Students and faculty from the Children's Literature MEd and PhD programs
at the University of Glasgow recently headed towards Edinburgh for the Opening Up the Archives
conference hosted by the University of Edinburgh, the Centre for the History of the Book
, and SELCIE
(Scotland's Early Literature for Children Initiative). Since my home base is Edinburgh, I met everyone at the train station where we took the escalator up to Market Street.
Some of our students are natives, but many had never been to Edinburgh before, so I played a bit of the tour guide - which I LOVE! I took a slightly meandering route to the conference, albeit a pretty one full of funny stories and odd facts. That's me telling them about the bagpipe player who disappeared while trying to traverse the alleged underground tunnels that connect the castle at one end of the Royal Mile to the palace at the other end.
They were all excited to experience Edinburgh at Christmas! In fact, several of them went to the Christmas village after the conference before heading back to Glasgow. Here's the gang with the Christmas village in the background.
The conference itself was held in Teviot Row House
, the student center for the University of Edinburgh. I've been there many times, but it was lovely to see it all decorated for the holidays!
Lyn Stevens, curator of the Museum of Childhood
in Edinburgh kicked off the event and spoke about some of the books in their ever-growing collection, including this coffee-table book of natural history that didn't get everything quite right from the 1800s (but was charming nonetheless and was likely a family treasure).
She also talked about their current exhibit, Stories of Childhood
that will be open through December 9th. There's a book on display that I really want to see, Richard Doyle's Fairyland Pictures from the Elf-World
, so I want to go!
Several archivists from Seven Stories in Newcastle were there to talk about their archives and a current exhibit dedicated to author and friend David Almond. Apparently he wrote several poems specifically for the show to help segue the artefacts. I especially liked this opening one:
"Words should wander and meander.
They should fly like owls and flicker
like bats and slip like cats.
They should murmur and scream
and dance and sing.
Sometimes. . .
there should be no words at all.
Just clean white space."
Isn't that lovely?
Ian Scott shared information about the incredible collection of children's literature at the National Library of Scotland
focusing on the comics of D.C. Thomson (based in Dundee). I was shocked to learn that while I was enjoying the US version of Dennis the Menace, apparently there was a completely different version of Dennis the Menace going on in the UK! Two different creators, completely different versions, but both comics and both called Dennis the Menace - WOW!
Annette Hagan, also of the National Library of Scotland
shared works from before the 1700s including these incredible hornbooks, which helped students memorize their alphabet.
After lunch, two groups went over to the University of Edinburgh archives to view some rare and valuable books like this first edition (1883) of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island
(photo credit to Clare Capaldi).
And this original copy of Peter Pan...
signed by J.M. Barrie himself!
Or this first edition copy of Andrew Lang's Silver Fairy Book
(he and his wife, who doesn't get the credit she deserves, created an entire rainbow collection of fairy tales).
There was lots more covered, like children's plays in Gaelic, a folklore project from Ireland, and more on Scottish chapbooks - it was all so very interesting! Many thanks to the SELCIE team for putting the event together, including Katie Forrester, who mentored me on my PhD proposal (second from the right). I hope you guys will do lots more events like this - I know we'll be there!