The Scottish Group was the first of the Society’s Local Groups to be formed, in 1986, by Anne McCarthy and Moyra Forrest. It formed the model for other Groups. Our membership of about 60 is spread out over the whole of Scotland (30,400 square miles), including members in the Western Isles and Shetland. We generally meet twice a year, in April/May and September/October, usually for an afternoon. Anyone visiting Scotland is very welcome to join our meetings.
The Scottish Group runs a discussion forum that is open to members of the Society.
For further information, please contact the Scottish group coordinator, Linda Clark
The next meeting will be held during the autumn. More information in due course.
Thursday 22 March 2018 – Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 1 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 1JD
The Scottish Group convened its spring meeting on Thursday 22 March at the remarkable building of the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh. Members were given the grand tour of the gallery which has the most beautiful and evocative murals, art works, paintings, sculptures and photographs on display. Becky Howell, the librarian, gave an excellent introduction to the research, collection and public libraries based there. She spoke in detail about the in-house process of digitisation currently being carried out. She also gave a fascinating account of how the libraries were organised, including the bespoke classification system used by the library.
Thursday 26 October 2017 – National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EW
Indexers, beware! Or rather – be grateful for being alive, and indexing, today, and not a bare 450 years ago, when you could have easily been burned at the stake. Or at least such could be your fate if you had been John Marbeck, the author of the first concordance of the whole Bible who lived in the first half of the 16th century. As an explanatory note to the volume that finally was published in London in 1550 informs us, ‘the work was initially considered dangerous to the Church by reducing Divine Revelation to human proportions and by challenging the canonical shape of the Bible’. Members of the Scottish section of the SI were introduced to this fascinating story on their visit to the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh on 26 October this year. We had a rare opportunity to examine closely some of the most valuable indexed manuscripts and concordances from the late Middle Ages and the early modern period. Robert Betteridge, Rare Books Curator and Ulrike Hogg, Early Manuscripts Curator, were ready to answer any questions we had. The story of the unfortunate (though ultimately lucky, because pardoned by a royal reprieve) John Marbeck may have been an unusual one, but it serves as a reminder of two important features of any good index. First, an index has the power to suggest a particular angle of reading, and is thus potentially dangerous (or educational, or inspiring, or fascinating, or many other things at once). Second, indexing is an act of preserving information, an operation half-way between reading and archiving. How many people, even those of them who are readers, even those of them who are readers of early modern manuscripts, are likely to read a whole volume on human anatomy, composed in a heavy-handed late medieval Latin? Not many, not unless they are diligent students of this particular field. But even a quarter of an hour spent consulting the index gives one not only an idea of how various functions and disorders of the human body were understood half a millennium ago, but also an understanding of taxonomies current at the time. And it is taxonomies that make up knowledge.
For me as a beginner it was a special pleasure to meet more senior and experienced members. Both the pre-session coffee and the concluding lunch in the company of the colleagues will be filed in my memory under ‘very pleasant experiences’. A special ‘thank you’ to Linda Clark for organising the event.
25 April 2017 – Visit to Kelvin Hall, Glasgow
They say that moving house is more stressful than a relationship breakdown. So a move involving 1.5 million objects, including 690,000 insects, a frozen kangaroo and an Iron Age logboat, is surely a Sisyphean task. During the recent Scottish Indexers’ spring visit to the new Kelvin Hall, our guide, Malcolm Chapman, Head of Collections Management at the Hunterian Museum, told us that the Hunterian’s move there, from nine locations across Glasgow, was five years in the planning.
The new development is a collaboration between Glasgow Museums, Glasgow Sport, The Hunterian Museum and the NLS’s Moving Image Archive (NLSMIA). Large floor to ceiling windows lining the central corridor look on to sports halls and museum storage facilities. The objects are in open, electronically controlled cages, not only so that the public can view them, but also to allow air to circulate through the collections.
At the end of the corridor, we reach the NLSMIA, an interactive space where the public can access the NLS’s digital resources. Here, curated material is projected onto a large cinema screen, and there are viewing booths for watching videos and DVDs; public film screenings; and regular events and talks. Over the next ten years, the Library aims to digitise a third of its 24 million items, one of the biggest projects of its kind anywhere in Europe.
Upstairs, we were shown round the 990 sq m museum storage facility, conveniently located next to state-of-the-art research rooms. Designated quarantine, isolation and acclimatisation spaces keep the space free from infestation. Every item, box and shelf has a unique barcode, and an app is used when items are being moved so that they can always be located.
The Hunterian is currently moving all its records onto KE EMu, a collections management system able to manage complex taxonomies and synonymies, as well as multimedia, text files and physical objects data in one central, online database. So, even if you can’t get down to the Kelvin Hall itself, you can take a look at its stores: http://collections.gla.ac.uk/ or make a virtual visit to an exhibition: http://www.gla.ac.uk/hunterian/visit/exhibitions/virtualexhibitions
3 October 2016 – Visit to SCRAN
SCRAN, the Scottish Cultural Resources Access Network started around 20 years ago. It was an idea of its era. Serendipitously, the concept developed around the same time as the technologies evolved to expedite it. The vision of digitising cultural resources materialised as the first digital cameras and scanners came on to the market. SCRAN acquired a grant via the Heritage Lottery Fund and disbursed this to Scottish institutions to digitise their collections. The collection comprises still and video images and sound. There are around half a million items in the collection. The resource is predominantly Scottish, although the V&A, the British Museum and the Getty Archive have all contributed material.
The material is available online via a subscription service. Most library services, HE and FE institutions and around half the schools in Scotland subscribe to and use this resource. Effectively, most users living in Scotland can access SCRAN freely using their library card.
Eight years ago, SCRAN came under the umbrella of the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS), which last year merged with Historic Scotland to form Historic Environment Scotland (HES). SCRAN, while available online, has a physical home within HES in Edinburgh. The Scottish group visited the Search Room, or library, there this month. Andrew James, the Education Officer for SCRAN, talked us through the resource most enthusiastically. Now all but one of us can access it from home!
While we were there, Veronica Fraser, the Accessions Programme Manager for HES, showed us some of the accumulated HES collections, both in the Print Room and online. These collections tend not to be publicly available elsewhere, and focus on the built environment. We saw a beautiful architectural drawing, submitted but never built, for the Scott Monument in Edinburgh’s Princes Street. Many architecture practice papers are held, and a large body of material on industrial archaeology, reflecting the interests of Professor John Hume, who retired as Chief Inspector of Historic Buildings in 1999 after 15 years within the organisation.
Online, we saw the Canmore collection, reflecting Scotland’s archaeology, buildings, industrial and maritime history. The visit was fascinating, and certainly left me considerably better informed about my heritage, as I think it did us all.
We adjourned to a local bistro for lunch, and to discuss a very enjoyable meeting.