As we near the end of our traineeships here at Glasgow University Archive Services (hereafter GUAS), we dedicate this month’s collections blog to some of our personal highlights from the archives.
Popular favourites within the GUAS repositories are our textile collections, namely the Stoddard Design Archive and United Turkey Red. Textile designs and sample books have an obvious aesthetic appeal, and these particular companies are a huge piece of local industrial heritage. This year we have worked to create an online book of images from the Stoddard Design Archive, and as such have become well acquainted with the collection.
Another of our favourite items to work with has been the Army and Navy Stores catalogues. These catalogues are lovely to skim through, with their illustrations of fashionable dress and homeware. They offer a fascinating insight into middle class retail culture in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We love seeing the gradual introduction of tropical fruits and foreign wines into the price lists, as global commerce became more widespread. It seems that just as today every dentist’s waiting room has the same Ikea print of a wooden jetty, so too did Edwardian parlours have their equivalent prints of wistful maidens and men on horseback from the Army Navy Stores.
The Napier family collection is, seemingly, a typical industrial family’s business records, correspondence, and the like. The Napier family were instrumental players in the engineering and shipbuilding industries. However, within this collection are the family’s personal papers, including that of Henry Melville Napier (1854-1940). Snippets of his educational career are found within a painstakingly scripted school copybook from his days at the High School of Glasgow, and a delightfully doodled letter written after his first year at Glasgow University.
The Glasgow University Magazines provide a thorough insight into University life from 1889 until 2003. These have been an especially useful source for helping us to become more aware of the heritage of the University, providing a really personal viewpoint of student life. Magazines dating from 1914-18 are particularly poignant, revealing the impact of the First World War on the University through articles, poems and obituaries.
Even as our time at GUAS draws to a close, the Archive keeps on surprising us with unusual collections. The marketing of
dairy products is covered in considerable detail by the Scottish Milk Publicity Council and Company of Scottish Cheesemakers archives. These quirky collections are a wonderful comparison to the marketing efforts of the brewing industry. Not only are their adverts nostalgic and humorous, but their marketing infrastructure as a whole is intricate and extensive. For example, did you know there was an annual Butter and Cheese Trade Show every year for over twenty years from 1966? And that around 1990 there was a whole manual produced on the use of the Scottish Milk Marketing Board’s new logo? Never has dairy been taken so seriously!
Whilst working at GUAS since August 2014, not only have we gained an understanding of the practicalities of working in an archive, but also an insight into the vibrant history of the University, Glasgow itself, and indeed Scotland. The University collections depict a significant hub of academia in the heart of Scotland, since its inception in 1451; we have really enjoyed learning about the pioneering developments which have occurred within University walls. The Scottish Business Archives illustrate Glasgow’s place within international commerce. It has been fascinating to us, both with backgrounds in History, to learn about the social, industrial and cultural past of Scotland through these collections. We have learnt so much over the year; our specialist subject on Mastermind could easily be Clydebank shipyards or Barr & Stroud contracts from the 1930s.
Thank you for having us GUAS, and best of luck to our successors!
Gaby Laing and Alicia Chilcott
Categories: Archive Services