Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy

27/6/2007

John Murray Archive

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A major new exhibition at the National Library of Scotland featuring the John Murray Archive, one of the world’s great collections of literary manuscripts, opened today.

Charles Darwin, Lord Byron, Sir Walter Scott and David Livingstone are just four of the famous historical figures whose stories will be brought to life with interactive technology.

Visitors will be able to see a recreation of the fireplace in Albemarle Street where John Murray II famously burned the memoirs of Lord Byron, or the the letter in which Darwin pitched the idea for On the Origin of Species and a drawing by David Livingstone as he camped in the rain on the southern edge of Lake Nyassa (now Lake Malawi).

Culture Minister Linda Fabiani said:

“This is an outstanding acquisition which highlights the strong literary history of Scotland and enhances our cultural profile both at home and abroad. Great enjoyment and educational benefits will come from the John Murray Archive.”

The John Murray Archive arrived at NLS in 2006 with significant financial support from the Scottish Government and £17.7 million in the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Library is continuing its fundraising campaign to raise the remaining £5 million required to complete the purchase.

National Librarian Martyn Wade said:

“It is wonderful to see the results of several years’ hard work from a large number of very talented and committed people coming to fruition in the form of this exhibition. To pack this much fascinating material, information and excitement into one exhibition is a remarkable achievement and I hope that many people from Scotland and beyond will come to the National Library of Scotland to experience it for themselves.”

John Murray Archive Project Manager Nat Edwards said:

“The exhibition uses display technology that has never before been used in a Library or Archival exhibition. We have turned reading letters into an exciting, interactive experience and bridged the gap between the very best ideas of the nineteenth century and the very best ideas of the twenty-first. I can’t wait to share this with our visitors.”

Michael Palin said:

“The John Murray Archive is a uniquely rich collection, bringing together travellers who were poets, politicians, scientists, missionaries, archaeologists and adventurers, who all share the gift of being able to write. This is a gold-mine for anyone who loves the magic of travel.”

The John Murray Archive arrived at NLS in 2006 with significant financial support from the Scottish Executive and the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Library is continuing its fundraising campaign to raise the remaining £5million required to complete the purchase.

NLS Director of Development Giles Dove said: “I think when people and organisations can actually see, through the exhibition and our other activities, just what a wonderful resource this archive is, they will be even more encouraged to have a stake in it for themselves by donating to the campaign for the John Murray Archive.”

NLS have also published a book to tie-in with the opening of the exhibition. Ideas that Shaped the World: An Introduction to the John Murray Archive, edited by David McClay and with a foreword by Magnus Linklater, offers a fascinating glimpse into the political, social and intellectual life of the firm’s heyday via the correspondence between authors and publisher. Richly illustrated throughout and drawing on unique source material from the Archive, with chapters written by the JMA curatorial and cataloguing team, the book provides insights into not only what a publisher’s archive tells us about their authors and the world they inhabited, but also the journey of an idea from its genesis to its publication.

Source-Scottish Executive

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