Hands-on history at new festival celebrating our past

A new festival celebrating History and Heritage will help families to once again enjoy a north-east museum which has been a staple of school trips and family days out for almost half a century.

A video game, Strange Sickness, created as a result of research by University historians, will be showcased at the festival.
A video game, Strange Sickness, created as a result of research by University historians, will be showcased at the festival.

The University of Aberdeen’s UNI-Versal festival has launched its fourth mini series – this time dedicated to our past – which will run from September 15-17.

Among its many highlights it will provide an opportunity for people of all ages to take a tour of and learn more about the recently reopened Zoology Museum, which has captivated visitors of all ages since the 1970s.

From its imposing skeleton of an elephant, often recalled as a wooly mammoth, to Rani the Bengal tiger and an ever-popular display demonstrating the evolutionary journey, the University of Aberdeen’s Zoology Museum has long been a favourite for a free day out.

The Zoology Museum has recently reopened.

After recently reopening to the public, the museum is now looking forward to sharing improvements – and many of its old favourites – at UNI-Versal.

Special tours of the museum have been arranged running on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday of the Festival – just one of the many family-friendly and free events on offer across the weekend.

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Other highlights include a walking tour exploring the history of the Cruickshank Garden where visitors can discover its claim to fame as the original home of an earlier version of Aberdeen Football Club and a tour of the Dons’ current home including a sneak peak at the home team dressing room, press room, tunnel and the famous Pittodrie pitch.

Where fact meets fiction is the topic for a workshop exploring how we share our history through storytelling, the role of writer Walter Scott in shaping views of Scotland through the centuries will be examined in a session to mark the 250th anniversary year of his birth and the life and work of Aberdeen’s first printer will be shared as part of a series of engaging historical talks.

Rani the Bengal tiger is a popular display at the Zoology Museum.

Visitors to the Sir Duncan Rice Library can get up close to hundreds of years of history with a display of treasures from the University’s archive including a book dating from the 12th century and an item that once belonged to the University’s founder, Bishop Elphinstone.

Anyone who thinks their old text books are gathering dust can also take a look at a law book printed in 1511 and used by early students of the University studying Civil law, which is still in its original binding complete with paper label!

Bringing history to life will be demonstrated by University historians who led the creation of a video game based on Aberdeen’s Burgh Records which allows gamers to enter the city in 1498, when it was trying to keep out the deadly Plague.

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Neil Curtis, Head of Museums and Special Collections, said: “We know that so many people have fond memories of visiting in their own childhoods so we would encourage anyone to come along for a trip down memory lane – or to see the huge variety of exhibits on display for the very first time.”

Storyteller Andy Cannon will be hosting a fun-filled and engaging workshop.

Most events at the History and Heritage are free and booking is required for some sessions. Visit www.abdn.ac.uk/events/uni-versal.

The University of Aberdeen’s Zoology Museum has long been a favourite for a free day out.