Thursday, 29 May 2014

Every road leads to Innerpeffray…

Tucked away in the countryside, the white washed walls of Innerpeffray Library shining through the surrounding greenery are an unexpected but pleasant sight to the approaching visitor. Although off the popular tourist trail, every road in Perthshire seems to lead to the Library of Innerpeffray, and rightfully so since the Library in its long history has served the people of Perthshire near and far.
When we made our way to the Library for the first time to take up our positions as guest curators, we were captivated by the setting of the Library, but more so by its diverse book collection. Off the motorway and into the Strathearn countryside, on every new visit we seemed to get lost and enjoyed discovering new ways to get to the Library, which seemed limitless. Having come to do a project as part of our Masters course at the University of Stirling, our experience quickly turned from purely academic to a work we felt passionate about. We were given the opportunity to create two exhibitions for the 2014 season at the Library: The Battle of Bannockburn and Golf. Both topics are highly relevant this year for Scotland and for the local area and we were very excited to take up the challenge of presenting to the visitor what the more than 300 year old collection of the Library could tell about them.    
We spent many long hours in the first two months of the year becoming familiar with the collection to be able to pick just the few books which are now on display. The story of the Battle of Bannockburn has been told in different ways throughout the centuries, including songs, poetry, historic fiction and history books. A personal favourite is England’s Monarchs, with a great picture of a mean-looking Edward II and a brief description of his shameful defeat and flight from Bannockburn. In contrast to this unflattering portrayal, there is a heroic description and picture of his father, Edward I, of whom the author clearly has a more positive view, showing that the telling of history can be a matter of the author’s opinion. 
Golf has been taken up not only in popular chronicles such as the Scots magazine, describing one of the first Edinburgh Open’s, but also in fiction and satire. For example one of my favourites of the collection is a publication of the Punch magazine, including caricatures picking up on contemporary issues of the early 20th century such as women’s voting rights and connecting it with the male dominated sport of golf.
As winter turned to spring and snowdrops surrounded the building, we became more and more aware of the multifaceted attractions of Innerpeffray Library in addition to its impressive collection; the beautiful, changing view from the reading room window and the surrounding Perthshire hills.
With the 1st of March and the start of the tourist season, our work came to an end with an Opening Event attended by the Library’s Board of Governors and specially invited guests to whom we introduced our exhibitions. The work-based project has not only provided us with an expansive skill set useful for our academic studies and future employment, but also left us with a strong and lasting attachment to the Library of Innerpeffray and what it stands for.
Miriam & Joana
PS: Come and see the exhibitions, experience the collection and find your own road to the Library. A warm welcome is guaranteed!