Annual Review 2004-2005

Annual Review 2004-2005 continued (page 2 of 3)

The John Murray Archive

About the archive

The John Murray Archive is one of the most globally significant collections of literary and cultural material from the past 250 years. It comprises over 150,000 letters and manuscripts from an enviable roll-call of eminent figures from the worlds of literature, science, exploration, politics, philosophy and the arts.

The archive contains private letters, manuscripts and other correspondence from Jane Austen, Lord Byron, Sir Walter Scott, Benjamin Disraeli, Herman Melville, Charles Darwin, David Livingstone, Thomas Carlyle, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edith Wharton, among others.

Financing the archive

The archive has been independently valued at £45 million but has been offered for sale to the NLS at a reduced price of £31.2 million in order to keep the collection in the United Kingdom. Of these funds, £3.2 million is to go toward creating a trust to secure the preservation and maintenance of the historic building at 50 Albemarle Street as a place for visitors and researchers. The remaining £28 million will endow the John R Murray Charitable Trust. One of the main purposes of this trust will be to support access to and preservation of the archive, as well as enabling additional, related material to be purchased. The Trust has already pledged £3m to cover the day-to-day running costs of the archive. Additionally, the Trust has committed up to £200,000 annually for cataloguing, digitisation, conservation and widening access to the archive, including exhibitions.

The Scottish Executive have demonstrated their support by committing a total of £8.3m towards securing the archive. Our bid for £17.7m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) met with Stage 1 approval in January 2005.

Development Plans

In 2004 specialist fundraising consultancy Brakeley Ltd produced a feasibility study for filling the funding gap and we have set to work on implementing their recommendations, most notably the establishment of a Development Department for the first time in the Library's history, comprising a director and a supporting team. This department will be tasked with helping the Library to raise the additional £6.5m towards the cost of the archive, while also providing us with a foundation on which to generate funds for our wider activities and collections.

The story of our bid to acquire the archive was a source of intense media interest and has contributed to raising the profile of the Library as a whole. The Stage 1 HLF approval was granted following a lengthy assessment period and much preparatory work during the year. Following the HLF funding announcement we appointed a Project Manager who will help to progress our bid towards the outcome of the HLF Stage 2 decision in March 2006. We also appointed a Project Curator who will undertake a thorough audit of the archive and help us uncover items of particular interest.

Bringing the archive to life

Interpreting the material from this vast Archive and making it accessible is vital to the success of the bid and significant effort has been dedicated towards how the material is preserved, displayed and interpreted. Towards this end, we organised exhibitions and displays which drew heavily on material from the archive and work has begun on an audience development plan.

Additionally, we have employed the services of award-winning, UK specialist museum and visitor attraction consultancy, Event Communication, who will complement our efforts to bring to life the many stories and people documented in the archive, through designing creative and accessible exhibitions and displays.

The Digital Library

Research and strategy

A key element of the Library's strategy is the development and expansion of the Digital National Library of Scotland. Much of the past year has been occupied with the preparation of the Digital NLS Strategic Plan for 2005-2008. By March 2005, the Strategic Plan had reached a draft stage, and the strategy will ensure that the customer is placed firmly at the centre of what the Digital Library aims to achieve.

The strategy recognises that all Scottish citizens are entitled to have access to our resources and services, and that these should be tailored to meet our users' needs. Accordingly, much of the strategy is based upon the findings of market research carried out during the last year. This research looked at the website as a whole, including analysis of how easy it is to use and how users interact with it.

This information, as well as helping us to understand how to make the website more accessible to a wider range of people, will also guide the decisions we make about selecting material from the collections for digitisation.

As a result of this research and testing, a number of improvements have already been made to our online services. Changes include making the website more accessible to users with visual impairments as well as to those with slower PCs.

Our vision is to provide an experience for the online user which matches as closely as possible that of a visitor to one of our buildings, in terms of the range of content and services available. We have also improved our online delivery systems to ensure our digital content is exposed to search engines like Google. This will allow people to discover us easily through subject searches and, having discovered our range of online resources, return to use our site as a research tool in future.

