Scottish Political Archive Roundup – 2023

It’s that time of year – where we tot up the stats and reflect on what we’ve achieved over the past twelve months and it’s definitely been a busy one for SPA!

In 2023, we have answered 79 enquiries in 55 hours which have led to 47 visits to the Archive Reading Room to consult material from SPA’s collections, including a group visit from SPICe, the internal information service at Scottish Parliament who we hope to work more closely with in the new year.

Some material set out for a tour of the archive

We continue to receive donations of ephemera through the post and in person and we were delighted to accession the Stephen Maxwell Archive.

To encourage engagement with the archive, we spoke at the History and Archives in Practise conference in London and Shaking the Archive conference, Edinburgh and joined the Magazines and Periodicals Research Group here at the University to highlight some of the amazing periodicals in our collections to our colleagues.

One such wonderful periodical is the Scots Independent Newspaper, whose archive we hold in SPA. This archive contains over 2,000 issues of the newspaper, from 1926 to the present day, original photographs (some of which can be viewed here) and original cartoons. Throughout 2022 and early 2023, we were digitising the newspapers and cartoons with the help of our fantastic Digitisation Assistant, Scott and are delighted to say that they are now fully digitised and slowly but surely being uploaded to our online catalogue.

A screenshot of the catalogue with browsable digitised newspaper

You’ll notice that in the above image, the ‘description’ field is still empty – this is the next stage of the Scots Independent project. We currently have some fantastic student volunteers from within and outwith the University who are working hard to complete in depth and page-by-page descriptions of each newspaper. It’s meticulous work which will vastly increase the usability of the archive and we’re very grateful for their time!

Many of the enquiries we receive are from students who are writing dissertations on Scottish Politics from all across the UK and beyond, as well as cross-disciplinary colleagues who are looking at Scottish Politics from varying angles. In 2023 we worked on a display and event with colleagues in Heritage about the Stone of Destiny.

Event with colleagues in Heritage on the Stone of Destiny

And last, but by no means least, this year we saw SPA’s Director, Peter Lynch, retire. We can’t thank Peter enough for all his work over the years in shaping SPA, not in the least in contributing enormously to its photographic archive. If you have been to a demonstration or march in Edinburgh since 2010, chances are, you’ve spotted Peter with his camera! The Directorship of SPA is taken over by Dr Coree Brown Swan who we’re enormously excited to work with.

Scots Independent bound volumes and photographs and some beautiful original cartoons from Ewen Bain.

We’re new to keeping usage statistics for SPA and so have no previous stats for comparison, but we hope we can build on what we’ve achieved in 2023 throughout 2024.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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