Feb 05 2013

Save Scotland’s most important Archive of Folklore, Music and Oral Culture

Few things have such a bearing on our lives as the stories we tell one another reports  Calum MacLeòid at the National Collective. It is easy to take for granted just how much a nation’s stories, its legends and jokes, its songs and music, its prayers and curses, in all the myriad voices of the land, can tell us more about that nation. The problem is, things which are taken for granted make for easy targets.

Students at Edinburgh University have launched a campaign opposing plans which could see the internationally renowned School of Scottish Studies split up and Scotland’s most important archive of folklore and oral culture seriously endangered.

Even a few minutes browsing Tobar an Dualchas, a project which has begun to digitise some of this archive, should help you begin to appreciate the archive’s importance to musicians, artists, scholars, and ethnologists, as well as its untapped potential.

Under the University management’s proposals, all the students and academics in Celtic and Scottish Studies will move from the School’s historic home at 27-29 George Square, to a renovated 50 George Square to house them and most, but not all, of the University’s School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures. There they will only be allocated enough shelf space to take 10% of their library with them.

As part of this transfer to a less secure, smaller library, all the books deemed especially valuable, by staff many of whom cannot actually read the languages many of them are written in, will be removed to a secure Special Collections area. The rest will go to a storage facility in Sighthill with no public access, and with students and academics having to request specific items, a process which is reported to frequently take more than 4 days. The archives themselves, clearly an afterthought for the management, will remain in 27-29 George Square until management reaches a decision on its future.

More worryingly is that these plans are moving ahead and the University has no clear plans for what to do with the most valuable archive of its kind in Scotland and in the interim, which could last years, there will be no public access.

Read the full story by Calum MacLeòid at the National Collective.

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2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Save Scotland’s most important Archive of Folklore, Music and Oral Culture”

  1. John Willmotton 05 Feb 2013 at 10:15 am

    The lack of student and public access is indeed the frustrating thing. We tend to have this in Ireland, and I am sure in other countries too, where people are not trusted. Everything gets locked up and probably never seen again except by a few self elected few who think they can be trusted.

    This happens with ancient carved stones too.

    A digital version is indeed very handy as it does keep paws off of ancient items, but I agree it is preferred to have careful access to the physical copies until this is done.

    I sincerely hope this all stays together weel, and here’s to a speedy but careful online version being available soon.

  2. Garyon 06 Feb 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Hi John,

    Agreed, that would be so good. They have started the CELT project, haven’t they? The Corpus of Electronic Texts (http://www.ucc.ie/celt/) and there’s also a wonderful Manuscripts Online site somewhere that has images of each page of the MSS – sigh!… :)

    Gary xx

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