Saturday, 31 July 2010

National Library of Scotland 19 July 2010

After spending the night at Dalkeith Palace, Dara and I rose early and bussed into town to deposit our bags at Brothaigh House (links to both location are in a previous post) then we met the group at the National Library of Scotland. (image courtesy of

The National Library of Scotland is located on two sites, George IV bridge in the heart of Edinburgh and a newer storage facility in the southern part of the city. This reference library is Scotland's largest library and is also a major research library for Europe. The library as a National Library is a recent establishment as it was established by Act of Parliament in 1925. Prior to this, the library was known as the Advocates Library which belonging to the Faculty of Advocates which is an independent group of lawyers admitted to practice before the courts of Scotland. The Advocates Library was opened in 1689, but it was not granted status as a national library until passage of the 1710 Copyright Act. Over the next centuries, the collection was grown through donation and purchase of books and manuscripts. The collection contains about seven million books, fourteen million printed items and 2 million maps and is the legal deposit library for Scotland (and one six in the UK) but unlike the British Library, they are not required to accept a copy of every item. Because it is a reference library, items are not available for removal, but some of the items are available through some of the other libraries in Scotland. The materials are available to anyone.

The Library has been funded by the Scottish Parliament since 1999 and is governed by a board of trustees. It also enjoys JSTOR access. Some of the items included in the collection are family manuscripts of various clans which date back as far as 1488 and the last letter written by Mary Queen of Scots. On 26 February 2009, areas of the building were flooded after a water main burst on the 12th floor. Firefighters were called and the leaking water was stopped within ten minutes. A number of items were lightly damaged. An investigation into the incident is ongoing.

Sadly, there was no tour available to our group and we had to content ourselves with a tour of the exhibits available. The first was a small exhibit of some of the oldest maps of Scotland. This exhibit might have been missed because it was on the wall immediately you entered from the foyer and was at your back. The next exhibit had to do with the history of golf. There were many outstanding items related to the history of the game; unfortunately, I am not a fan and I feel that I lacked the proper appreciation. Several of our group followed the suggestion and looked at the Seven Lives on John Murray through the John Murray Archives. The final exhibit was made up of several interactive displays of artifacts related to such illustrious personages as Jane Austen, Charles Darwin and Dr. David Livingston. While these exhibits were interesting, the space allotted did not allow for more than one or two people at each collection of objects. Additionally, the exhibits were directed at a more general audience and so lacked some of the depth I was looking to find. No photographs were permitted.

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