We were recently rather excited to receive a significant accrual to an existing donation of records from Scottish Gymnastics. This includes over 100 books (some of them rare and inscribed), papers and photographs and an extensive collection of shields, trophies, medals, and other artefacts. A donation of objects like these in such a quantity is quite unusual for us and they make up by far the largest part of the Scottish Gymnastics archive. However the proportion of objects to paper records makes complete sense in the context of the organisation’s chief focus on local, national and international competitions.
The collection comprises a real mix of objects, including medals, shields, trophies and plaques, dating from the 1890s (when the organisation was new) right up to 2017. As well as objects which were given as awards, the collection also includes commemorative objects, particularly glassware, which were given to Scottish Gymnastics to mark their participation in particular events over the years.
Probably the most historically notable item in the collection is the Scottish Shield, an impressively decorated three-foot wide object bearing the Scottish Gymnastics logo and the names of the previous winners (picture below):
The shield was awarded as part of an annual competition between Scottish gymnastics clubs. The first winners, in 1890, were the Aberdeen Gymnastic and Rowing Club (the oldest of the Scottish gymnastics clubs). Jim Prestidge’s invaluable book The History of British Gymnastics also features this photograph of the shield in 1902, when it was won by the Dundee Gymnastic and Athletic Club (shield is on the far left).
At the time Prestidge was writing (1988), the Scottish Shield was still being awarded, and Prestidge states that it “is the longest serving Team Shield still in service”. It must certainly be one of the oldest gymnastics awards in Scotland, predating the famous Adams Shield (also featured in the above photograph, on the right) by nine years. We would like to find out more about the history of the Scottish Shield, so please do let us know if you have any information to share!
Artefacts like these form an important part of sporting heritage collections, but because of their unwieldy nature, they are often at risk of being discarded or forgotten, with institutions sometimes being reluctant to take them in. So it’s fantastic to now have this very tangible – and often downright beautiful – part of gymnastics history here at the Centre for Research Collections. The items are a valuable resource for understanding the material culture of gymnastics as well as giving precise information about individual, team and club achievements over time. It would be great to now see researchers begin to use this collection to its full potential.
The Scottish Gymnastics archives catalogue is currently being updated to include these new items. Once this is complete, the catalogue will be viewable here:
Prestidge, Jim, The History of British Gymnastics (British Amateur Gymnastics Association, 1988)