Well, it’s that time of the year again. Time to tot up our visitor figures and enquiry databases to discover how our collections were used by researchers and find the most popular archives of 2016. For the second year running the collection which has topped our end-of-year chart is the NHS Forth Valley Archive. The collection, which includes the records of Stirling District Asylum (Bellsdyke Hospital) and the Royal Scottish National Hospital, continues to be very popular with family historians, providing a wealth of information on the patients who passed through the Victorian health-care system. In 2016 the records of these local hospitals have also increasingly been used by academics and students across a range of fascinating research projects.
In 2017 the University of Stirling will celebrate its 50th anniversary having opened its doors for the first time on 18 September 1967. The interest in, and preparations for, this important anniversary have resulted in the university’s own archives taking the No. 2 spot. 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. We are looking forward to making full use of this material throughout next year’s 50th celebrations!
Our film collections remain incredibly popular with academics, researchers and students. In 2016 the personal and working papers of the director Lindsay Anderson ended the year at No. 3 in our chart. In part this was due to a renewed academic interest in his work sparked by the publication of Lindsay Anderson Revisited: Unknown Aspects of a Film Director (Palgrave MacMillan, 2016). The enduring appeal of films such as If…. and This Sporting Life also brought a number of researchers to Stirling. The collection was also a key resource for our own M Litt Film Studies students who worked on Anderson’s papers during their research placements in the archive.
Outside the archives reading room our Hosts & Champions exhibition continued its tour around Scotland, taking material from our Commonwealth Games Scotland Archive to Stranraer, Kirkintilloch, Eastriggs and Grangemouth. Unique items from our collections were also loaned to exhibitions in places as varied as Montrose, Stirling, Paris and Udine!
We ended the year with the launch of an exciting new project to support the cataloguing and conservation of the Peter Mackay Archive, a collection relating to modern African history which was recently donated to the University of Stirling. A crowdfunding campaign has been launched on the Crowdfunder website:
Help us to reach our target by 24 January 2017!
Those results in full:
- NHS Forth Valley
- University of Stirling
- Lindsay Anderson
- NHS Forth Valley
- Musicians’ Union
- University of Stirling
- Norman McLaren
- NHS Forth Valley
- Commonwealth Games Scotland
The University of Stirling Archives has launched its first crowdfunding campaign to support the cataloguing, conservation and digitisation of the Peter Mackay Archive. Mackay (1926-2013) was a tireless campaigner for African liberation, becoming politically active shortly after emigrating to Rhodesia in 1948. Following his death in Zimbabwe in 2013 the archive was carefully packed up by his family and shipped to the university. Mackay’s family hailed from the town of Doune, near Stirling, and it was his wish that the university become the custodians of his papers.
Working with the university’s fundraising team we have created a campaign for the archive on the Crowdfunder platform. We’ve set a target of £8,000 to be raised over a two month period (closing date 24th January 2017). Depending on the amounts donated supporters can also claim rewards including invitations to launch events, inscriptions on archive boxes and framed photographs from the archive. We hope you can help us in reaching our target! Further details can be found at:
An introduction to the Peter Mackay Archive:
The archive provides a comprehensive record of Mackay’s journalism, political activism, travel, photography and charity work. His journals, notebooks, correspondence and papers preserve a detailed account of his life as a writer and activist.
It includes a large collection of photographs taken by Mackay during his travels around Southern Africa. These images provide a stunning visual record of a continent during a period of great change. The independence struggles across a number of nations are documented alongside scenes from everyday life.
The Peter Mackay Archive is a collection of international importance and has already attracted interest from academics and researchers from around the world. The digitisation of his papers will provide online access to this unique archive of modern African history. We look forward to developing the archive as a major research resource for all students of African history and politics.
Hosts & Champions Open Day
University of Stirling Archives
Friday 30 September
1 – 5 pm
On National Sporting Heritage Day we invite you to celebrate and explore our Commonwealth Games Scotland Archive. We’re opening up the University Archives on the afternoon of Friday 30th September to present a pop-up version of our Hosts & Champions exhibition. Celebrating over 80 years of participation and achievement by Scotland in the Commonwealth Games the exhibition has visited ten venues across Scotland, travelled hundreds of miles around the country and been seen by thousands of visitors since Glasgow 2014.
Members of our Hosts & Champions project team will be on hand to provide further information on the Commonwealth Games Scotland Archive and our fascinating personal collections of sporting memorabilia of former competitors and sporting administrators. There will also be an opportunity to view unique home movies of sporting competition from the 1940s to the 1970s that have recently been donated to the archive.
