Our main focus when we arrived at the National Library of Scotland was the John Murray Archive which was acquired in 2002 for the exorbitant price of £32.5 million. David McClay, Curator, noted that the price paid is most likely well below the actual price of the collection. Estimators had been given 12 months to quote the collection. At the close of that time period, they had only reviewed a portion of the collection. The Library has since discovered treasures that they were unaware they possessed and the surprises continue as they go through the cataloging process.
The Archive contains over 20,000 authors and is a compilation of 7 generations of Murray publishing dating back to 1762. So the major questions facing staff members are: how does one conserve and preserve these items; and how do you present the materials to the general public. The answers are not easy to come by.
With the volume of items in the collection, it is impossible to have them all on view and accessible. After partnering with a design firm and collaborating with various staff members, the Library devised an interactive exhibit that highlights certain areas of the collection. After discussing the design elements and the process with Emma Faragher, Education and Outreach Manager, we were given the opportunity to view the exhibit. It was phenomenal. The displays incorporated all of the learning styles (i.e.- aesthetic, visual). It included audio aspects and visual supplements to the texts on display. At the same time, the dim lighting provided atmosphere and protected the manuscripts from harmful light. In addition, the collection can be rotated throughout the exhibit as the needs and interests of the community changes.