbook” of Silent Movie Stars , which covertly documents the worth of famous silent actors’ signed photos and teaches readers to distinguish between real and fake signatures while still providing a dizzying collage of artfully assembled glamour shots.

A selection of titles from Lindsay Anderson's book collection.

A selection of titles from Lindsay Anderson’s book collection.

Of course, there were a number of reasons for this revival of interest in Old Hollywood, whether more about the profit to be gained or the pure nostalgia involved. It has been argued that we are experiencing another such revival in the 21st century, but for a much different reason. Slideshows, articles, and “best of” lists from well-known companies like TCM or AFI have in many ways taken the place of these picture books. Widespread accessibility to the Internet means wider access to silent films which would otherwise be much more difficult to find. All the same, these books are an enjoyable window into the past, and a reminder that Old, Old Hollywood is not always so different from our own.

(Abigail Jenkins, M Litt Film, 2015)

 

Concert in aid of the Leighton Library

Sunday 14th February, 3pm, Dunblane Cathedral

Concert by the Edinburgh Renaissance Band 

The concert has been organised to raise funds for the Leighton Library in Dunblane, with which the University has a friendly relationship.

Tickets: £10 forimg_1585[1] adults and £5 for children/students. Available from Helen Beardsley; or Smallprint, Beech Road, Dunblane; or at the door.

See you there!

 

2016: coming soon…

After a brief pause for breath over the xmas holidays we’re looking forward to kicking off the new year in style with a number of exciting events to report.

 

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Our Hosts & Champions exhibition continues its tour around Scotland opening this month in Stranraer Museum and moving on to the Auld Kirk Museum in Kirkintilloch in March. We’re also in discussion with a number of other venues around the country and hope to extend our tour into the summer months. We’ll also be speaking about the Hosts & Champions project and the Commonwealth Games Scotland Archive at the Sport in Museums Network Conference in Nottingham on 11th February.

 

KML Blue001

Our colleagues at The Musicians’ Union: A Social History project at the University of Glasgow are holding a major conference at the Mitchell Library, Glasgow, on 14th and 15th January. The project has made great use of the Musicians’ Union Archive during their research and has put together an exhibition on the history of the union which will be on display at the Mitchell Library from the 11th – 31st January. Players Work Time, a social history of the Musicians’ Union will be published in Spring 2016.

 

SDA project 009

‘Staring at the Ceiling, Looking at the Stars’ is an exhibition of new artwork co-created by patients at Bellsdyke Hospital and the artist Sharon Quigley inspired by the stories of patients in the Stirling District Asylum. It opens in the university’s Pathfoot Building on Saturday 23rd January. To coincide with this exhibition a public talk on nineteenth century asylums, with particular reference to Stirling District Asylum, will be given by Dr Ian Hutchison on Thursday 11th February. The Stirling District Asylum Archive has now been cataloged and is available for use by researchers. Full details can be found here.

 

We’ll continue to provide updates of further projects and events throughout the year, including a trip to Paris in April for one of our ‘Treasures’…

2015: End-of-year review

As 2015 draws to a close its time to review another busy year for the University Archives and look at how our collections were used by researchers. As in previous years we’ve put together an end-of-year chart of our most popular collections by combining the information recorded in our enquiries database with the records of material consulted by visitors to our archives reading room.

The collection which topped this year’s chart has been incredibly popular since its transfer to the University Archives in 2012. No. 1 in 2013 and no. 2 in 2014 the NHS Forth Valley Archive has retaken the top spot in 2015. The bulk of the collection relates to two local hospitals, the Stirling District Asylum (Bellsdyke Hospital) and the Royal Scottish National Hospital, Larbert. There continues to be huge genealogical interest in the information contained in the records of the hospitals, alongside increasing academic interest in the research value of the material.

Stirling District Asylum Case Books

Stirling District Asylum Case Books

This summer the completion of the Wellcome Trust funded Continuity of Care project improved access to the collection through a programme of conservation and cataloguing of the Royal Scottish National Hospital Archive, with full details of the collection now available on our online archive catalogue.

Our No. 2 is a former chart topper (in 2012) its place in this year’s list showing the growing research interest in the collection. The Musicians’ Union Archive provides a comprehensive record of the organisation’s activity since it was founded as the Amalgamated Musicians’ Union in Manchester in 1893. Recent enquiries related to the collection have included topics as varied as female musicians in London during World War One, the working practices of cinema musicians in the silent era, international union relations, The Beatles, the impact of the synthesizer and miming on Top of the Pops. The collection also provides a rich resource for family historians researching their musical ancestors.

Cover of issue 22 of The Musician, December 1957

Cover of issue 22 of The Musician, December 1957

The Musicians’ Union Archive is also a key resource for two major AHRC funded projects, British Silent Cinema and the Transition to Sound (De Montfort University / University of Stirling) and The Musicians’ Union: A Social History (University of Glasgow). Some of the research carried out by these projects will be presented at the conference ‘Working in Music: The Musicians’ Union, musical labour and employment’, which will be held in Glasgow in January 2016.

As the University of Stirling heads toward its 50th anniversary in 2017 we find our own institutional archives at No. 3 in this year’s list. 2015 saw an increased interest in our own archival resources both within the university and from external researchers. The University Archive holds the official history of the institution in its minute books, reports and publications. It also preserves the unofficial story of life on campus through student newspapers, memorabilia and oral history interviews with retired staff and alumni.

