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Events | exhibitions


Mary Queen of Scots letter pushes scientific boundaries

Mary Queen of Scots' signature on a letter
The signature of Mary Queen of Scots
on her last letter.

The frontiers of science are being explored with the aid of one of the National Library of Scotland's most treasured collection items.

A team of young scientists from the University of Edinburgh are testing a new way of storing data with DNA. They will use the text of Mary Queen of Scots' last letter — written just hours before she was executed in 1587.

Scientists believe DNA — the basic building block of life — can be the answer to the world's data storage problems. It involves written text being converted into short molecular sequences that, in theory, can be stored safely for centuries at much lower cost than conventional methods.

The Library is supporting the research by supplying the basic text of the letter to see if it can be coded, stored and then retrieved by the scientific team.

DNA as a storage medium has already attracted the interest of the software giant Microsoft. The Edinburgh University team will present their research at an international competition in Boston in October.

See also our DNA storage press release.

10 August 2016


Sir Kenneth Calman appointed as Chair for the Library

Photograph of Sir Kenneth Calman
Sir Kenneth Calman.

A new Chair has been selected to lead the governing Board of the National Library of Scotland.

Sir Kenneth Calman, who has held many leading posts in education and medicine, has been appointed by Scotland's Culture Secretary, Fiona Hyslop. He takes up his appointment on 1 October.

Sir Kenneth served as Chief Medical Officer in both Scotland and England in the 1990s. He is a former Chair of the National Trust for Scotland and is currently Chancellor of the University of Glasgow.

He succeeds James Boyle, a former Controller of BBC Radio 4, who is stepping down as Chair of the Board after successfully leading the organisation for four years.

See also our Library Chair press release.

27 July 2016


Historic maps on show in 'You are Here' exhibition

A map of Edinburgh showing George IV Bridge
Edinburgh city centre, around 1780.
From John Ainslie's 'Designs
for Edinburgh's New Town'.

A fascinating journey through the wonderful world of maps is on offer in the National Library of Scotland's new exhibition, 'You are Here: A journey through maps'.

Featuring some of the most important and beautiful maps in the Library's world-class collection, the exhibition sets out to challenge our acceptance of maps. It poses questions about how maps are made and how we understand them.

'You are Here' starts with maps of Edinburgh then zooms out to Scotland, the UK, Europe and the world.

Maps featured in the exhibition include:

  • The first printed map of Scotland
  • One of the finest plans of Edinburgh
  • Maps from the 'Blaeu Atlas Maior', said to be 'the most beautiful atlas ever'
  • Railway, fishing and schoolroom maps.

The exhibition also has a number of fun activities for visitors, such as identifying locations and calculating distances based on the scales used in maps.

Millions of people use maps every day, and 'You are Here' provides essential information to get the most out of cartography.

See also our maps exhibition press release

21 July 2016

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