New exhibition at NLS – Pen Names

A major exhibition ‘Pen Names’ – which explores why some authors prefer to use an alias – has opened at NLS.
Using material from their extensive literary archives and printed collections, the exhibition covers a range of writers using pseudonyms who were working in the UK from the 1800s to the present day. Writers include George Eliot, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Josephine Tey, Frank Quitely, Dreda Say Mitchell and Ambrose Parry.

On show will be rare first editions, pulp fiction titles, popular novels and unique collection items. The exhibition also includes a family-friendly interactive activity as well as reading areas for visitors to sit and relax with a book written by (or about) featured authors.

Pen Names will run at NLS, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh until 29 April 2023. Entry is free.


National treasures exhibition – coming soon

Treasures of the National Library of Scotland

A new permanent exhibition, Treasures of the National Library of Scotland, opens on Friday 25 March.

The Treasures exhibition reveals the stories of well-known and surprising items from the national collections, and is set to be a major attraction in Edinburgh.

Visitors will get a glimpse of our vast collections – from the groundbreaking Gutenberg Bible and the handwritten work of Robert Burns to multimedia displays showing early innovations in sound and film. This exhibition provides unique insights into Scotland’s story, and its place in the world.

source: National Library newsletter — March 2022

Audubon’s Birds of America – new exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland

Audubon’s Birds of America – a new exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland

Exhibitions & Events at National Museums Scotland (

A new exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland will examine the artistry and legacy of one of the world’s rarest, most coveted and largest books.

Audubon’s Birds of America (12 February – 8 May 2022) will showcase 46 unbound prints from National Museums Scotland’s library collection, most of which have never been on display before, as well as a rare bound volume of the book, on loan from the Mitchell Library.  The exhibition will also feature rare books, letters, ephemera and taxidermy specimens showing the accurate life-size rendering of Audubon’s paintings.

This exhibition is a once in a generation opportunity to see so much of Audubon’s work in one place.

Visitors to the exhibition can also discover Edinburgh’s integral role in the development of the book and explore the publication’s technical achievement and artistic legacy.

Sir Walter Scott and the Historical Novel – a new display at NLS

From the NLS February newsletter:

Our Sir Walter Scott and the Historical Novel display is open at George IV Bridge, Edinburgh. It celebrates Scott’s literary achievements and the development of the historical novel, as well as his contribution to Scotland’s national identity. Items on display include correspondence, engravings and original manuscripts, including ‘The Heart of Mid-Lothian’, considered by some to be one of Scott’s finest novels.

Sir Walter Scott is one of Scotland’s most important authors and last year marked the 250th anniversary of his birth. We hold significant collections of works relating to Scott, including first editions of his novels and the largest collection of Scott’s correspondence to be found anywhere in the world. Our successful Bring the Bards Home appeal recently enabled us to acquire the manuscript of ‘Rob Roy’, which we look forward to receiving later this year.

Visit our Sir Walter Scott display

Here’s one I prepared earlier: a guide to promoting your collections – event report


Yesterday I attended CILIPS East Branch‘s afternoon event exploring some different ways to promote our library collections. It took place at the NLS, and over a few hours we were presented with three very different methods of “exhibiting” materials.

Gordon Yeoman, Exhibitions Conservator, National Library of Scotland
Gordon gave us a run down of what goes into putting on a large exhibition such as Northern Lights, the Scottish Enlightenment (currently running at NLS). His team of six people also work with curators and other NLS staff to present smaller exhibitions in various places around the library. This talk was followed by half an hour in which we were actually able to go and view the exhibit. It looks wonderful.

Calum McGhie, Customer Service Manager, Blackwell’s Bookshop, Edinburgh
I found this section particularly interesting. Though it was less from an exhibition viewpoint and more that it gave me ideas of how we might better communicate with our users around the library using ‘shelf talkers’, as they do in bookshops.

Graeme Hawley, Head of General Collections, National Library of Scotland
The ever entertaining Mr Hawley spoke engagingly about the exhibition he wasn’t able to make into an exhibition (because the Enlightenment exhibit was using the space). Instead he built a website of long-read essays and films to tell the story of the decade which (he argues) is responsible for making the world we live in today. You can visit his website here: Back to the future: 1979-1989.

