Last week I was privileged to attend the CILIP Rare Books and Special Collections conference at the Sir Duncan Rice Library at Aberdeen University. I was able to take a poster about the Funk Donation Projects at New College Library, which fitted well with the theme of buildings and refurbishment projects for Special Collections.
Christ’s College Library, Aberdeen
I began the conference with a visit I’d arranged to Christ’s College Library, Aberdeen, thanks to the College Administrator, a New College alumnus. In the course of the Centre for World Christianity Library project that I’ve been working on over the summer, I’ve come across a number of books marked Christ’s College Library Aberdeen, so I was keen to see this Divinity library. The last remaining departmental Library at the University of Aberdeen, it’s supported by the Church of Scotland to provide books for undergraduate students of Divinity. The beautiful nineteenth century library environment also provides a setting for seminars and events for Christ’s College, which has a historic role overseeing the preparation and support of candidates for the ministry of the Church of Scotland. Recently it has developed a new Centre for Ministry Studies. I took the opportunity to visit Kings College Chapel, where I realized that the war memorial stained glass window was designed by Sir Douglas Strachan, who designed the windows in the Free High Kirk building which is now New College Library.
The conference included a visit to the University of Aberdeen’s Special Collections, where we were treated to a fabulous display of treasures, including an illuminated Dutch Book of Hours from the early 15th century that I could have looked at all afternoon. The background to the donors of many of the items on display and the complex library history of the two colleges, Kings and Marischal had been aptly descibed that morning by Dr Iain Beavan. I was fascinated to hear from after Conference Dinner speaker Prof Peter Davidson that another of the treasures on display, the Aberdeen Bestiary, was once posted out to M.R.James as part of his work cataloguing the Aberdeen University manuscripts. Other days, other ways …
I had learned before coming to the University of Aberdeen about their Pamphlets collection, which has a relationship with the newly catalogued Pamphlets Collection at New College, Edinburgh. Following the Union of the United Presbyterian Church with the Free Church of Scotland in 1900, the United Presbyterian College Library was dispersed among the three Free Church Colleges (including New College), and the pamphlet volumes were part of the collection that came to the Free Church College in Aberdeen (now Christ’s College). The older part of Christ’s College Library was deposited in Aberdeen University Library in 1986.
A tour of the newly built Sir Duncan Rice Library showed the importance of donor support for the Library project, with every area and room of the library named after a donor or supporter. I met Mrs Janet MacKay, Information Consultant for Divinity, History and Philosophy in the Elsevier Information Consultants Room for a helpful chat about the similarities and differences in our roles. I’d been struck by the Subject Information point desks on each floor of the Sir Duncan Rice Library, and also by the balance of bookstock vs study spaces / PCs in this library. Shared themes were supporting PhD students and the continued importance of the printed book to Divinity.
Christine Love-Rodgers, Academic Support Librarian – Divinity