The John Murray Archive (JMA), the most important archive to have become publicly available in the last 100 years, has now arrived at the National Library of Scotland.
Following the recent announcement in February which confirmed funding of £17.7 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the John Murray Archive has now made the move from its previous home in Albemarle Street, London, to the National Library on George IV Bridge, Edinburgh
A treasure trove of 150,000 items, valued at £45m, the archive contains letters, manuscripts and correspondence from some of the greatest writers, politicians and scientists of the late 18th to the early 20th centuries.
Welcoming the arrival the National Librarian Martyn Wade said: 'It is wonderful to welcome the John Murray Archive to the National Library. Now we can start the work of making this fantastic resource available to the people of Scotland and further afield. We have great plans for the archive including a permanent exhibition, which will open in aummer 2007, travelling exhibitions and a digitisation programme that will see 15,000 items being made available on the internet within four years. To bring such a unique and important collection to Scotland is an impressive task and I would like to once again thank the Scottish Executive and the Heritage Lottery Fund for their most generous support. The Library is now working hard and making good progress with our fundraising campaign to raise the final £6.5m required to finalise the purchase.'
Culture Minister Patricia Ferguson said: 'The arrival of the John Murray Archive in Scotland is hugely exciting for the National Library in Edinburgh and for Scotland as a whole. As the most significant literary archive to become publicly available in the past hundred years it is literature's jewel in the crown and it is an immense achievement to see it finally arrive in Scotland. The Scottish Executive has provided NLS with £8.3 million towards acquisition of the archive as it is clear that it will enhance Scotland's cultural and educational reputation both at home and abroad. Edinburgh is currently designated as UNESCO's first World City of Literature and the archive adds yet more depth to our literary reputation.'
Patrick Caddell, member of the HLF Scotland Committee, said: 'This archive wonderfully broadens Scotland's cultural heritage. Giving people the chance to explore the past in new and inspiring ways is what the HLF is all about. I am very happy that we have been able to help the National Library of Scotland realise the vision of bringing the John Murray Archive here, and thus open it up to wide public access through exhibitions, the internet, and use.'
Ruth Boreham, JMA Curator, NLS, said: 'As the JMA Project Curator I have been working with the archive over the past 9 months and have discovered correspondence from over 16,500 individuals, with fascinating evidence of collaborations, relationships, friendships and influences throughout. These personal connections and the often gossipy comments within the correspondence, give an insight not often seen to the personalities and lives of many of the individuals represented. From the world's most extensive and important collection of Byron's work to the personal letters of "ordinary" life, the archive is timeless and, with its breadth and the exciting plans the National Library has for it, there is something for everyone - whether you are interested in literature, travel, science, arts, politics, archaeology, geology, social history, ordinary people, famous people, business records, Scotland, the rest of the UK, or the rest of the world.'
The National Library of Scotland now plans to bring the archive to the people of Scotland and beyond. From May until September 2006 access to the archive will be by appointment, and it will be fully available to researchers by October 2006. With a major permanent exhibition due to open by summer 2007, travelling exhibitions, outreach projects and events, and a major digitisation programme which will bring thousands of items onto the internet, this is the start of an exciting chapter for the National Library and the John Murray Archive.
27 March 2006