Edinburgh's most famous son today threw his weight behind the National Library of Scotland's newly launched public campaign to raise funds for the John Murray Archive. Sir Sean Connery described the collection as being of 'world class importance' and praised the Library's 'groundbreaking' plans to make the archive accessible to the people of Scotland and beyond. (Read the full text of Sean Connery's endorsement.)
The endorsement follows a visit Sir Sean made to NLS last July, when he was shown many of the treasures of the archive, including a letter from Charles Darwin to the famous publisher outlining his proposals for On the Origin of Species and the manuscript of Byron's 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimage', among many others.
After his visit, Sir Sean quipped that he hadn't found history half as interesting at school and, in endorsing the Library's campaign, said: 'The chance to see unique literary treasures first hand in Scotland was a great privilege and I very much hope that others will enjoy the archive as much as I did.'
The John Murray Archive is a treasure trove of over 150,000 items by some of the greatest writers, politicians, scientists and explorers of the late 18th to the early 20th centuries, including Byron, Scott, Darwin, Livingstone, Austen, Disraeli and Babbage, among many others. Sir Sean was impressed by NLS plans to make the archive widely accessible to people across Scotland, the UK and beyond. This will be done through exhibitions both at NLS and travelling the country, digitisation of items from the collection and a significant education and outreach programme. Sir Sean said: 'There will be something for everyone, from five-year-olds to academics.'
While fundraising work has been going on behind the scenes since the arrival of the John Murray Archive last March, news of Sir Sean's backing coincides with the launch of the public phase of the campaign, with events in London on Tuesday and in Edinburgh on Wednesday. Sir Sean concluded: 'I commend the National Library of Scotland for the vision and commitment to bring this treasure to Scotland and wish them every success.'
This evening's event in London takes place at Albemarle Street, the historic home of the Murray family for seven generations, and will see Joanna David, partner of Day of the Jackal actor Edward Fox, read from the letters of Isabella Bird Bishop, a 19th-century traveller, explorer and photographer.
Tomorrow evening in Edinburgh, long-term supporter of NLS Ian Rankin will talk to an audience of invited guests at the Faculty of Advocates about the importance of securing the archive. Rankin said: 'The National Library of Scotland have it spot on when they describe the John Murray Archive as containing the "ideas that shaped the world" and I'm delighted to have been invited to support this campaign. It's fantastic to see a resource of this importance coming to Scotland and I think the fact that it's here in Edinburgh really underlines and enhances the city's status as UNESCO City of Literature.'
Giles Dove, NLS Director of Development, said: 'We are absolutely delighted to receive Sir Sean's endorsement for the public phase of this campaign and we are very grateful for his support as we continue in our efforts to raise the remaining £6.5 million required to complete the acquisition of the archive.'
National Librarian Martyn Wade added: 'It is wonderful news. We are thrilled to receive the backing of such prominent figures. We're particularly pleased that Sir Sean and Ian have highlighted that this is not just about the acquisition of an archive, but also about what it represents. They both appreciate what it will do for Scotland's literary and cultural profile and, perhaps more importantly, the innovative and exciting things that the National Library of Scotland will be doing to make the John Murray Archive a resource that everyone in Scotland can use, enjoy and learn from.'
National Library of Scotland
George IV Bridge
Tel: 0131 623 3700
23 April 2007