The word on the street

Our mini-site 'The word on the street' is one of the most visited areas of and it offers a good example of the kind of audience interaction at the heart of our digital strategy. This was launched in conjunction with the 'Read all about it!' exhibition and featured digital images of over 1800 'broadsides', single sheet newsletters, which were in effect the tabloids of their day, often posted on walls in houses and ale-houses.

The feedback from users has been very positive, with people from all over Scotland and beyond vividly responding to the opportunity to engage with these slices of local social history.

Muriel Spark

An important project launched in the period was a web feature devoted to Dame Muriel Spark, which contains biographical information, images and extracts from Dame Muriel's published work as well as other material donated by the author herself.


Meanwhile, the digitisation of our map collection continues apace, with the implementation of prototype web-mapping. This is a facility which allows users to click anywhere on a map of Scotland and access all of the digitised maps in our collection that pertain to that area. We hope to apply this innovative means of searching to all digital content in future.

Bathymetric Survey

The variety of applications for our online maps continues to develop in exciting directions. In April 2004, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency agreed to fund the digitisation of bathymetrical maps, a unique resource which shows the depth and dimensions of freshwater lochs. The results of this survey of over 500 lochs, originally conducted over 100 years ago, are now freely available online for the benefit of environmental researchers and those tasked with assessing water quality.

Organisational development


A significant investment was made in the Library's Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure, resulting in improved performance and reduced system downtime. Systems were significantly upgraded to further support staff in serving customers and to keep up with the growth in corporate information and digitised content.

ICT continued to develop important partnerships outside of NLS, including working with the Legal Deposit Librarians' sub-group, which is looking at the infrastructure and technical requirements of implementing the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003. Staff in ICT have been elected to sit on international committees, highlighting our expertise in these subjects. Closer working relationships with counterpart ICT functions in other national cultural bodies proved to be valuable and a shared services review was undertaken in light of Efficient Government initiatives.

Equality and health

The Library continues to set and maintain high standards for providing a safe, healthy and fair working environment. The British Safety Council awarded us five star accreditation this year in recognition of our continuing maintenance of facilities which were substantially upgraded several years ago. Additionally a number of our cleaning staff have successfully completed a Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) training programme this year.

The Library completed the Scotland's Health At Work Bronze Award this year. Staff had already instigated a Health at Work group before making a formal application to enter the national scheme. Numerous healthy living initiatives were enthusiastically embraced by staff, including activities such as a corporate fun run, regular yoga classes, drop-in visits from dieticians and occupational nurses and a coffee morning to raise funds and awareness for Macmillan Cancer Relief. Work towards achieving the Silver Award is well under way in 2005.

Our development of a progressive equalities policy was demonstrated by the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) adopting us as a best practice case study, inviting our Human Resources team to speak at conferences and write in the DRC journal, Eight Point Six, on the Library's positive experience of employing people with a disability

Partnerships and collaboration

Library partnerships

The 'Breaking through the walls' strategy launched last year stressed the importance of building relationships with partner organisations and this year has seen significant progress in doing so within the public library sector.

NLS has taken a leading role in developing pilot projects with library authorities in Moray, Glasgow and Aberdeen. The aim of these partnerships is to raise awareness among public librarians of the depth and breadth of our collections, as well exploring the scope to link to their own local collections, with a view to researching digitisation priorities, joint catalogue searching and visits for local community groups. The ultimate aim is to offer library users a more joined-up service and hence stimulate further uptake of services across the board.

Scottish chapbooks

We were awarded £10,000 by the British Library's Full Disclosure Fund in June 2004 to catalogue all the Scottish chapbooks in the Lauriston Castle Collection. Chapbooks are small paper-covered booklets, which made for cheap and popular reading from the 17th to the 19th century. The project to catalogue 3,200 chapbooks began in November 2004 following consultation with Glasgow University Library (who manage the Scottish Chapbooks Catalogue), Edinburgh Central Library, Stirling University Library and the Advocates Library. Staff have been working on procedures for copying data from the NLS online catalogue to Glasgow's database, thus providing additional access and material for chapbook researchers. NLS continues to take an active role in other collaborative groups such as the Scottish Confederation of University Research Libraries, the Consortium of European Research Libraries and the Collaborative Academic Store for Scotland.


