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2014: End-of-year review

Phew! Well that was 2014. It was a year in which a combination of cultural centenaries, major sporting events and academic projects resulted in a huge increase in demand for our collections (and the political events of the past twelve months also kept our colleagues in the Scottish Political Archive pretty busy!) As in previous years we’ve put together an end-of-year chart of our most popular collections in 2014 by combining the information recorded in our enquiries database with the records of visitors to our archives reading room.

Interest in our most used collection in 2014 has been growing recent years (it was our third most popular collection in 2013) and it’s quite fitting that in a year when the centenary of his birth was celebrated with a Scotland-wide series of events our No. 1 is the Norman McLaren Archive. Born in Stirling in 1914 McLaren was an award-winning filmmaker whose work has inspired generations of animators and artists. The film screenings, talks, animation workshops and events presented during the year by McLaren 2014 provided a fitting tribute to his extraordinary career. We were delighted to be able to contribute to the celebrations with our exhibition A Dream of Stirling: Norman McLaren’s Scottish Dawn at the Stirling Smith.

Exhibition poster for A Dream of Stirling: Norman McLaren's Scottish Dawn

Exhibition poster for A Dream of Stirling: Norman McLaren’s Scottish Dawn

Last year’s most popular collection continued to be one of our most-used with the NHS Forth Valley Archive taking second place in our end-of-year chart. Genealogical interest in the historical records of Stirling District Asylum has remained constant with an increase in academic interest in the material also being noted. Access to this collection will be increased in 2015 with our Wellcome Trust funded project to conserve and catalogue the archives of the Royal Scottish National Hospital opening up the records of a hospital of international importance.

A new addition to our end-of-year lists sees the archives of Commonwealth Games Scotland take third spot (or should that be the bronze). In the year of Glasgow 2014 it was inevitable that this collection that documents over eighty years of participation and achievement by Scotland in the Commonwealth Games would generate a certain degree of interest! During the Games our Hosts and Champions exhibition was on display in Glasgow, providing an historical perspective on a modern international sporting event. In 2015 we look forward to putting together a touring version of the exhibition which will be updated with a selection of material from the Glasgow 2014 Games (which we are currently collecting).

Memorabilia from Glasgow 2014 recently added to our Commonwealth Games Scotland Archive

Memorabilia from Glasgow 2014 recently added to our Commonwealth Games Scotland Archive

Those results in full:


1. Norman McLaren

2. NHS Forth Valley

3. Commonwealth Games Scotland


1. NHS Forth Valley

2. Musicians’ Union

3. Norman McLaren


1. Musicians’ Union

2. John Grierson

3. Lindsay Anderson


1. John Grierson

2. Lindsay Anderson

3. University of Stirling

Theories on Down syndrome in the 1930s

This blog is the third from Continuity of Care – the project to catalogue and conserve the records of the Royal Scottish National Hospital. Thanks to a grant from the Wellcome Trust, this project started in the middle of August and will be completed by July 2015.

Although very short the featured letter is of significance to scientific debate of the time. As it is out-going correspondence it is not signed but was written by Dr Robert Durward Clarkson, the Medical Superintendent. It comes from one of the correspondence files.mongols RS-2-8-2

The Dr Crookshank mentioned in the letter was Dr Francis Crookshank, author of ‘The Mongol in our Midst’. This book established the theory that ‘mongoloid’ children were a throw back to an ‘inferior race’. The evidence he provided were examples of physical characteristics shared by ‘Mongolian imbeciles’ and those of the Mongoloid race such as small earlobes and a propensity for sitting cross-legged. These features resulted from the shared distant racial history of the parents and were caused by under-development in the womb.

The book was very popular in its day and the third edition was published in 1931, the year before this letter was written. It is interesting that both Dr Clarkson and his correspondent, Dr Lionel Penrose, clearly rejected the hypothesis.  Indeed Penrose went on to do considerable research on the genetic causes of mental retardation, further discrediting Crookshank’s theory. The paper that Penrose is sharing with Clarkson was ‘The Blood Grouping of Mongolian Imbeciles’ published in The Lancet in February 1932. Unfortunately his covering letter has not survived. A later letter from Penrose to Clarkson in June 1932 thanks Clarkson for allowing him to visit the Royal Scottish National Institution and asks for Clarkson’s help in gathering data on epiloia or tuberous sclerosis.