Our film collections continue to be popular with researchers.

Our film collections continue to be popular with researchers.

Before we end our review of 2015 an honourable mention should go to our film-related collections. The personal and working papers of three Scottish filmmakers took fourth, fifth and sixth places on our chart (Lindsay Anderson, John Grierson and Norman McLaren). If combined these film archives would have topped the list, their continued popularity showing the wealth of material relating to the history of cinema held in our collections.

Outside the archives reading room our most seen collection was undoubtedly our Commonwealth Games Scotland Archive. Our touring Hosts & Champions exhibition, which celebrates over 80 years of Scottish participation and achievement in the Commonwealth Games, has visited a variety of venues across Scotland this year, starting its tour in Irvine in March and ending the year at Dumfries Museum. The exhibition will continue its tour in the new year visiting Stranraer in January and Kirkintilloch in March. We’ll provide further information about the Hosts & Champions touring programme and other exciting projects and events taking place in 2016 in the new year.

Those results in full:

2015:

1. NHS Forth Valley

2. Musicians’ Union

3. University of Stirling

2014:

1. Norman McLaren

2. NHS Forth Valley

3. Commonwealth Games Scotland

2013:

1. NHS Forth Valley

2. Musicians’ Union

3. Norman McLaren

Further details of previous end of year reviews can be found here.

New student exhibitions

Students taking a new course on Interpretation and Exhibition Design have created two new displays in the university library using material from our archive collections. The third year undergraduate students were given the task of exploring our John Grierson and Norman McLaren archives and researching, planning and installing exhibitions based on material in the collections.

The two displays focus on particular aspects of the work of the two Stirling-born filmmakers chosen by the students. The display in the archives reading room cases looks at John Grierson’s time at the GPO Film Unit, which he joined in 1933. The library wall features material relating to Norman McLaren’s experiments with hand-drawn images and sound, with particular reference to his 1940 film Dots.

The exhibitions will be on display in the university library until Friday 26 February 2016.

Part of student exhibition looking at Norman McLaren's interpretation of sound in his films.

Part of student exhibition looking at Norman McLaren’s interpretation of sound in his films.

 

Camera featured in John Grierson display.

Camera featured in John Grierson display.

The Jacobites and their Legacy

The latest exhibition in the Library commemorates the 300th anniversary of the 1715 Jacobite Rising. The display includes books, manuscripts, artwork and artefacts from the University Library’s collections, as well as some books and broadsides from partner institutions – the Library of Innerpeffray (http://www.innerpeffraylibrary.co.uk/) and the Leighton Library in Dunblane (http://www.spanglefish.com/leightonlibrary/).

You can see the exhibition during November, and then again in the New Year.

A pair of shoe buckles from one of our collections. Visit the library to find out why they are one of our 'treasures'.

A pair of shoe buckles from our collections, which supposedly belonged to Bonnie Prince Charlie

Helen Beardsley

Senior Subject Librarian (Arts and Humanities)

 

 

‘We Have Tomorrow’: Peter Mackay and the Liberation Movement in Southern Africa

‘We Have Tomorrow’: Peter Mackay and the Liberation Movement in Southern Africa

University of Stirling Library

5.30pm, Tuesday 22nd September 2015

Peter Mackay on the 'Freedom Road' from South Africa.

Peter Mackay on the ‘Freedom Road’ from South Africa.

The University of Stirling Archives invites you to an event to celebrate the donation of the papers of Peter Mackay (1926-2013), a key figure in the independence movements of Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (Malawi). Born into a Scottish family with strong links to Doune, Mackay served in the Scots Guards, where he became the youngest captain in the Brigade, before emigrating to Southern Rhodesia in 1948. There he rejected the attitudes prevalent in the white community and served as a key organiser for the multiracial Capricorn Society founded by Colonel David Stirling, also from the Doune area. In 1956, however, he resigned from the Capricorn Society and over the next quarter of a century devoted himself to the cause of African liberation in Nyasaland and Southern Rhodesia, becoming actively involved with nationalist leaders such as Yatuta Chisiza in Nyasaland and James Chikerema and George Nyandoro in Rhodesia. Following the establishment of majority rule in Zimbabwe, he took up the cause of the impoverished people of Omay on the shores of Lake Kariba. His volume of memoirs, We Have Tomorrow: Stirrings in Africa, 1959-1967 provides remarkable insights into Southern African nationalism in its most principled phase.

The event will begin with a public lecture by Dr John McCracken (author of A History of Malawi) on ‘Peter Mackay and the role of White Activists in the Nationalist Struggle in Malawi and Zimbabwe.’ The lecture will be followed by an opportunity to view a selection of material from the Peter Mackay Archive in our archives reading room.

To reserve a place at the event, or to find out more about the collection, please email us at archives@stir.ac.uk

Continuity of Care Project Draws to an End

11 months, 3400 items, 7 blogs and 27 tweets later the Wellcome Trust funded project to catalogue and conserve the records of the Royal Scottish National Hospital comes to an end next week. The collection provides a comprehensive record of the management and operation of the hospital from 1862 to its closure in 2002. But perhaps … Continue reading