23 July, 2007

John Murray Archive: National Library of Scotland

Today we visited the National Library of Scotland. The National Library began in 1710 as an advocates library with right of legal deposit. It is still a place of deposit, housing over 3 million items. 8000 new items are coming in each week, so storage has become a problem and new buildings have been opened. The staff run educational seminars on how to use archives and collections because the collection users range in age from 6 years to post-graduate students and adults.

The current collection on exhibit here is the John Murray Archive. John Murray was a publisher in the 18th century who at that time published the best of every genre. The collection itself is worth at least 75 million pounds sterling. The collection is funded through the John Murray Charitable Trust, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Scottish Executive, and fundraising within the National Library. The exhibition design took 3 years to complete because a lot of time and energy went into making the archival exhibit engaging to the viewer. The museum staff knew right away that they did NOT want the exhibit to be text heavy and boring. They wanted material to be displayed in a theatrical way, they wanted display cases to be object rich and label poor, they wanted interactive information access, a use of light and shadow that promotes an overall atmosphere, and finally a robust means of display that communicates the process of writing and publishing to the public.

I was extremely impressed with the John Murray Archive displays. When you enter the exhibit, you walk through an exact replica of John Murray's front door so you actually feel like you are entering his world. Display cases contained manuscripts and ephemera belonging to contemporaries of John Murray such as Charles Darwin and Lord Byron. In front of each of these cases was a move and zoom touch screen device that allowed you to highlight the objects you wished to examine more closely. The Lord Byron display showed what a "ladies man" he was in his day by comparing him to rock stars of our day. I really feel that I could have spent hours there being entertained and educated by this exhibit. On looking back on my notes about the staffs' goals for this exhibit, I would definitely say that the outcome was a great success.


Cianna said...

Well said.

Anonymous said...

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