Crookshank committed suicide in 1933.

Wheat starch paste vs polyester sleeves

This blog is brought to you by Explore Your Archives week and is the second on Continuity of Care – the project to catalogue and conserve the records of the Royal Scottish National Hospital. Thanks to a grant from the Wellcome Trust, this project started in the middle of August and will be completed by July 2015.

The project includes funding for a conservator and Liz Yamada started in the post in September. She has already surveyed the collection and identified items which need conservation work. Of particular interest are the first two Registers of Discharges and Removals.

Page from the Register RS/1/4/1

Page from the Register RS/1/4/1

The volumes record where children were sent after leaving the Institution. They record information on the length of stay in asylum and more interestingly the condition of the child – whether recovered, relieved, not improved or incurable. As the photograph shows although all the children are discharged as ‘not improved’ the observations tell a different story.


But this blog entry is about the conservation of the items rather than their archival content.

discharges and removals conservation 1

Covers of the registers RS/1/4/1-2

discharges and removals conservation 2

Pages of the registers

They look very similar from the outside but could be conserved in very different ways. It is likely that the first volume, covering 1864-81, will be conserved in a conventional way: the pages will be cleaned with a latex sponge; the edges and spine folds repaired with Japanese paper and wheat starch paste; the binding re-sewn; and the old cover re-attached and consolidated so that it continues to be used as a book. The second volume, covering 1881-1915, on the other hand, is likely to be disbound, the pages put in polyester sleeves and stored in a folder with the detached cover.

discharges and removals conservation 3

Register showing edge tears

Why the difference in approach? The second volume could be repaired in the same way as the first but it would be more difficult, hence more time consuming and as a result, much more costly. One of the crucial differences between the two volumes is that the paper used for volume 13 is more brittle and as a result, many of the folds have cracked, so most of the pages are now single sheets. Another key difference is that the text is very close to the page edges and there are lots of edge tears in those areas. Very light Japanese paper would need to be used for repair so that the text is visible through it. This would not be very strong and would necessitate repairing both sides which doubles the repair time. The Japanese paper used for conservation is generally cream in colour so it will always stand out on blue paper originals. Although this is not detrimental to the preservation of the item, it is not very attractive. The repair papers could be toned blue with acrylic paints before they are applied but again, this adds to the repair time. Placing the pages in polyester sleeves will ensure that the pages can be handled without losing further information and can be preserved without the need for repair. Should it be necessary or desirable to carry out full repairs on the volume in the future, this will still be entirely possible.

Polyester sleeves are completely inert and a useful tool for the long-term preservation of many paper-based items. They protect items physically from being torn or creased and in some cases protect them chemically from items that give off damaging fumes. However, they cannot be used for everything in an archive collection. The cost of sleeves can add up quite quickly as can the weight which can impact on boxing, shelving floor loadings and archive staff who have to carry the boxes. They also add bulk, taking up valuable storage space. Polyester also carries static so it is not suitable for friable (powdery) media such as pastel, charcoal and soft pencil because it can lift the image off the paper. Sleeving items also changes the feel of the item, the smell and the overall appearance which is not necessarily desirable.

Exhibition from Innerpeffray Library

There is a new exhibition of books from the Library at Innerpeffray on display in the University Library stairwell.

The Library at Innerpeffray, near Crieff, was founded in around 1680 and was the first free public lending library in Scotland. The collection contains books from the 16th century to the present day on a wide variety of subjects, including witchcraft, animals, farming, medicine and European history.

The exhibition features books from two recent exhibitions at Innerpeffray – the Battle of Bannockburn; and Golf and other Scottish Sports. The exhibition was curated by Miriam Eriksson and Joana Krogsrud, who were students on the MSc Environment, Heritage and Policy programme last year.

The University is fortunate to have a partnership with the Library at Innerpeffray, and it is planned that a rolling exhibition of books from Innerpeffray will be on display in the University Library. For more information about the Library at Innerpeffray and how to access it, see .