The year has seen the successful completion of the Newsplan Scotland project. Newsplan is a major UK-wide project centred around preserving local newspapers by reproducing damaged, fragile or rare papers in microfilm form. NLS took the lead role in Newsplan Scotland, overseeing the conversion of nearly four million pages spanning a 250 year period. The project also gave us the opportunity to build the most comprehensive archive of Scottish newspapers worldwide, dating as far back as the early 18th century. Researchers in Scotland can now access local newspapers that are long out of circulation, with many titles available outside of the British Library for the first time since their publication, including the Aberdeen Shaver, Piper O' Dundee, Glasgow Clincher, Greenock Election Squib, Scottish Prohibitionist and Saturday Smile.


NLS is pleased to be participating in the UK National Serials Union Catalogue (SUNCAT) pilot initiative, which launched in January 2005. The pilot pulls together journal catalogue records from 22 research libraries. There are over 3.5 million records so far, and these can now be searched and accessed from a single source to the great benefit of researchers. The project aims to ensure that the highest quality records are maintained and eventually shared by more than 80 participating libraries.

Academic partnerships

We have continued our involvement with the Carnegie-funded Scotland's Transatlantic Relations (STAR) project, hosting a postgraduate seminar dedicated to the poet, John Burnside. We also take an active role in the teaching of Transatlantic Studies in Scottish universities, hosting bibliographical seminars at the Library.

Islamic influences on Spanish culture were explored with a study-day entitled 'al-Andalus: Legends and legacies', jointly organised by the Hispanic Studies and Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies departments at Edinburgh University in January 2005.

This event attracted nationwide interest from university staff and students and the general public. Topics included architecture, art, literature, religion, history and issues such as Jihad and crusades, with material drawn from our evolving Spanish collection.

Ordnance Survey Project

The Map Division have continued to work with partners such as the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and Historic Scotland on a project involving early Ordnance Survey maps of Scotland from the 19th century. This project involves geo-referencing and edge-matching the maps in the collection, creating a seamless picture of the wider area and ensuring modern coordinates are applied to these historical documents.

Scotland and Medicine Collections

Staff from several Collections divisions are participating in 'Scotland and Medicine Collections and Connections', a partnership led by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh to promote medical and health collections in Scottish Museums to local, national and international audiences. Our role will be to share expertise and resources with the museums sector and help demonstrate the worldwide influence of Scots writers and thinkers on medical matters.

Shakespeare Quarto Project

The Rare Books team has been working with Octavo, a company which specialises in producing digital facsimiles of early printed books. Octavo digitised our holdings of early quarto editions of Shakespeare's plays published before 1642, when the theatres were closed by the order of the Puritans. Thirty-one quartos have been digitised so far, which will help preserve the original printed items and allow them to be accessed by anyone with an internet connection. These books are a vital resource for anyone studying Shakespeare, English drama, theatre history or Elizabethan and Jacobean history. They are the closest we have to a working manuscript of Shakespeare's output and thus offer many fascinating insights into his processes and thinking. The quartos form part of the Bute Collection, an extensive collection of English plays, dating from the 1580s to the early 19th century

Digital partnerships

NLS was proud to become a signatory to the Declaration of Open Access along with a number of other organisations in October 2004. The Declaration marked the launch of a movement to revolutionise the world of academic publishing and widen the availability of such material.

Our involvement with the Digital Preservation Coalition continues to develop, with NLS taking full membership and representation on its board. The Coalition is an important international movement which concerns itself with the capture and preservation of the increasing amount of digital material being published worldwide.

In addition, we have joined the the Common Information Environment (CIE). The CIE is a cross-sector group of public sector organisations working together to overcome barriers to access by ensuring online information is easily available to all in the appropriate formats.

Marketing Partnerships

The depth and breadth of our collections offers vast potential for collaboration with other organisations involved with culture and learning, and this year we have begun to explore such possibilities in earnest. Exploratory meetings took place with Scottish Enterprise Digital Inclusion, Learn Direct Scotland and the Scottish Further Education Unit.

A significant partnership was forged with Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS), who have invited us to become a national digital content provider. Being able to add digital content to existing communication and teaching networks is an efficient method of breaking down the geographical barriers to accessing our collections, while simultaneously raising awareness of NLS across the country.

Additionally, we have been working with LTS to provide digital content for use in their Schools Out project, which aims to re-engage those whose learning has been interrupted.



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