Our new Special Collections Graduate Trainee, Fiona Laird, recounts a challenging enquiry she has recently been working on…
Does Special Collections have any period images of Trinity College Glasgow?
A couple of weeks ago this seemingly simple enquiry dropped into the Special Collections inbox. Trinity College was founded in 1856 as the Free Church training college under Principal Patrick Fairbairn and housed in distinctive buildings designed by Charles Wilson on Lynedoch Street, Park Circus. After the reunion of the main Scottish Presbyterian churches in 1929/30, the teaching facilities of the University of Glasgow and Trinity College were integrated. In 1973 it was decided that the Trinity College buildings would be sold and the library moved to the University of Glasgow, where it remains to this day in Special Collections.
As Trinity College still exists as a ‘body without walls’ within the University of Glasgow and we have a lot of university material here in Special Collections I foolishly thought it would be an easy task to find a period image of the old Trinity College buildings!
After an initial search of the rare books search and manuscripts search I fetched out a whole host of photograph albums, collections of sketches and books that looked promising. Unfortunately most of these items turned out to have photographs or illustrations of the original High Street site of the University of Glasgow. They had popped up on key-word and subject searches as the High Street site was also known as the Old College or Glasgow College.
The next logical step was to focus on our photographic collections such as the Dougan and Hill and Adamson collections. After a fair few dead ends, I thought I’d cracked it with a digitised Hill and Adamson photograph on our website entitled ‘Trinity College Chapel’. It wasn’t until I opened up a larger version of the image that I spotted the castle in the background and realised it was actually a photograph of a similarly named chapel in Edinburgh!
Still having no luck I broadened the search to general histories of Glasgow, Scotland, Scottish architecture and Scottish churches predominately from our Murray collection. This meant looking for ‘hidden’ images within the books, images that wouldn’t necessarily reveal themselves on a catalogue search. Skip to a fortnight and forty or so books and photograph albums later, and I finally found a period image of Trinity College Glasgow! There it was hiding on the frontispiece of a commemorative souvenir book produced to mark the union of the Scottish Presbyterian churches. Mission accomplished! It’s fitting that this book is part of the Trinity College Library and was written by a former principal of the College W.M. MacGregor.
Although frustrating at times this enquiry has provided a great way to discover more about the wealth of material we have relating to the educational and ecclesiastical institutions of Glasgow and the city itself.
And now when I walk home from work over Park Circus I can stop cursing the towers and just enjoy the view!
Post written by: Fiona Laird
Categories: Special Collections