Helen Beardsley

Senior Subject Librarian (Arts and Humanities)

Norman McLaren: Umbrian angels and stereoscopic drawings

A highlight of this year’s McLaren 2014 celebrations was the screening at the Edinburgh International Film Festival of Norman McLaren’s stunning 3-D films from the early 1950s, painstakingly digitally-restored by the National Film Board of Canada. The fascinating history of these ‘lost’ films was recently told on the Canadian Animation Blog, and the films will receive another screening at MoMa in New York in November.

McLaren’s interest in the creative possibilities of stereographic art is recorded in a set of papers which were recently donated to the University of Stirling Archives by Prof. Harold Layer of San Francisco State University. Prof. Layer corresponded with McLaren in the 1970s and 1980s about his 3-D film work, these letters forming part of the collection. It also includes copies of stereoscopic drawings and paintings created by McLaren in the 1940s which Prof. Layer has documented on a very useful online resource.

Stereoscopic portrait (left and right) by Norma McLaren, 1944.

Stereoscopic portrait (left and right) by Norma McLaren, 1944.

The material also includes a set of reports and articles written by McLaren in the 1940s and 1950s, noting the new approaches offered by stereographic drawing and providing technical notes for the 3-D films he produced for the National Film Board of Canada. In 1946 McLaren wrote a proposal for the Guggenheim Museum in New York, seeking support for his research into the new field of sterographics which he defined as “the art of doing a separate drawing, painting, sculpture or mobile for each eye, which when viewed together, will synthesize a new additional dimension.”

Honeycomb, Stereoscopic painting (left and right) by Norman McLaren, c 1946.

Honeycomb, Stereoscopic painting (left and right) by Norman McLaren, c 1946.

McLaren argued that this method of drawing offered “Freedom from the physical laws of a three-dimensional world.” He went on to argue that:

“The laws of physics such as balance and gravity need not operate in this type of three-dimensional space created by stereoscopic synthesis. Apparently solid objects, heavy substances, complex structures and liquid matter may float in space, needing no support and existing by a sort of auto-suspension. The renaissance painter, with his growing awareness, gradually realized that he, on his flat surfaces, was released from such laws, and the first Umbrian angels who rose a few timid inches from the ground were soon to lead the imagination to a magnificent world of soaring form. Today’s stereographic drawings are like those Umbrian angels, for they point to a world where angels may ascend with a new magnificence into the very three-dimensional substance of space itself.” (Ref. GAA 31/F/7/2/2)

A later annotation to this document shows that many of McLaren’s plans remained unrealized. In the introduction of the paper he wrote that:

“It is my intention to go much further, and open up stereography as a creative medium. I am writing this paper on the basis of my past researches, my present conclusions, and my future plans.”

Beside the words “future plans” McLaren added an annotation in red pencil in 1980 which read “unfulfilled as yet.”

Read All About It! Archives of the Scottish Newspaper Society come to Stirling

The University of Stirling Archives has received a new collection of material which provides a new resource for those interested in the history of the Scottish newspaper industry. The Scottish Newspaper Society is a trade organisation representing local, regional and national Scottish newspapers. Its role is to represent, protect and promote the industry. The collection includes the archives of the Society and a number of organisations it replaced / merged with over the years including the Scottish Daily Newspaper Society, the Scottish Newspapers Proprietors Association and the Scottish Newspapers Publishers Association.

Letterhead of the Scottish Daily Newspaper Society, c 1945.

Letterhead of the Scottish Daily Newspaper Society, 1940s.

The collection includes memorabilia dating back to 1915 but the earliest papers present come from the mid 1940s and detail the effect of the Second World War on the industry. The minutes of a meeting of the Scottish Newspaper Proprietors Association from 12th June 1943 begin with a statement from the Executive Committee noting that:

“For another year the meetings of the Association have been interrupted by the World War and it has been impossible to arrange for more than a one-day Conference. The improvement, however, in the Military situation raises the hope that the day when our meetings can be resumed in a fuller degree, may not be too far away.”

The war time minutes record the challenges faced by newspapers during the conflict which included loss of manpower, price and supply of newsprint, and censorship and reporting of events.

