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Original Export Stories Scottish Emigration

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Edinburgh locals are being encouraged to visit The Original Export exhibition at the National Library of Scotland, a special collection of genuine artefacts highlighting the Scottish emigration experience, as it enters its last few weeks on public display.

In celebration of Homecoming 2009, a year-long programme celebrating Scottish culture and heritage, The Original Export is open to the public until October 11 and offers a fascinating glimpse into our past. The exhibition explores the journey of emigration over the past 300 years and the experience of forging new communities in foreign lands while retaining a strong sense of Scottish identity.

First-hand and rare accounts of emigrants' correspondence and journals are brought to life through music, song, poetry, film and maps. The exhibition also features original copies of colourful brochures and posters which attracted a massive number of Scots to a new life overseas.

Curator at the National Library of Scotland, Derek Oliver (40), a resident of Edinburgh and originally from Hawick, was delighted that his grandparents brave journey to Canada has provided a focal point of the exhibition.

Derek said: "George Oliver, my grandfather, took the opportunity to travel to Ontario, Canada, to become a herdsman in 1926 and his exciting adventures included hitching lifts on freight trains and working at the Calgary Stampede. After the Wall Street Crash, he returned to Scotland on the SS Athenia - the first ship to be bombed in the second World War - to settle in Hawick. My grandad's experience is just one of the many incredible stories documented in this unique exhibition."

The Homecoming themed exhibition, created by Kevin Halliwell and Dr. Mario Castrillo, has already welcomed thousands of visitors, and 42% of those surveyed came from overseas.

Manuscripts curator Maria Castrillo said: "For me, what makes the Library's collections in this area special are the way that they tell the personal stories of the people involved and reveal the true experience of the emigrant - their hopes, their aspirations, their feelings. Emigration is such a huge part of Scottish history, and indeed global history that it really is a story worth telling, and we hope that many people, whether 'Homecomers', visitors or modern day Scots of all backgrounds will find something to enjoy and learn from in this exhibition."

Kevin Halliwell, Senior Curator, US & Commonwealth Collections at NLS, added: "Whether it was flight from trouble or difficult circumstances at home or the promise of free land, freedom from taxation and the chance to be your own master, there's something in the idea of emigration that has always appealed to Scots."

In addition, The Original Export exhibition, the National Library of Scotland also offers a fantastic new visitor centre which includes an expanded exhibition and events space, gift shop and café, dramatically transforming the library's entrance area, creating an enhanced visitor experience and a more welcoming environment.  

Bruce Blacklaw, PR & External Affairs Officer at the National Library of Scotland, added: "The Original Export is unmissable for anyone who is interested in Scotland's story of emigration. So far, nearly two thirds of visitors have rated the exhibition as 'excellent' with many people coming back for second viewing. I would encourage everyone to come along and see it for themselves - it is something all Scots should see."

The Original Export, the Treasures exhibition and re-vamped visitor area is part of the National Library's important initiative to widen access and increase opportunities for new audiences to engage with and benefit from one of the country's most famous institutions. 

For more information on the National Library of Scotland's collections visit http://www.nls.uk/

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Notes to editors:

Visitors to the National Library of Scotland will also be able  to experience the Treasures exhibition.

Below is the full list of items on display at the National Library of Scotland from September 14 to November 8.

  • § Forman Armorial
  • § David Hume autobiography (manuscript and printed book)
  • § Gutenberg bible
  • § Murthly Hours (top quality example of a book of hours)
  • § Pride & Prejudice (1st edition)
  • § Gaelic Girdle Book (16th Century)
  • § Silver bindings
  • § Three Blind Mice (was, until recently, the world's smallest book)
  • § Alasdair Gray's Lanark artwork (framed)
  • § Silk maps from WWII (framed)