Conference – ‘Opening Up the Archives’ – 23 November 2018

‘Opening Up the Archives: Collections, Collaborations, and Forgotten Histories in Children’s Literature’, was our first one-day symposium held at the University of Edinburgh, Teviot House, on 23 November  2018, 10.00 – 5.00 pm, followed by a drinks reception sponsored by the Centre for the History of the Book.

It was dedicated to the subject of children’s books in museum and library archives; children’s oral and literary cultures (including Gaelic in Scotland and Ireland); and the role of children as readers and producers of literature. It brought together experts from Scotland, Ireland, and England to discuss and promote collaborative work between literary and cultural historians, museum curators, and archivists.

A more detailed description, and a list of speakers, can be found below. And you can also read our blogpost, by Danielle and Katy, on the day by going to our homepage!

About the symposium

The symposium will discuss the value and potential of national, regional, and local archives as primary sources of children’s literature and reading materials, including material made by children themselves. It will explore how these unique and diverse resources can help to map both local and national trajectories of children’s literature; how they can be shared with wider audiences; and how the digital form can transform the engagement of researchers and the public with written records of children’s lives and cultures.

‘Opening up the Archives’ is part of a year-long programme, during Scotland’s Year of Young People (2018), and linked to a collaborative project between SELCIE and Edinburgh’s Museum of Childhood. The exhibition Growing Up With Books runs at The Museum of Childhood until December, encompassing a range of events and exhibitions for children and adults from workshops to presentations, including an event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and a book, Growing Up With Books. A Little History of Children’s Literature at Edinburgh’s Museum of Childhood. SELCIE is creating a new archive The Books of Our Lives – Reading Memories, focussing on contemporary reading memories.


10am Welcome and Introduction

10.10-10.40 : Lyn Stevens (Edinburgh Museum of Childhood), ‘Unpacking Written Treasures – how SELCIE and the Museum of Childhood have uncovered an archive of children’s literature’

10.40-11.10: Conchúr Mag Eacháin (DCU) , ‘“The Work of 50, 000 Children”: The Schools’ Folklore Scheme (1937-38) and’

11.10-11.30: COFFEE & TEA

11.30-12.00: Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children’s Books, ‘Tales and trails: Journeys with Seven Stories and David Almond’

12.00 – 12.30: Ian Scott (NLS), ‘D.C. Thomson: Scotland’s Fun Factory’

12.30-1.00: Anette Hagan (NLS), ‘Early Books for Scotland’s Little Readers’

1.00- 1.45 LUNCH


1.45-2.30:  Visit to see children’s books and archives in the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Research Collections  

Please note new timings for the afternoon sessions.

2.45-3.15: Kathryn Gleadle (Oxford) and Lucy Gibbon (Orkney Library & Archive), ‘The Minervian Library: childhood creativity in mid-Victorian Orkney’

3.15-3.45: Valentina Bold (Strathclyde), ‘Scotland’s Children’s Chapbooks’

3.45-4.00: COFFEE & TEA

4.00-4.30: Sìm Innes (Glasgow), ‘Maighdinnean-Mara agus Sìthichean (‘Mermaids and Fairies): Early c20th Scottish Gaelic Children’s Plays’

4.30-5.00: Kate Simpson (Napier) and Lois Burke (Napier), ‘Encoding Experience: Analysing Scotland’s Children’s Literary Culture’

5.15-6.00:  Drinks Reception, sponsored by the Centre for the History of the Book

Registration is now closed. Please email for a place on the waiting list.

Child's alphabet book