The next meeting of the Scottish Newspaper Proprietors Association, held in Edinburgh on 9th October 1943, was attended by Admiral Thomson, the Chief Censor. He reminded those present that newspapers should refrain from publishing anything that may be of value to the enemy and gave some examples of material to be avoided including:

  1. Those items which identified a unit or formation by number or which identified the location of a unit
  2. Matters relating to aircraft crashed in this country
  3. Reports of where and when an airman was missing

The extensive minutes and reports of these organisations provide information on a range of issues which concerned the newspaper industry including industrial relations, press regulation, delivery and distribution of local newspapers, advertising and circulation. The changing face of Scottish newspapers can be traced in a collection which stretches from war-time emergency to the challenges of a 21st century digital market.

Campaign against proposed rise in VAT on local and regional newspapers, 1987.

Campaign against proposed rise in VAT on local and regional newspapers, 1987.

The Royal Scottish National Hospital Project

This is the first of what will hopefully be a monthly series of blog posts on the progress of Continuity of Care – the project to catalogue and conserve the records of the Royal Scottish National Hospital. Thanks to a grant from the Wellcome Trust, this project started in the middle of August and will be completed by July 2015.

In 2013, the Royal Scottish National Hospital was given UNESCO status as a collection of international status (see our previous blog post). This reflects the importance of the Institution in the care of children with learning disabilities at a time when no distinction was made between mental disability and mental illness.

The Institution was founded in 1862 and the collection contains the earliest annual reports and minutes as well as a register of the first admissions.

RSNH first report USED

Title page of the first report, 1862

Amongst the items of interest catalogued so far is a volume of Superintendent’s Reports 1863-1872.

The Medical Superintendent was in charge of the day to day running of the Institution and answered to the Directors. He submitted a monthly report in which he detailed admissions and discharges; the progress of building; donations and finance; requests for information from the Commissioners in Lunacy; recruitment and salaries of staff; and the health of the children. Dr David Brodie was the medical superintendent from 1862 to 1867 and he had a troubled relationship with the Directors. He had run a school for imbecile children in Edinburgh under the auspices of the Society for Education of Imbecile Youth in Scotland. Once the Society had the funds to build its Institution at Larbert, Brodie was the obvious choice as resident physician.

In Brodie’s second report he wrote ‘Seven pupils have been admitted during the month – one full payment, one reduced payment and 5 election cases’. But by his third report he was reporting that ‘the proportion of the uneducable class is already embarrassing and entails too heavy a trial on the patience of attendants…’ He made frequent requests for more staff and better accommodation and in his letter of resignation he made his feelings clear:

IMG 2809 crop

Part of the entry of the Directors’ Meeting, 1st October 1867

There has been a very large surplus revenue which as derived chiefly from payment cases I had a right to expect would be devoted to the practical work in which I have been engaged yet this has…been absorbed in the payment of past liabilities while I have had to bear unaided all the discredit and discomfort attendant on the deficient staff and accommodation and have had to feel and acknowledge that the work that we were professing to do at the Institution was not being accomplished’ (from the minutes of a Special Meeting of Directors 1st October 1867).

This tension between the needs of the Institution and the financial reality in which it operated was to continue throughout its history as later posts will illustrate.

An iconic image? Commonwealth Games mascots

Our Hosts and Champions exhibition has returned from a successful run in Glasgow during the 2014 Games and is currently on display in our Pathfoot Building. In this article Ian Mackintosh, our Exhibition Assistant, writes about the curious tale of the Games mascots…

Copy of original Clyde design by Beth Gilmour

Copy of original Clyde design by Beth Gilmour

Clyde the mascot of the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games has been hailed as a great commercial success. It was a unique selection in that the mascot was designed by Beth Gilmour a 12 year old Cumbernauld school pupil. Her design was selected from a Blue Peter completion. Her creation is also unique in that Clyde is the first non-animal/mammal mascot for the Commonwealth games.

If the Legal and Concessions Committee of the 1970 Edinburgh Games had been as bold as the 2014 Games Organisers it would all be so different. Dr. Fiona Skillen’s research into the 1970 Games brought a cute little guy called “Wee mannie” to my attention. The organisers had been bold enough to commission a mascot for the games because of the success of World Cup Willie in 1966. However whereas the World Cup mascot was a football playing lion, the mascot for the 1970 games was to be a kilted Haggis.

Wee Mannie

Wee Mannie, the unacceptable face of Commercialism and unloved mascot!

