National Library of Scotland launches new cataloguing appeal

26 October 2023
Curator Colin McIlroy in the stacks of the National Library of Scotland looking at archival material
The National Library of Scotland is appealing to literature lovers to help reveal the diaries, drafts and doodles, letters, lists and personal papers of three of Scotland’s most renowned modern writers.

The Library recently acquired new additions to the archives of Alasdair Gray, George Mackay Brown and James Kelman. But sifting through this huge “treasure trove” will require many hours of vital cataloguing work – a task that requires the full attention of a dedicated curator.  

The National Library of Scotland (NLS) is asking Scotland’s readers to help fund the cataloguing and curation of these papers, many of which have not been seen by anyone other than the authors, and make them available to the public as soon as possible. This could be in the form of an exhibition, as well as granting access at the Library’s reading rooms to anyone with a Library card. 

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The plea for support has secured the backing of Sir Ian Rankin, who donated his own archive to the National Library of Scotland in 2019. He also funded a post to catalogue its contents, to ensure the archive was available at the Library’s reading rooms as soon as possible. This donation also enabled the Library to curate a display relating to Rankin’s life and work, The Rankin Files. 

He said:  “Cataloguing is a large (and largely invisible) job that remains absolutely indispensable to the National Library of Scotland's work.  I know from first-hand how a skilled cataloguer can create order from a chaos of files, folders and scraps of paper.  That's why I support NLS's fundraising drive – please do join me.”  

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Assistant NLS Curator Jamie McIntosh, who has been examining the papers, added: “The archives are a treasure trove. They show you not only these authors’ whole creative process, but also who the person is.” 

He also noted that interest in Alasdair Gray is soaring among a new audience due to an upcoming Hollywood movie based on his novel ‘Poor Things’. The film stars Oscar-nominated actors Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo and Willem Dafoe.  

To donate to the Library’s appeal, visit the NLS website.

report and image courtesy National Library of Scotland