Opening Up the Archives

Two weeks ago, on November 23rd, SELCIE hosted our first symposium, Opening Up the Archives. The conference took place in a very festive Teviot Row House at the University of Edinburgh.

The conference venue, and Lyn Stevens opening the day

Our fabulous SELCIE team member and Museum of Childhood curator, Lyn Stevens, opened the day and gave her own talk on the Museum of Childhood archives that SELCIE have been working in for the last few years.

Next up was Conchúr Mag Eacháin, who spoke about the project he is working on at Dublin City University to digitise folktales collected by school children. Some of the stories are in Irish Gaelic and some English. They can be accessed here and stories are Tweeted by Conchúr here: @duchas_ie.

After a quick break, it was time to hear from Lucy Pearson from Newcastle University, and Kristopher McKie and Harjeet Kaur from Seven Stories. They spoke about the curation of their exhibition, Where Your Wings Were, which is based on David Almond’s award-winning book Skellig. The Seven Stories team spoke about how they wanted to include the experience of the north of England in the exhibition and, with the guidance of a group of children, designed an interactive exhibition which ran in June 2018. Keep up with exhibitions and events at Seven Stories here. 

Then it was time to hear from Ian Scott and Anette Hagan, both from the National Library of Scotland. Ian spoke about D.C. Thomson and the Library’s comic collections, discussing how trends and changes in society can be tracked in these interesting items. In her paper, Anette Hagan spoke about some of the oldest publications held at the NLS made for children.

You can also follow all of our Tweets from the day by searching for #OpentheArchives!

After a quick lunch break, we left Teviot and walked over to the Edinburgh University’s Main Library. There we were treated to a wonderful assortment of books from the Centre for Research Collections, which houses the University’s Special Collections. The team there brought out some of their most interesting items related to children’s literature, including a book signed by J.M. Barrie!

Paul Barnaby from the Centre for Research Collections guiding us through some of their children’s literature

After we returned to Teviot, Lucy Gibbon from the Orkney Library and Archive gave her paper. She spoke about the fascinating “Minervian Library”, which was created by children in 1860s Orkney. You can find out more about this amazing collection here.

Next up was Valentina Bold, who spoke about Scottish chapbooks. As discussed preciously on this blog (see the post here), chapbooks were produced cheaply and are very interesting souvenirs of how the working classes of the past consumed literature.

In our last talk of the day, Sìm Innes spoke about how Gaelic has been used in folktales and plays for children. He spoke about the differences between plays from different times and places, including how some display a mix of English and Gaelic.

A Tweet from SELCIE team member Joanna Witkowska, who chaired the panel

After Lyn Stevens did a lovely round-up of the talks and emphasised the importance of collaboration and communication between different institutions and archives, it was time for the wine reception, which was kindly sponsored by Edinburgh University’s Centre for the History of the Book (more information here).

SELCIE team members Elly Grayson and Jane Bonsall enjoying a well-deserved glass of wine!

The team all really enjoyed the day, which brought together those from universities, libraries, museums, and archives in a productive and useful way. We would like to thank everyone that came, and especially all of the speakers!

The team will now be taking a little break from posting on this blog over the holidays, but we will be back towards the end of January! Merry Christmas from all of us at SELCIE!

This post written by Katie Forrester and Danielle Howarth

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