A high profile publicity launch in July 1969 was followed by a competition to name the mascot. Things soon turned sour however when the committee received 23 letters of complaint about the design. Yet despite over 400 entries to name the mascot from children from all over Britain “wee mannie” (above) was dropped. The committee claimed that the BCG Crest design (below) was more popular.

The acceptable face of Commercialism in 1970 this crest was used for badges that were sold at the games

The acceptable face of Commercialism in 1970 this crest was used for badges that were sold at the games

While the 1970 Games Committee claimed the idea of a mascot was not a popular one, on Saturday 18th July 1970 they must have regretted that decision. The Scottish Athletics team for the 1970 games had created a mascot for themselves. It was a huge teddy bear dressed in a navy blue Scottish Athletic team vest and white shorts named “Dunky Dick”.

Lachie Stewart won the 10,000 metres comfortably beating the great Australian runner Ron Clarke into second place.  What happed next was one of the most iconic sporting moments in Scottish sporting history. Scottish 800 metre hopeful Rosemary Stirling ran to the victorious Lachie Stewart and presented him with the mascot. The image of Lachie Stewart and the mascot became a global success. The mascot was to gain world-wide fame as the television and newspaper images were flashed around the world.

Lachie with Dunky Dick the unofficial mascot of the 1970 Edinburgh British Commonwealth Games

Lachie with Dunky Dick the unofficial mascot of the 1970 Edinburgh British Commonwealth Games

Now we should ponder, had the Committee forged ahead with the mascot would Lachie have been presented with a giant haggis instead? How about that for an iconic image? Imagine how many haggis mascots would have been sold? Is it a matter of regret about a missed opportunity? Ironically the 1978 Edmonton games became the first to have an official mascot. So Canada who gave us the Commonwealth Games also gave us the mascot. A golden opportunity for a Scottish first missed.

Lindsay Anderson Revisited, An International Symposium

Last week a major international symposium was held at Lund University to celebrate the work of one of British cinema’s greatest talents. Lindsay Anderson Revisited brought together academics, writers, film critics, filmmakers (and archivists!) to discuss the director’s long and colourful career. The many possibilities for research offered by Anderson’s work were reflected in the packed programme with speakers exploring various aspects of Anderson’s career as a filmmaker, theatre director, author and critic. The symposium highlighted the research value of Anderson’s archive of personal and working papers and also its links and connections with other collections both at Stirling and other institutions.

In his paper on Anderson’s friendship with John Ford Charles Barr presented the early correspondence between the two men, reassembled through archival research.  Anderson’s early letters to Ford are part of the extensive John Ford Archive held at the Lilly Library at the University of Indiana, with Ford’s replies forming part of the collection of Anderson’s papers at Stirling University. Barr’s detailed examination of these letters brought to light the historical significance of a seemingly innocuous passage in Ford’s first letter to Anderson. Writing to Anderson in March 1947 Ford thanks Anderson for his letter and invites him to write with his views of his new film The Fugitive. Ford apologises for typing the letter, explaining that “I am as yet unable to write long hand, due to a bathing accident at Omaha Beach.” This was Ford’s typically understated way of describing the injuries he received when shooting footage of the D-Day landings in Normandy in June 1944.

John Ford's letter to Lindsay Anderson in which he mentions his 'bathing accident at Omaha Beach.' (Ref. LA 5/1/2/13/1)

John Ford’s letter to Lindsay Anderson in which he mentions his ‘bathing accident at Omaha Beach.’
(Ref. LA 5/1/2/13/1)

The discussions which took place during the symposium around subjects including Anderson’s ‘Scottishness’ and his work as a documentary filmmaker brought out the links and relationships that existed across the British and international filmmaking community that Anderson operated in. Some of these relationships are reflected in the film-related collections held at Stirling. Anderson’s Archive now sits on the shelves beside the papers of John Grierson, the ‘father of documentary.’ When Anderson emerged as a young filmmaker with his Free Cinema documentaries in the 1950s he challenged the established British documentary tradition started by Grierson in the 1930s. Grierson’s less than enthusiastic response to this new generation of documentary filmmakers and Anderson’s challenges to his Griersonian predecessors are preserved in their papers, a search across both collections highlighting the critical and theoretical distance between the two men.