If you’re a researcher thinking of using our collections; a sports administrator interested in finding out more about the value of sporting heritage; a Commonwealth Games athlete, volunteer or baton-bearer; or just have a general interest in the history of sport we’d love to see you on the 30th September!
For further details please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Library has contributed three items of Wallace Monument memorabilia to an exhibition at the Wallace Monument. It is 155 years since the foundations of the Wallace Monument were laid. The Victorian Masterpiece exhibition on the third floor of the Monument contains exhibits which have been crowdsourced from local museums, libraries and private owners. This is what we contributed:
- Sir Walter Scott’s Lady of the lake, 1869 edition bound in mauchline ware, photograph of the Wallace Monument on the front cover. The Wallace monument was completed in 1869.
- A 1930s panorama of views from Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument, published in Stirling by R. S. Shearer.
- William Power’s Wallace Monument: the official guide, published in the 1950s.
To find out more about the Wallace Monument and the exhibition see http://www.nationalwallacemonument.com/the-monument/building-the-monument/
If you visit, remember that it’s on the third floor, reached by a narrow spiral staircase – wear sensible shoes!
Layla Essat is a Masters student in Gender Studies at the University of Stirling. This is the first of a series of articles on her project placement investigating the Stirling District Asylum archive held by the University of Stirling.
Stirling District Lunatic Asylum first opened its doors in 1869. Located in Larbert, many of its patients had been transferred from the large Royal and Private Asylums in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee. Like many institutions of the time, the asylum kept extensive handwritten records, logging and chronicling all under their care. These records for a long time remained stored away and inaccessible but have now found a new home in our very own University archive.
Beginning investigation into the records, I was fairly uncertain of what I was going to find. Undertaking this project in relation to my current Gender Studies Masters at Stirling, my only initial guiding focus was to explore the collection with the aim of discovering the situation of women. With the collection as a whole spanning over a hundred years, it was immediately apparent that a large task lay ahead. In response, I refined my focus to the years 1900 – 1910.
Ploughing my way through hundreds of pages of admissions registers, a familiar phrase kept popping up as “supposed cause of insanity.” What was this G.P of the Insane and why was it wholly prevalent in married women and men? Immediately fascinated and I was intent on learning more about the female patients this affected. With a quick input into google, I soon found the gendered relationship of this illness opening up.
General Paresis otherwise known as General Paralysis of the insane was first coined in the 1830s. As the name suggests, records state that patients at the asylum suffered from broad and vague symptoms, including fatigue, headaches and insomnia. Similarly, family members reported changes in personality, concentration and memory was severely impaired. They all suffered from slurred speech and facial and bodily tremors. Most notably, and highly typical of this disease, was the presence of delusions. This disease was syphilis.
The most socially revealing symptom could be seen in the patient’s eyes and was termed Argyll Robertson pupils. Often termed “prostitute’s pupils”, they were large and unreceptive to changes in light. This discovery proved key. From this I speculated a connection between the use of prostitutes by men and the then inevitable transmission of this illness to their wives. The picture suddenly became much bigger and from here, I begin to question who the real victims in this situation were. In an age where a woman’s marital duty was to provide sex, it would prove highly difficult for these women to protect themselves from the inadvertent dangers of commercial sex. Given that symptoms could take up to 20 years to manifest, innocent wives were likely to pay the price of their husband’s pre-marital sexual encounters as well as any current ones. However, my research revealed that perhaps women caught it first- hand. The women in this asylum all came from some of the poorest sections of society. Marriage was often undertaken out of need to ensure financial security and very less often for love. “Casual Prostitutes” were women who engaged in prostitution as a side line to supplement household income, and often pushed to do so by their husbands.
This condition was otherwise termed The Great Imitator for its habit to share its symptoms with many other illnesses. I believe that this issue was far more widespread than it would first appear and suspect that many others with G.P of the Insane simply went misdiagnosed. Given the sheer number of male sufferers observed in the admissions register, I highly doubt that diagnosis of female patients with this condition to be accurate. I encountered several instances where diagnosis was changed upon death. The majority of women I encountered died in the asylum, and of the very few allowed home, prognosis would dictate that they would have died bedbound soon after.
We will perhaps never know the full plight of these women. However, the bottom lines remains; as long as society maintained the notion of a male right and need for satisfaction of sexual energies, the transmission of venereal diseases amongst prostitutes, innocent wives and their philandering husbands would continue. Bluntly, male demand directly facilitated female harm.
Layla Essat, May 2016
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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)
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 for adults and £5 for children/students. Available from Helen Beardsley; or Smallprint, Beech Road, Dunblane; or at the door.
See you there!
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.
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.
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.
‘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’…