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14 July 2014

National Library of Scotland

National Library of Scotland
(photo courtesy of the Gazetteer for Scotland)

This morning the LIS class visited an impressive organization -- the National Library of Scotland. Anyone can obtain a reader's ticket here and all items in the facility can be ordered for examination including manuscripts worth £1,000,000. They also offer remote inquiry services (where users can request copies of documents) and have several digitization projects going to make items more accessible to users all over the world. The building is located on the George IV Bridge and spans 15 floors because the back of the building actually descends beneath the bridge and onto the ground below. The books in the stacks are shelved by height, not subject or author. This allows as many shelves as possible to be used within the 6 floors of book space they have.

One large collection the library holds is the John Murray Archives, which is a collection of publishing company John Murray's records and published works spanning 234 years. One of the new exhibitions in the library features a recreation of the London John Murray reading room, complete with some of the books published by John Murray on the shelves. It is surprising that many of these are sitting out where visitors can remove them and flip through them!

The rest of the exhibition is a collection of "living figures" depicting famous authors, poets, and explorers whose works were published by John Murray. Some of the people included were Sir Walter Scott, David Livingstone, and Charles Darwin. The living figures are made up of a costume related to the person surrounded by original books and manuscripts related to their work or life. The cases also feature mood lighting that reflects different colors for each person and interactive touchscreens that visitors can use to explore the items in the cases. The custom designed lighting only highlights the items being viewed so that each item is only exposed to light while being examined. Once the user selects another item, the lights will go off and a new item will be lit. Music plays for certain items and animations are shown on the screens for others. Users even have the option to have letters and shirt manuscripts read to them. The readers are actors who have been told to use the specific accent or way of speaking that the author would have used to give the performance authenticity. I was truly amazed at the thought and planning behind each individual element, and can safely say that this is the most engaging exhibit I have ever seen. No photographs were allowed inside, so I unfortunately cannot show you how amazing this exhibit was.