We cannot believe that SELCIE’s exhibition will be opening at the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh next week! After years spent breathing in the beautiful smell of books, we are finally able to dust some of those books off, as it were, and place them in the spotlight. While this exhibition, Growing Up With Books, contains a fantastic collection of some of the most interesting pieces that the team has found over the years, there is only so much space in six cases, and not all of our books were able to make it into the exhibition. While we have tried our best to showcase our progress as well as our collection, there are some memories that remain buried in the archives of the City Chambers, so I would like to use this blog post to recall some memories and moments from our time together.
The red mailbox at the City Chambers on the Royal Mile was our meeting point, where one by one we could come from our various jobs or activities to volunteer our time (always incredibly gratefully!) with the books. As we made our way down the many flights of stairs to our tiny, dark room in the basement, and Lyn Stevens (Curator of the Museum of Childhood) would take out her keys and open the heavy door, you could almost feel the five or six of us relax from that indescribable scent of old books that hangs heavy in that room even now.
We would all get straight to work, choosing a box to start on for the day with pencil and paper in hand, and crack the lids off the boxes one by one. I cannot remember this ever being silent work, not entirely, because half of the fun of reaching into a box full of forgotten books is telling everyone in the room, ‘This one has a pressed flower in it!’ or ‘Listen to this inscription…’
Some days went faster than others, some boxes were more time-consuming than others, but I can still remember Joanna’s laugh every time she found ANOTHER copy of Pilgrim’s Progress or Danielle’s horror that there could ever be a book called The Death of a Wombat in a box of children’s books, and I will always remember Sarah (our fearless leader) and her gleeful face as she became all-consumed by a box of glorious fairy tales in a corner of the room. Sometimes Katie (our artist in residence) would disappear for the entire time, silently sketching, only to appear at the end with a notebook full of beautiful illustrations inspired by the books.
There are some memories that I hope I will never lose from this incredible time spent in the basement of the City Chambers, and I have to remember that even though this exhibition is partially the end of our time there, it is also the beginning of a new and beautiful chapter, one in which we get to share this secret and magical world of books in which we have been living for the past three years with all of you.
There are some things, though, that I hope will never end. I hope that I will always remember some of the most touching inscriptions and let them remind me to always gift and give books, especially to children. I hope that the smell of that room will find me in libraries and bookstores and take me back to those Thursday afternoons. I hope that the knowledge and friendships that I have gained in this experience will stay with me forever, so that I can always share how important it is to grow up with books.
This post written by Morgan Boharski