2023: A Year in Archives

Our annual review provides a rundown of the highlights of a year which saw local filmmakers celebrated, collections digitised and pandemic stories recorded.

Archives on screen:

2023 brought a renewed focus on our film collections, which document the personal and working lives of a number of key figures in the history of British cinema. The year marked the centenary of the birth of Lindsay Anderson, a director best known for a series of classic British films in the 1960s and 1970s including This Sporting Life and If…. In January we marked the occasion with a major new exhibition of material from Anderson’s extensive collection of personal and working papers in the Macrobert Arts Centre. The exhibition featured fresh new insights into Anderson’s life and work through contributions from actors, artists, academics and curators, illustrated with previously unseen documents and photographs from a unique cinematic collection.

Contact sheet of photographs from the film O Lucky Man! (Lindsay Anderson, 1973)

We were also invited to curate two new exhibitions on the Stirling-born filmmakers John Grierson and Norman McLaren. In September we worked with Creative Stirling on a new exhibition which was displayed in their Made in Stirling building in the city centre. And in October we returned to the Macrobert with a new exhibition on ‘The Wonderful World of John Grierson’ which supported the 2023 Central Scotland Documentary Film Festival. Interest in the influence of Grierson (often called ‘the father of documentary’) extended beyond Stirling with our University Archivist contributing an article on Grierson’s relationship with his home town to the pan-European journal Angles: New Perspectives on the Anglophone World.

Pandemic stories:

Illustrations by Gregor Forbes featured in An Unusual Period of Unspecified Length.

The University Pandemic Oral History Project completed its interviews with staff and students in 2023. A total of 61 interviews were carried out, recording the experiences of the University community during the first years of the pandemic. The project team employed ‘creative history’ methodologies to present the information they collected, writing an article and creating a film both named ‘An Unusual Period of Unspecified Length: A Creative Oral History of the Covid-19 Pandemic’ These works, supported by the University’s Vice Chancellor’s Fund, adopt unconventional and creative approaches to the interpretation of the archive to appeal to a broader audience than might be attracted by more traditional academic outputs.

The project worked with a student from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland who composed an original score for the film and Stirling’s own Gregor Forbes, winner of the Royal Television Society’s Scotland Student Award for Best Animation in 2023 who created original animation for the piece. The film is a true collaborative work and the team is very excited to share the end results with you in a forthcoming issue of UCL Press’ online journal Paper Trails.


Our ScanStudio continued to provide new opportunities to open-up access to our collections through digitisation and support the wider heritage sector across the Forth Valley area. In March we celebrated the launch of the Alloa Burns Club Online Archive, a collaborative project with the Club and Clackmannanshire Council Archives which provided access to over 150 years of local history (and led to our University Archivist being interviewed about the history of haggis on Radio Scotland news!)

In 2023 we also completed the huge task of digitising over 2,000 issues of The Scots Independent Newspaper, from its first edition in 1926 to the present day. The next stage of the project is to make this material available online via our archive catalogue, with detailed catalogue descriptions (currently being created by a team of student volunteers) enhancing the searchability of this major new research resource. Our 2023 ARTUHR5 Exhibition and Interpretation class created a fantastic display of material from the newspaper which was displayed in the University Library over the summer months.

The return to research:

The return to research of recent years is clearly demonstrated in the enquiries we received (and answered) in 2023, increasing to over 700 enquiries for the first time. A number of factors contributed to this continued growth in enquiries which included increasing engagement with Stirling students; growing interest in volunteering; the creation of a large new research resource in the archives of Aberlour Children’s Charity; and increased use of our collections by the university’s own academic and administrative staff.

Most popular collections in 2023:

(Based on enquiries received and research visits to the archives reading room)

  1. University of Stirling
  2. Film collections (Anderson, Grierson, McLaren)
  3. Aberlour Children’s Charity
  4. Scottish Political Archive
  5. NHS Forth Valley
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