Have you had a look yet?

Today is Heritage Awareness Day, and whether you love history, are researching your own family history or a sports fan, there are resources to cover all interests in the British Newspaper Archive! The British Newspaper Archive is available to use free in all our libraries. Just click on the ‘Register’ link on the main page and create an account. Once signed in, you will have unlimited access to millions of scanned pages of newspapers.

The opening of our own Central Library’s Lending Department featured in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph of 3 July 1890, stating that crowds gathered outside and “when admission was got nine-tenths of the people rushed to the counters and demanded Stanley’s (explorer Henry Stanley) new book”.

Sheffield Daily Telegraph 3rd July 1890

A recent feature of the British Newspaper Archive is a collection of illustrated magazines. Here you can flick through the pages of the likes of The Tatler, The Illustrated War News and The Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News, where in 1908 there was an article on racing in Scotland, featuring Musselburgh Racecourse. How many more people could you fit in the stands?

The Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News 1908.

For those of you researching your family history the British Newspaper Archive is a great resource to use and goes hand in hand with Find my past, which is also available to use free in all our libraries. Just type in the name of a relative, and see what comes up!

The British Newspaper Archive now provides a title from all 32 counties across Ireland, so if any of your forefathers originated there, this is the place to look for local newspapers.

Derry Evening Post

There is so much more to the British Newspaper Archive, so why not have a look the next time you are in the library. Take it from us you’re sure to find something interesting.

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Routes to Roots: exploring diverse heritage in Edinburgh and the Lothians

Edinburgh and the Lothians has a rich and diverse cultural history. The Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council’s (ELREC) project, Routes to Roots: Adopting Scotland as a Homeland, is working to explore and showcase this shared heritage. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund the project is working with people from the Polish, Chinese, African, Spanish and South Asian communities.

The project’s aim is to highlight how these communities have enriched Scottish heritage by conducting video interviews with active members from ethnic minority backgrounds. The videos are being distributed online and the stories compiled into a book which will be exhibited in mid-2018 during the final stages of the project. Routes to Roots is also producing a weekly podcast on various heritage topics and conducting site visits to local religious centres, galleries and sites of importance in the local area.

Edinburgh Libraries is delighted to be supporting the project by hosting the material on our Capital Collections website. The exhibition will consist of the interviews that ELREC conduct and the podcast videos and photographs that they collect along the way. ELREC have started with the story of Wojtek, known to many as the ‘soldier bear’, who was brought to Scotland by Polish soldiers at the end of World War Two. His fascinating story is told over three short podcast episodes by Aileen Orr, author of Wojtek the Bear: Polish War Hero. ELREC will soon be adding podcast episodes about the Sikh community in Edinburgh and Chinese New Year celebrations in the city and much, much more.

Find out more by visiting the ELREC website: www.elrec.org.uk/project/routes-to-roots and follow the Roots to Routes project progress on Facebook: @ELRECroutestoroots and Twitter: @ELREC_Routes

Edinburgh as you’ve never seen it before

One of the most fun elements of the Our Town Stories site are the ‘Then and Now’ pictures.

You can move the slider to create a wonderful ghostly effect:

Newington road 'then and Now' from Our Town Stories

Newington Road ‘Then and Now’ from Our Town Stories

Here are the ten most popular ‘Then and Now’ pictures from the site. Take a look and let us know which one(s) you like best.

Lawnmarket and the head of West Bow (1874)

North Bridge (1885)

Newsome’s Circus, Nicolson Street (1890)

Leith Harbour (1912)

John Knox’s House (1880)

Foot of Leith Walk (1912) 

(See how the tram turns into a bus)

Royal Arch, Newington Road (1903)

Croall Place (1890)

The Shore (1910)

Meadowbank Velodrome (1970)

A grand occasion: The Assembly Rooms comes to Central Library

Russell Clegg, Heritage and Outreach Assistant with Edinburgh Museums and Galleries, updates us on his Assembly Rooms project, which culminates this month in a fantastic exhibition at Central Library. 

Back in August of last year I contributed a post on this blog about my collaboration with the Libraries’ Digital Team for an Assembly Rooms story on Our Town Stories, and since then I have had greater opportunities to work in partnership with Edinburgh Libraries.

The main thrust has been by touring a small exhibition of Assembly Rooms related artefacts, telling the social and civic stories associated with the building, to selected libraries across the city.

Following the launch at the end of October last year, the exhibits travelled to the East Neighbourhood Centre and Craigmillar Library in November and went on to be hosted by Kirkliston Library in December.

Assembly Rooms exhibition at Kirkliston Library

Visiting these libraries as part of my outreach work also uncovered more stories about the venue and our collections. A visitor in Kirkliston told me of how he worked for Crawford’s, the Assembly Rooms’ catering provider in the 1970s, and when chatting to another gentleman at Craigmillar about Edinburgh’s glassmaking industry, I discovered that he had worked as an apprentice ‘thrower’ for Buchan’s Potteries in Portobello.

By working in partnership with Libraries, the Museums’ collections can be shared in a different way and memories of the city’s heritage venues can be revealed and documented.

This leads me on nicely to the Assembly Rooms exhibition on display throughout January on the Mezzanine level at Central Library.

This display reveals more stories and has new content. You cannot fail to miss the flame red ball dress, made out of a former wedding gown, and worn at a ‘Fireman’s Ball’ in the late 1950s. Also look out for a framed Burgess’ ticket to a ceremony conferring the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh on one Charles Dickens in 1841.

The Special Collections team at Central Library have delved into their own archives to uncover some gems of literature and which tie in with the literary connections of the Assembly Rooms.

My collaboration with Libraries now comes full circle, as I work again with the Digital Team to archive some of the exhibition images for Capital Collections so that future audiences may engage with the present cultural activities about the past!


Russell Clegg is the Heritage and Outreach Assistant with Edinburgh Museums and Galleries. Contact Russell via Russell.Clegg@edinburgh.gov.uk

The Assembly Rooms exhibition runs at Central Library until 2nd February 2015.