Thursday, 31 March 2011

Bound for Brighton

CAIS leaflets for the IRMS Conference
The annual conference of the Information and Records Management Society takes place in Brighton next week and CAIS will be there as an exhibitor. We'll be on hand to answer questions about our Masters degrees, short courses, certificates and research opportunities in Records Management, Digital Preservation and Information Rights.

If you're going to the conference please stop by Stand 21 and say hello. If you would like more information about any of our courses or programmes please email

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

J M Barrie and Rudyard Kipling

In the 1920s University College, Dundee was fortunate enough to receive visits from two of the great literary figures of the day, Sir James M Barrie and Rudyard Kipling. Both visited the College in their role as Lord Rector of the University of St Andrews. At the time University College was part of St Andrews. 

Barrie bowling to Haig
 Barrie might have had cause to be wary of visiting the Dundee campus despite the fact that he was a native of nearby Kirriemuir. In the 1919 Rectorial Election he had been seen as the candidate favoured by St Andrews, while students at University College had reputedly supported the Fourth Marquess of Bute. However as Barrie had ultimately won a comfortable majority, it is likely that he had ultimately received substantial backing from Dundee students. In some ways this should not have been surprising, as Barrie had an earlier association with the College. In 1903, he contributed the essay ‘A Confession’ to The Meal-Poke, a miscellany published by the University College Student’s Union Bazaar.

Haig preparing to take a shot
In May 1922 Barrie came to Scotland to deliver his celebrated ‘Courage’ address at St Andrews. On the same visit he and Douglas Haig, the Earl Haig, (the recently elected Chancellor of the University of St Andrews) visited Dundee to open the new University College playing fields at Downfield. Earl Haig’s visit was in itself very significant as it was the first time University College had been visited by its Chancellor. Haig probably felt some affinity with the College, as he had been nominated for the chancellorship by Principal McKay of University College, and had been awarded the freedom of the city of Dundee in 1919.

Both men delighted the large crowd who were present at Downfield by stepping up to action on the new cricket field. The Peter Pan author bowled a few balls to the Field-Marshal, but was somewhat disappointed not to claim his wicket. Barrie gave highly entertaining speeches both at the playing fields and at an official reception at the Caird Hall. As well as regaling listeners with stories of his love and experiences of cricket, Barrie described his pride that his native Forfarshire contained one of the greatest cities of the British Empire. He also advised his audience of the importance of University College, arguing that a city’s ‘chief pride’ should be its University. After leaving the Caird Hall the two men went to University College itself, where they were warmly received by staff and students. Barrie, who announced he planned to withdraw from public life, described the day as the ‘happiest of my life’.

Rudyard Kipling
In 1923 Barrie’s successor Rudyard Kipling also made the trip to Dundee when he came to St Andrew’s to give his Rectorial address. Again he was very well received by staff, students and the people of the city. In a memorable address he praised the relationship between University College, Dundee and the University of St Andrews arguing that it was a source of strength not just to Dundee, but also to St Andrews. He also called on the merchant princes and leading citizens of Dundee to give their support to the college. Poignantly, he observed that by doing so their names could live on even if their line was to die out. Indeed he implored people to consider giving money and support towards the education of young men in memory of ‘some son of yours who should have borne’ your name. Kipling had of course lost his only son, Jack, at the Battle of Loos in 1915, a battle where a large number of casualties came from Dundee.

Dr Kenneth Baxter

Monday, 21 March 2011

And So to Embroider: The Needlework Development Scheme 1934-1961 - An Exhibition by Museum Services

The current exhibition by Museum Services in the Lamb Gallery of the University's Tower Building showcases the work of the Needlework Development Scheme.

Run by Scotland's four art colleges between 1934 and 1961, the Needlework Development Scheme toured the world collecting examples of historic and contemporary embroidery designs as a national educational resource. Its aims were to encourage greater interest in embroidery and raise the standard of textile design. To mark 50 years since the Scheme came to an end, this exhibition features highlights from an extraordinary collection.

The Scheme originated with the Paisley-based thread manufacturers J & P Coats, who provided substantial funding (anonymously) and had a considerable influence over the selection of work. With mills in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Poland, Russia, Canada, Mexico and Japan, Coats had international contacts that were invaluable to the Scheme.

During the 1930s the Scheme concentrated on modern European design, but the coming of war in 1939 put a stop to its operations. It had collected almost 900 pieces for use by the art colleges, schools, training colleges, women's institutes and other organisations across Scotland. When the Scheme was re-started after the war, it was extended to the rest of Britain, involving the Ministry of Education and the V&A Museum, and employing internationally acclaimed textile designers as expert advisers.

