The National Library of Scotland has become one of a select group of institutions to have an item from its collections added to a register that recognises documentary heritage of global significance.
The handwritten diary of Field Marshal Douglas Haig — who commanded British forces for most of the First World War — has been added to the international register of the Memory of the World Programme. This programme was set up to promote the importance of documentary heritage and is run by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
As Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force, Haig commanded the largest British Army ever assembled. He wrote a daily diary entry throughout the war which records events during key battles, such as the Somme and Passchendaele.
The diary is vital to understanding some of the key decisions taken during the war. It offers a unique insight into both the conduct of the war and one of the most controversial generals in the British army's entire history. It is part of a wider collection of Haig's personal papers at the National Library of Scotland.
A number of items from the Library's collections — including maps from cartographer Timothy Pont and books from Scotland's first printers Walter Chepman and Andrew Myllar — already appear on the UK register. This is the first time that a collection item from a Scottish heritage organisation has appeared on the international register.
It joins other new additions which include the papers of Winston Churchill, the archives of the mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary and the biologist Louis Pasteur, the world's first ever sound recordings made in the mid-19th century and the Derveni Papyrus which is described as the oldest 'book' of Europe.
'The recognition by UNESCO of the Haig Diary as having outstanding international significance is to be celebrated,' said Elizabeth Oxborrow-Cowan, Chair of the Memory of the World UK Committee. 'This is a double celebration because it is the first time that material held by a Scottish institution has been awarded this much sought-after international accolade. I congratulate the National Library of Scotland on this achievement and I hope it will encourage people to explore the wonderful documentary collections held across Scotland and the UK.'
The announcement was made at an event in Cardiff where the contribution of UK libraries, museums and archives was recognised in the latest Memory of the World awards.
Scotland's National Librarian Dr John Scally said the Library was well represented on the UK register and was delighted to see the Haig diary being added to the international register.
'This is a very welcome recognition of the international significance of our collections which preserve the memory of Scotland, while reflecting the ideas and culture of the world. We are working to make more of the collections available online which will make it easier for people to connect to centuries of knowledge contained within the Library.'
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21 June 2016