National Library of Scotland Annual Review 2008-2009

Collecting and researching

Detail from Burns manuscript

Our collections continually grow and develop to provide both members of the public and researchers with a constant source of inspiration. They cover not only the books, maps, newspapers and manuscripts for which NLS is renowned, but also recordings, photographs, film and, increasingly, digital resources.

Collections strategy

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Cate Newton talks about the Integrated Collection Strategy.

Perhaps the most significant collection development this year was a formal change of approach to how we collect material. Our Integrated Collecting Strategy responds to the changing flow of information where digital material is shared by a vast range of suppliers as well as libraries, archives and other collections. The strategy identifies how we work with other organisations to collect the right material in the most appropriate format.

New acquisitions

One of our most visually stunning modern acquisitions this year was 'The Highgrove Florilegium'. The large and lavish botanical book in two volumes was bought from Addison Publications with the funds going to charities supported by HRH the Prince of Wales. It is a limited edition of only 175 copies. At the time of writing, our copy is believed to be the only one publicly available in Scotland.

Marbled book cover with title and crest

Detail from 'The Highgrove Florilegium', a large volume of watercolours depicting plants grown in the garden at Highgrove, 2008.

An equally intriguing item bought was a giant pop-up book used as the original stage set for the play 'The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil'. This impressive work will be unveiled in our forthcoming Scottish Theatre exhibition in winter 2009.

Rare books bought this year ranged from 20th-century ephemera to important examples of early photography by Scots.

Among them were two major works by Scots overseas: the first edition of 'Traité sur la Cavalerie' (Paris, 1776) by Count Drummond de Melfort, an exiled Jacobite, and a rare early Lyon printing of the philosopher William Manderston's 'Tripartitum'.

Our collections of prominent Scottish authors such as Robert Louis Stevenson and George Mackay Brown were also strengthened with rare editions of their works.

'Les types Russes' book cover and two sepia photographic portraits

'Les types Russes' by William Carrick, a Scottish photographer in Russia, around 1860-1870.

NLS bought the only known manuscript of a Robert Burns poem. Written in 1790, 'The Battle of Sherra-moor', gives two viewpoints of a 1715 Jacobite conflict. The manuscript dates from after the poem's initial publication in 1790 and shows changes made for the 1800 edition of 'Works of Robert Burns'. After years in private hands overseas, the document was sold to NLS at auction for $45,000.

Photograph albums and plans compiled by Heinrich Schliemann during his excavations at Mycenae in Greece were bought for the Library by the John R Murray Charitable Trust. These were the source material for his book, 'Mycenae: a narrative of researches and discoveries at Mycenae and Tiryns', published by John Murray in 1878. Coming from a private collection, the acquisition made them publically accessible for the first time.

Man holding framed painting of mummified figure

Curator David McClay with a painting of a mummy found in Mycenae, Greece. From the papers of archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann.

The early records of the Scottish Print Employers Federation (SPEF) were donated to the Library. The collection complements the wide range of printing company and print union records already held by the Library and dates back to the formation of SPEF's predecessors, the Scottish Alliance of Masters in the Printing and Kindred Trades in 1910.

An important music collection was bought in a special sale. The Dunfermline Collection was part of the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust music collection, a large public library working collection. It includes some interesting performance sets featuring arrangements for a variety of chamber music groups.

Cataloguing, access and conservation

Work is progressing on 'The Scottish Vernacular Discography 1888-1960', a major archive of historic Scottish sound recordings. The collection was compiled over many years by Mr William Dean-Myatt who donated it to the Library in March 2008. We hope to provide access to it at a later stage.

The fascinating and extensive archive of Bartholomew, the Edinburgh-based firm of map engravers, publishers and printers, was opened up thanks to generous funding from the John R Murray Charitable Trust.

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Staff describe work on the Bartholomew Archive.

A new website promoting the Bartholomew Archive went online, featuring selected publications and a curator's blog. The conservation and cataloguing of everything printed by Bartholomew from 1877 to 2002 continued, with more than 50 volumes conserved and 20 fully catalogued. A display illustrating this work went on show in our Causewayside Building.

This year saw the completion of our Scottish theatre programmes database, allowing customers to search our growing collection of over 7,500 items from Scottish theatre, from the 19th century to the present day. It can be searched by year, venue, keyword or title of production.

The Scottish Screen Archive [now Moving Image Archive] discovered and restored a fragile newsreel with a story about Huntingtower's Glasgow film premiere. 'Huntingtower' is an adaptation of John Buchan's novel, directed by George Pearson and starring Harry Lauder. There is no known copy of the film itself.

Research projects

Our status as an institution supporting research was enhanced this year by partnering with universities on a range of interesting new doctoral research posts. These have been funded through Arts and Humanities Research Council schemes.

Our first award in the Knowledge Catalyst scheme was in partnership with Queen Margaret University (QMU). This funded a QMU graduate to train NLS staff in digital filming techniques to create films about NLS and its collections. The results will be uploaded to our website and YouTube in the coming months.

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Learn about the social network research project.

A Beyond Text award was secured jointly with Glasgow University's Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute. This funded an innovative project which compares family blogs and websites with a social network revealed in a collection of 19th-century correspondence from our manuscript collections.

Several projects explored some of our specialist collections. These included a studentship drawing on recently digitised papers from the Medical History of British India website, and the rare legal book collections of Charles Erskine (1680-1763).

Geography, travel and exploration were also strongly represented, with several projects exploiting the research potential of the Bartholomew and John Murray archives. These projects aim to reveal how the world has changed since the time of the British Empire, how map and travel publishing developed, and how maps chart the social and cultural growth of Edinburgh in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

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