By the time the Scheme came to an end in 1961 it had collected over 5,000 items. These were distributed throughout the country - as well as the four art colleges, pieces were given to various institutions including the V&A, the Royal Scottish Museum, colleges of education and the Embroiderers' Guild. While most of the pieces shown in this exhibition are from the selection given to Duncan of Jordanstone College, we are also delighted to be able to include items on loan from the collections of the Glasgow School of Art and Gray's School of Art (Robert Gordon University).

You can see more of the collection on our NDS website. The exhibition is on display until 30 April 2011.

Matthew Jarron, Museum Curator

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Papers of Gordon Wilson, former Chairman of the Scottish National Party

We have recently completed the listing of the papers of Gordon Wilson (MS 315), the fourth Rector of the University of Dundee and one of the key figures in the history of the Scottish National Party.

Robert Gordon Wilson achieved national prominence when he was elected as MP for Dundee East in February 1974, marking the first time the Labour Party had lost that seat since its creation in 1950 and the first time Dundee had elected a non-Labour MP since 1935. Wilson performed well in his first years in parliament and in 1979 he was one of only two SNP MPs to retain their seat. The same year he became Chairman of the Scottish National Party (which was the equivalent post to party leader), a role which he held until 1990. During this period the party made significant gains in local government elections in 1984 and 1986. Although Wilson (narrowly) lost his own seat in 1987 general election, the SNP was able to gain three seats from the Conservative Party that year.

Gordon Wilson with Congressman Paul Tsongas
Wilson’s papers include material relating to some of the important issues Wilson tackled whilst a Member of Parliament, such as the reorganisation and floatation of the Trustee Savings Bank, and details of local politics in the Tayside area. There are also many photographs in the collection which chronicle the whole of Wilson’s parliamentary career.

The photographs include shots of Wilson campaigning throughout Scotland and images of him doing day-to-day constituency work. The collection also includes material relating to a parliamentary exchange visit to America in the 1970s when he was the guest of the Massachusetts Congressman Paul E. Tsongas. Tsongas would later be Bill Clinton’s main challenger for the Democratic Party nomination for President of the United States of America in 1992.

Dr Kenneth Baxter

Monday, 14 March 2011

Who do you think we are?

We were intrigued by a post this weekend on Euan Semple's blog, 'The Obvious', coming as it did in the same week we set up a new Twitter account for Archive Services and Records Management Services. In his post on the use of online social tools by orgnaisations Euan suggests that:
Reciprocity relies on mutual respect. When you are treating me as a statistic, or worse a target, I don't feel respected and have little inclination to reciprocate.
Then goes on to ask:
Why should I re-tweet your tweets or like your Facebook page when you won't even tell me your name?
To that end, we thought you might like to meet the people behind this blog and our Twitter accounts:
Everything posted here or via our Twitter accounts is written by staff from Archive, Records Management and Museum Services and the Centre for Archive and Information Studies at the University of Dundee. You can find information about us and our contact details on our website and we'd be happy to hear from you about any aspect of our work.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Reflections on Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2011

The Who Do You Think You Are show is over for another year. This was the fifth year that CAIS has been to the family history event but it was the first time our administrators, Craig and Angela, had attended. Now they have recovered, Angela has had time to reflect on her experiences.

She says 'Who Do You Think You Are Live was very busy but enjoyable. It was good to be able to discuss the online family and local history courses that we offer and to talk to people about their research and the archival sources that might help them go further.

We gave out around 2000 leaflets over the weekend and enrolled a number of people onto our courses. Since we returned to Dundee we have been dealing with the enquiries and interest generated by the show. We spoke to lots of different people such as families, people starting out researching their family history and experienced genealogists. Many people were specifically interested in our Heraldry module which is taught by members of the College of Arms, who also had a stand at WDYTYA, and House History which which will be developed by Nick Barrett who gave several sessions at the show.'

CAIS offers a full Masters degree in Family and Local History or a Postgraduate Certificate in Family and Local History. Taught by expert tutors, these are aimed at people wishing to add context or more detail to their family or local history research and for those interested in a career in genealogy. We also offer short courses for people who have recently begun their family or local history research. To find out more about the courses we offer please see our website, call us on +44 (0)1382 385543 or email

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Video from Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2011

Pat and Caroline were interviewed by Chris Paton of the Scottish GENES blog about our courses in Family and Local History at Who Do You Think You Are? Live last week. Chris posted the interview to YouTube and you can watch it below. His post about the interview is available here.