Scottish independence material set for museum expo

Amy Todman pictured with some of the memorabillia. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Amy Todman pictured with some of the memorabillia. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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HOLD on to those Yes Scotland posters and don’t you dare recycle any Better Together leaflets you find lying around – Scotland’s day with destiny is to be preserved for future generations in a unique museum collection.

The National Library of Scotland (NLS) is appealing for politicians, campaigners and members of the public alike to donate material relating to last year’s referendum on Scottish independence.

The NLS project aims to establish a “unique and valuable resource” surrounding the referendum campaign that will take shape over the next half century and inform the work of scholars, researchers and journalists of the future.

With the first tranche of material set to go online in the coming weeks, the Scottish Independence Referendum 2014 Collection has already amassed hundreds of items and is “growing larger each week,” according to staff at Scotland’s largest library.

The NLS is now reaching out to senior political figures and grassroots campaigners over the next two years to provide historians with an unrivalled collection that is “unbiased, representative and inclusive of the varied and often complex angles surrounding the Scottish independence debate.”

Amy Todman, a specialist referendum curator, is gathering as much material as possible, ranging from unpublished campaign records and promotional items, through to photographs and video recordings.

The majority of the 300 items in the collection’s print catalogue consists of government papers, books, think-tank reports, newspapers, flyers, badges, banners, flags and leaflets.

They include documents from scores of groups, such as Business for Scotland, Work Together, Labour for Independence, National Collective, Scot Hub, English Democrats, Conservative Friends of the Union, Polish for Yes and the Grand Orange Lodge of ­Scotland.

Numerous political parties and the Scottish Government have also donated material to the emerging archive.

Todman is also keen to speak to senior political figures who were at the heart of the campaign in the hope of convincing them of donating their material and said she would be “delighted” if politicians like Alex Salmond became involved.

“There’s certainly key people it would be great to talk to but my sense of the collection is building foundations that’ll grow over the next 50 years,” she told Scotland on Sunday. “A lot of people I speak to, politicians and so on, say it’d be great for the NLS to have material but that they want to keep it in their attic for the next 30 years. We have to remind people that the collection will be here for a long time.”

The archive, however, will not reflect the work of the elected few.

The NLS is aiming to gather “many different kinds of material from different sources,” stating that “in essence we want to collect everything, from the largest dossier to the smallest stamp, from official publications to jocular musings both political and non-partisan.”

In an appeal to the public for material, it emphasises that “nothing is too small to be of interest.”

It is particularly keen for items from local campaigns so that the collection represents “the widest geographical spread of Scotland.”

Todman explained: “We’re trying to collect campaign records from people who don’t see themselves or their work as part of an archiving tradition - they were just working to achieve a certain vote.

“It’s a slightly different way than we would usually build a collection. We’re going straight to individuals and the public.”

In a nod to the influence of social media on the campaign, the collection is one of the first web-focused archives launched by the NLS and will capture for posterity the heated debate that took place on the internet, documenting content from websites, blogs and the likes of Twitter and Facebook.

An initial web collection of online material relating to the referendum will go live at the end of this month via the UK Web Archive, consisting of around a thousand independence-related websites, blogs and social media updates.

“The web collection certainly throws everything into a different light and changed the way people saw themselves as part of the campaign,” Todman said.

“The web dimension represents quite an important shift when we’re looking back. So much of what we think of as political archives is unpublished - the stuff you don’t see - yet so much of what happened in the independence referendum was published online.

“Let’s not forget something like 85% of what was on the web in 2004 is now gone completely, it’s really important to remember just how ephemeral all this stuff is.”

While the NLS specialises in printed and archive material, it is also liaising with other organisation collecting referendum material, including the National Museums of Scotland, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, the McManus Galleries in Dundee and the Scottish Political Archive at the University of Stirling.

Details of the collection can be found at http://www.nls.uk/collections/topics/referendum and Amy Todman can be contacted via email at a.todman@nls.uk.

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