A selection of Polish films were presented in the Free Cinema Four programme at the NFT in September 1958 (ref. LA 1/2/5/13)

A selection of Polish films were presented in the Free Cinema Four programme at the NFT in September 1958
(ref. LA 1/2/5/13)

Anderson’s connections with his European filmmaking contemporaries were examined in papers relating to his correspondence with the French actor Serge Regianni and his connections with Poland. In 1966 Anderson visited Warsaw to direct a production of John Osborne’s play Inadmissible Evidence which led to an invitation to make a film (The Singing Lesson). Anderson had already visited the USSR in 1957 with the Royal Court Theatre and Czechoslovakia on a number of occasions in the 1960s. The archive includes an extensive photographic collection which includes many images of these trips across the Iron Curtain.

Personal reminiscences, academic investigation and archival research all contributed to an event which opened up many new avenues of research into the life and career of one of Britain’s greatest filmmakers. Thanks must go to the organisers Erik Hedling, Christophe Dupin and Elisabet Björklund for putting together such a stimulating and entertaining programme!

Edinburgh International Film Festival—the Beginning

Cover of the Documentary 47 programme (ref. H3.P3)

Cover of the Documentary 47 programme of films screened in Edinburgh from 31 August – 7 September 1947 (ref. H3.P3)

As the Edinburgh International Film Festival gets ready to commence on 18 June, it’s interesting to reflect on how one the oldest and indeed the longest continually run film festival came to be.  Its roots date back to the postwar cultural revitalization of Scotland. In 1947 the Edinburgh International Festival of Music and Drama was established, and Norman Wilson realized that the medium of film was not going to be represented. Recognizing that this was a perfect venue to showcase film–as film historian Thomas Elsaesser later termed it, a ‘cultural clustering,’ a mixture of different art forms coming together for a rich community experience–Wilson, along with the Edinburgh Film Guild, went into action and took on the challenge of bringing a film festival together with limited financial backing.

“The aim of the founders, the Edinburgh Film Guild, was to have the cinema worthily represented at the first international Festival of the arts to be held in Britain” (ref. Grierson Archive, G7:44:61).The world was watching and they did not want to fail this challenge. In determining what their focus would be, they decided to showcase Scotland’s strongest contribution to film—documentaries.

“The first international Film Festival to be held in Britain will be devoted entirely to Documentary. This is no accident; for not only does Britain lead the world in documentary production, but the documentary approach—an innate feeling for reality—is now the distinguishing characteristic of British feature films” (ref. Hardy 3:9:8)

With the focus on documentaries, who better to invite to give the opening address and set the tone for the festival than Scottish-born John Grierson, the father of the British documentary movement?

A Time For Enquiry, John Grierson (ref. H3 P3)

A Time For Enquiry, John Grierson (ref. H3 P3)

The first film festival was modest, with only about seventy-five films shown during the eight day festival, but with the critically acclaimed films they did showcase, including Roberto Rossellini’s Paisan and Georges Rouquier’s Farrebique, they set the standard for what to expect at the festival.

Front of leaflet listing films shown at the first Edinburgh Film Festival

Front of leaflet listing films shown at the First International Festival of Documentary Films, Edinburgh, 1947 (ref. H3.P3)

Norman Wilson, serving as Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Festival in 1950 , explained what kind of films the festival looks for and the power of documentaries:

“It is the film of reality that the Edinburgh Festival is especially concerned with, and many people believe it is in this sphere that film-makers come nearest to the basic qualities of the cinema as a medium of creative arts. The great virtue of the film is that it can capture reality through the lens of the camera. By getting art into the country, and into the city streets among real people—into the world of everyday, which has within itself all the drama and romance of life without fabrication—the film can interpret and synthesis realities in its own creative terms. That is its unique quality as an art form, and that is what we look for in the films selected for showing at the Edinburgh Festival.” (ref. Hardy 3:8:1)

(Kelly Kloser, M.Litt. in Film Studies)

Reverse of leaflet listing films shown at first Edinburgh Film Festival

Reverse of leaflet listing films shown at the First International Festival of Documentary Films, Edinburgh, 1947 (ref. H3.P3)