NMS Library tour and Rip It Up, 13 September 2018

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As a librarian friend observed, collectively, if we info groups (CILIPS, EDINA, SLLG, SWOP) haven’t visited every library in Scotland, we’ve made a darned good attempt in our race to dwell among the untrodden alcoves.

Building on the success of last year’s trip to the Moving Image Archive in Glasgow, the SLLG Committee suggested a group outing to a very popular exhibition, Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pop, running 22 June to 25 November 2018 at the National Museum of Scotland (NMS). There followed the magic words, ‘Maybe they have a library we can visit.’ Why, yes they do.

Research Library

You know you’re going off the beaten track when the meeting point is the staff entrance. Ines and Morven, our hosts for the afternoon, guided us expertly through the maze that is the NMS.

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Our tour began in the basement which houses the museum archives acquired at various points in its fairly complicated history (see Wikipedia). As with many libraries, across the sectors, the NMS Research Library has been charged with a significant number of items (many from the founding Society of Antiquaries’ collection) which require surveying, describing and preserving. While time and expertise to do so are at a premium, natural museum curios are not: see signs for GIANT OCTOPUS or that well-known cutie, the BLACK RAT SNAKE, with its ‘reputation for being a bad-tempered creature’.

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This basement area also contains the rare book collection used by staff including the museum curators. We noticed several classification schemes on the go along with familiar-to-some carbon copy borrowing slips and several volumes of Acts of the Old Scottish Parliament!

The Library’s main reading room is on level 3 accessed from the Royal Museum side of the building, with study spaces, wifi, periodicals and around 10% of the total book collection on open shelves. This selection aims to assist visitors to further understand the Museum’s objects and activities, and is open to the public so I’d encourage you to seek it out.

(Scottish) life isn’t rubbish

A real gem of the Library is the Scottish Life Archive finding facility. In a world of OPACs and LMSs, this wall of binders brought real cheer to the group with its unceremonious subject headings. Under T alone you’ll find Tartan, Turnips and Turra Coos. You can read more about the Archive here.

So from ‘Popular Disturbances (See under Law etc – 117C)’ to popular music and the next stop on our magical history tour…

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Rip it up and start again

This Stopfordian has loved Scottish indie music since hearing Tigermilk as a teenager. Our visit to Rip It Up, though, demonstrated just how we have our own unique memories of gigs, bands and record stores. Our more ‘mature’ members recognised the bright red carrier bags claiming ‘I found it at Bruce’s’. Others came to life on seeing the stage outfits of Alex Harvey or Shirley Manson, or the huge mixing desk used by Chemikal Underground. We can’t keep living in the past so it was also good to see a nod to recent SAY Award winners such as Sacred Paws and Young Fathers (the latter having a connection to law libraries, I’m told).

Clearly, a huge amount of work went into researching the history and sourcing material, both for the exhibition and the accompanying BBC series which comprised archive footage and stills, and contemporary interviews, not to mention music! So engrossing were the exhibits, our group has to be ushered out as closing time fast approached.

Hip ship

After a tipple at Greyfriars Bobby, we made our way to Checkpoint which, according to the Times, is one of the ‘25 coolest restaurants in Britain’ which proved fairly accurate – we were seated in a shipping container. I ate a whole roast cauliflower followed by avocado dessert (both delicious). Now there’s an entry for the Scottish Life Archive.

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