This was a very enjoyable afternoon and I was really impressed by the unusual (perhaps even quirky!) takes on the idea of ‘exhibitions’. Thanks CILIPS East.


ELISA AGM, Networking & Exhibition Tour

endurance-in-ice-lThis year’s AGM will be held (slightly later than usual) on Tuesday 26th September, 5pm at the National Library of Scotland.

Join us for a tour of the Library’s current exhibition Enduring Eye: the Antarctic Legacy of Sir Ernest Shackleton and Frank Hurley led by Paula Williams, Curator of Maps, Mountaineering and Polar Collections.

Following the tour, there will be some refreshments and a short AGM, giving the opportunity to hear about the work undertaken by ELISA during the past year.

Please reserve your place via Eventbrite


Godfrey Hilton Thomson: The man who tested Scotland’s IQ – exhibition

Ornella Pantani from the Main Library Helpdesk at Edinburgh University has submitted  a wee post about their current exhibition:


Have you been a fan of the latest BBC programme ‘How to Stay Young?’. In this case, like me, you will have quite a surprise if you happen to go to the exhibition currently on display until the 26 November in the Exhibition Gallery, Main Library, University of Edinburgh, George Square. The Exhibition explores the pioneering and ground-breaking work in the field of educational research conducted by Professor Sir Godfrey Hilton Thomson, aimed to test the intelligence of every 11-year-old in Scotland.

In the last episode of the BBC programme, they went to Edinburgh to meet some of the very people that were involved in this original study, which represents in its totality the largest-scale of IQ test in Europe. So I’ve found very fascinating to learn in more details about this project, its creator, the way it was developed and its importance.

The Exhibition covers the professional life as well as the personal life of Professor Sir Godfrey Hilton Thomson, giving a full story of the man, his vision and achievements.

A very enjoyable and informative display for all to see.

The exhibition is free and is open Monday to Saturday, 10am – 5pm.

Thanks Ornella!




National Mining Museum visit, June 2016

On the 23rd June 2016 I took part in a fascinating visit to the National Mining Museum Scotland Library & Archive at Lady Victoria Colliery, Newtongrange.

The Museum has a large and varied archive, which includes from the records of the Lothian Coal Company, minute books and papers of the National Union of Mineworkers, and a collection of over 30000 largely National Coal Board plans and engineering drawings.

We were welcomed by the Keeper, Ellie Swinbank, who gave us into the hands of two friendly and knowledgeable volunteers for a tour.

Although there is no library professional employed there, George and Andrew are both ex employees of the mine with expert knowledge in the field. They generously showed us round their surprisingly varied collection.

Much of their work involves answering queries and helping with research. Any enquiries should be directed to Keeper Ellie Swinbank in the first instance.

After the library tour Ellie invited us to visit the main museum exhibition. This was excellent and I’d like to go back when I can take time to look around more. I’m also keen to take the pithead tour!

Thanks to Julie Arnot for organising this event.

The Book Beautiful – at NLS


PictureChoice books from private presses inspired by the late 19th century British arts and crafts movement are matched with some of the very earliest printed books in the Library’s collections. By conceiving the book as a unified whole in which format, page design, type, illustration, binding and raw materials all work together harmoniously, private presses were able to create works of art, the ideal of the ‘Book Beautiful.’

Dates: Open to Sunday 13 March 2016


Venue: George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EW

Exclusive exhibition tour for ELISA members – update

lifting-the-lid-400-years-of-food-and-drink-in-scotland-lst172554You are invited to attend an exclusive Curator led tour for ELISA members of the current NLS exhibition Lifting the Lid: four hundred years of food and drink in Scotland.

16th Sept 2015, 9.15-10.15am at National Library of Scotland

This is an opportunity to hear from the curator of the NLS’s summer exhibition.  If you don’t know a peck from a mutchkin or you fancy serving mock turtle soup for your next dinner party come along on the 16th  Sept and see how the diet of our ancestors has influenced what we eat today.

Places are restricted to 10 only

Please reserve your place via Eventbrite if you would like to take up this offer. PLEASE also advise Fiona  – – if you need to cancel after booking so that someone else can take your place.