The enduring international legacy of visionary 19th-century social and educational reformer, Robert Owen, was celebrated on 5 November – accompanied by fireworks – at the launch of the Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change.
The event included a collaborative pop-up display, organised by the International Heritage Project and curatorial and education staff from the New Lanark Trust, showcasing objects from the University archives and New Lanark’s collections connected with Owen and the Institute for the Formation of Character he established in 1816.
Highlights from our own archives viewed (at a safe distance from the drinks and canapés!) by many of the 120+ guests and keynote speaker, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Michael Russell MSP, were Robert Owen’s diary dated 1813–22 (University of Glasgow Archives Services: UGD042/7/24) and an 1852 school certificate book (University of Glasgow Archives Services: UGD042/7/26).
Owen’s diary contains short, sporadic entries dealing with a variety of topics ranging from mill production and factors affecting it (including winter weather) to morality in the village, such as the boisterous and even violent behaviour of village boys, and pregnancy outwith marriage.
The names of pupils, hours of schooling undertaken each day and reasons for absence were recorded in the certificate book, an official government publication, in accordance with the 1844 Factories Act and amendments to it.
The displayed items belong to the New Lanark Mills collection (UGD042/7) within the Gourock Ropeworks Co. Ltd collection in the Scottish Business Archive. Robert Owen was mill owner and manager between 1799 and 1825; Gourock Ropeworks Co. Ltd purchased the mills in the 1880s.