National Library of Scotland Annual Review 2008-2009

Widening access

Exhibition photo showing woman and man talking and a small statue of Robert Burns

Our collections are a national treasure which we share as widely as possible with people from all walks of life. We're always looking for innovative ways to make this happen and have worked on some exciting projects this year.


An open book and a magazine cover on display

Books from the 'Imprentit' exhibition marking 500 years of Scottish printing – left: John Hamilton's 'The catechisme' (1552); right: 'Rebel Inc' issue 5 (1994).

The exhibition programme opened this year with a focus on modern collections. 'Local Heroes: The Art of the Graphic Novel' opened in April, and attracted more than 15,000 visitors. The exhibition charted the evolution of 'children's comic books' to a serious medium for adults, drawing on our extensive collections of graphic novels.

This was followed by the 'Imprentit: 500 Years of Printing in Scotland' exhibition, visited by over 21,000 people. The exhibition was accompanied by a number of events run as part of the Library's cultural programme, including talks on the book in Scotland and print workshops.

Our winter exhibition, 'Zig Zag: The Paths of Robert Burns', was created jointly with the National Burns Collection and funded by Homecoming Scotland. It attracted 14,499 visitors, a significant increase on any previous winter NLS exhibition. Following its run at NLS, it went on tour to Aberdeen, Dumfries and Glasgow.

Three young men: one using computer, one drawing, one watching

Youngsters from 'The Bridges' project creating comic stories inspired by the 'Local Heroes: The Art of the Graphic Novel' exhibition.

The year closed with an exhibition on 'Scots Music Abroad'. The exhibition was devised to complement the Homecoming 2009 programme and gave us an opportunity to showcase under-exposed material from our growing collections of printed and manuscript music and audio.

Education and outreach

The 'Local Heroes' exhibition provided the inspiration for an innovative outreach project working with disadvantaged 14- to 21-year-olds from East Lothian's Bridges Project. The group worked with comic artist Gary Erskine and storyteller Michael Williams to develop their own graphic novels.

The 'A' Adams Bairns' education project, which explored themes of multiculturalism and diversity in Scotland was completed this year. A music CD and teachers' pack was created and sent to every school in Scotland. The project culminated in a concert at Edinburgh's Queens Hall with many of Scotland's top folk musicians performing songs based on material from the NLS music collections.

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John Murray Archive playwright in residence Peter Arnott talks about the Darwin drama project.

The potential for the John Murray Archive (JMA) to ignite creative research was realised this year with the appointment of dramatist Peter Arnott as JMA playwright in residence. The major outcome of the residency is a series of workshops and a play, developed with Tag Theatre Company and primary schools, to celebrate Darwin's bicentenary. Peter delivered a series of thought-provoking public events, drawing on Darwin's 'On the Origin of Species'.

User education workshops were introduced this year, giving new customers the chance to learn more about researching their family and local history and making the most of our growing range of electronic resources.

Digital services

Digital mapping remains one of our most popular online features, fuelling a number of new projects this year. One is a new website for viewing early Ordnance Survey six-inch to the mile maps of Scotland from the 1840s-1880s. Over 2,000 large maps can now be accessed as a single layer in a simple, zoomable mapping application.

Graphic image of a man distributing leaflets

Detail from a Soviet poster urging tractor drivers to help with crop sowing, around the 1920s. One of many images from our Digital Archive.

Another mapping website, the Ordnance Survey town plans, overlays Scottish Victorian town plans on to modern satellite imagery. These plans, the most detailed Ordnance Survey mapping ever published, can now be viewed in an impressive new way. Through switching layers on and off, the past can be directly compared to the present through a simple, intuitive interface.

We have taken up a one year trial with the Internet Archive for their mass digitisation service. In its first year, the project will digitise at least 200,000 pages, taken from around 1,600 volumes in our Gaelic book collections.

The NLS Digital Archive [now Digital gallery] went online in February providing free access to some of the many resources that the Library has digitised over the last few years. Items of particular note include the complete Gutenberg Bible digital facsimile that Keio University created for the Library, the complete Aberdeen Breviary digital facsimile and a large collection of Soviet posters. This resource will be steadily added to over time.

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Gill Hamilton explains the online search facility.

NLS catalogue records are now being loaded into the WorldCat database. WorldCat is the world's largest catalogue merging records from over 10,000 libraries across 90 countries.

It currently contains more than 90 million records pointing to over 1.2 billion items. These records increase the exposure of our collections, through the catalogue itself and the availability of these records on Google. To date some four million NLS records have been loaded into WorldCat.

The Library's website now features new technology which makes searching our vast online resources as easy as possible. The intuitive new facility allows users to search all our holdings and websites from one point and even suggests alternative search terms to help with research.

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Staff outline the Internet Archive digital project.

We have established a presence on a number of social media websites relevant to our services. Videos from the Scottish Screen Archive can be found on YouTube, and a selection of digitised material from our collections is on photo-hosting site Flickr.

Curatorial staff have started their own blogs, picking out personal highlights of new collection material in areas such as modern Scottish collections, the India Papers, and the archives of Bartholomew and John Murray publishing firms.

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