Friday, 31 August 2007

National Library of Scotland

The National Library of Scotland is housed in the city centre of Edinburgh and is home to the John Murray Archive, which was the main focal point of our lectures about the library. John Murray was involved in publishing over several generations and the family sold his archive of manuscripts, letters, books, and equipment to the National Library.

The John Murray Archive has some serious importance and significance to the world of books and the world in general as it contains works and items from authors and thinkers such as Charles Darwin, Lord Byron, and Jane Austen. Because of the importance and because there are so many relatively boring displays of important textual materials in existence already, the library wanted to take a different approach on exhibiting pieces of the collection. The exhibit now involves all the important things about exhibiting text, like actual pieces of text and low lighting to decrease damage possibilities, and explanations of what the viewer is looking at these exhibits bring the people and the text together with replications of artifacts and interactive screens where one can magnify the text of letters and manuscripts, and read small blurbs about the objects, as well as compare their own height with that of an author as the disembodied clothing of the authors hangs at their height inside the case. The idea was to bring the world that John Murray experienced in publishing to ‘life’ but of course that’s not directly possible and the disembodied version was very amusing and exciting.

One of the things I found most entertaining at the exhibit was an interactive table where one could go through the process of publishing. Picking from several words based on titles published by Murray, a group and I created the ‘The Tortoise Twins Murder Journey of Love’ and then picked a cover, a genre, and who to market it to; then the table informed us that it was destined to be a cult classic. My only complaint about that little game is that it did not include the real life part of publishing where once you finish writing a book and it gets accepted into a publishing house, you have to wait a year for it to come out. I was expecting the machine to ask us to come back a year later and see how we did.

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