2022: A year in archives

Our annual review provides a rundown of the highlights of a year which saw stories collected, archives revealed and a welcome return to research.

Archives Revealed

The archives of Aberlour Children’s Charity, which were transferred to the University of Stirling in 2021, were opened up to researchers and the care-experienced community in a major cataloguing project supported by the Archives Revealed Fund. The collection provides a detailed record of the work of the charity since 1875 when the original orphanage was established in the village of Aberlour. A new online catalogue provides detailed information on the historical records of the charity, greatly improving access to the material.

In August we marked the completion the project with an event in the university’s new Campus Central building where we were delighted to welcome Ron Aitchison, a former resident of the Aberlour Orphanage, who donated his personal collection of archives to add to the Aberlour story. The collection has already proved a valuable new research resource supporting Aberlour’s work with the care-experienced, providing historical context for important new research projects, and even revealing stories for BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?

Pandemic Stories

This year saw the University Pandemic Oral History Project continue its work to create a record of the impact of COVID-19 on the university community. To date it has interviewed 39 members of staff about their experiences of the pandemic. The project team have also trained a group of students in oral history interviewing and they have interviewed a further 21 students and alumni for the project.  The work of the project was shared in a workshop for Stirling’s Remembering Together, crafting responses to the pandemic and sharing ideas on how it might best be commemorated within our communities. The project is set to conclude in 2023 with a film co-created with the Division of Communications, Media and Culture.

Celebrating Scotland’s Sporting Heritage

Stirling is Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence and the preservation and celebration of sporting heritage is one of the key aims of the University Archives. As home to the archives of Commonwealth Games Scotland we had plenty of opportunities to focus on our sporting collections in the year of the Birmingham 2022 Games.

The year began with a fantastic exhibition in the University Library created by our ARTUHR5 Exhibition Interpretation and Design students. A Game of Firsts looked at the importance of the 1970 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games in the wider history of Commonwealth sport. It was the first time the competition was held in Scotland and the Games saw many changes which modernised the competition.

For the third Commonwealth Games in succession our Hosts and Champions Team were invited to produce an exhibition for Scotland House, the headquarters of Team Scotland at Birmingham 2022. On this occasion Team Scotland wanted to celebrate aspects of equality, diversity and inclusion in its long history of participation and achievement at the Games. The exhibition Walking in the Footsteps of Heroes presented an illustrated timeline of key stories from the archive. Following the Games the exhibition transferred to the University Library where it was accompanied by a photographic celebration of the Team Scotland’s 13 gold medal winners at Birmingham 2022.

A memorable year for Team Scotland ended with one of our favourite items from our Commonwealth Games collection being included in the Scottish Council on Archives Twenty Treasures list. The list was created to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Council and highlights the range of material held in archives and libraries across the country.

“We are delighted that the item we nominated from our collections was selected as one of the twenty treasures which represent Scotland’s rich archival holdings. As Scotland’s university for sporting excellence its particularly fitting that our selection reflects our work to celebrate and preserve Scotland’s sporting heritage.”

Karl Magee, University Archivist


Our ScanStudio provides new opportunities to open-up access to our collections through digitisation. It allows us to provide access to documents through our online catalogue, linking descriptions to digitised content. Our new Aberlour Children’s Charity catalogue provides examples of this feature with a selection of material being made available including fundraising brochures and copies of the Orphanage magazine.

We have also provided wider access to our collections through the creation of curated sets of material on our JSTOR Open Communities Collections pages. The resources available range from 18th century maps of America to the original planning and development reports for the University of Stirling. The ScanStudio provides opportunities to support the wider heritage sector across the Forth Valley area. We are currently engaged in collaborative projects which will see new resources relating to the Scots Independent newspaper and the Alloa Burns Club launched in 2023.

The Return to Research

This year the University Archives returned to its home in the University Library following the completion of the Campus Central development. Our reading room can once again welcome researchers and provide opportunities for teaching sessions and tours. Our user statistics for 2022 clearly show that this year marked an enthusiastic return to research for students, staff and the wider research community.

Our enquiries received show a dramatic increase on the previous years of the pandemic with our collections supporting a wide range of research activities. As the year ended we were also delighted to reintroduce in-person volunteering, providing opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience working with our collections and building on our online volunteering projects.

Image of the Year

An image of the Stirling University time capsule sealed in March 2022.
Stirling University time capsule, sealed in March 2022.

The year began with the creation of a time capsule containing material suggested by students and staff to represent life on campus. It was placed under the new Campus Central building following the visit of the Scotland’s Higher Education Minister Jamie Hepburn on 7 March 2022. Before the container was sealed we took one last photo of its contents, this snapshot in time being preserved for the future.

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