Hands-on history at new festival celebrating our past

A new festival celebrating History and Heritage will help families to once again enjoy a north-east museum which has been a staple of school trips and family days out for almost half a century.

The University of Aberdeen’s UNI-Versal festival has launched its fourth mini series – this time dedicated to our past – which will run from September 15-17.

Among its many highlights it will provide an opportunity for people of all ages to take a tour of and learn more about the recently reopened Zoology Museum, which has captivated visitors of all ages since the 1970s.

From its imposing skeleton of an elephant, often recalled as a wooly mammoth, to Rani the Bengal tiger and an ever-popular display demonstrating the evolutionary journey, the University of Aberdeen’s Zoology Museum has long been a favourite for a free day out.

But refurbishment and the Covid-19 pandemic meant it doors were closed for serval years, although virtual exhibitions and outreach work continued.

After recently reopening to the public, the museum is now looking forward to sharing improvements – and many of its old favourites – at UNI-Versal.

Special tours of the museum have been arranged running on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday of the Festival (September 15-17) – just one of the many family-friendly and free events on offer across the weekend.

Other highlights include a walking tour exploring the history of the Cruickshank Garden where visitors can discover its claim to fame as the original home of an earlier version of Aberdeen Football Club and a tour of the Dons’ current home including a sneak peak at the home team dressing room, press room, tunnel and the famous Pittodrie pitch.

Where fact meets fiction is the topic for a workshop exploring how we share our history through storytelling, the role of writer Walter Scott in shaping views of Scotland through the centuries will be examined in a session to mark the 250th anniversary year of his birth and the life and work of Aberdeen’s first printer will be shared as part of a series of engaging historical talks.

Visitors to the Sir Duncan Rice Library can get up close to hundreds of years of history with a display of treasures from the University’s archive including a book dating from the 12th century and an item that once belonged to the University’s founder, Bishop Elphinstone.

Anyone who thinks their old text books are gathering dust can also take a look at a law book printed in 1511 and used by early students of the University studying Civil law, which is still in its original binding complete with paper label!

Bringing history to life will be demonstrated by University historians who led the creation of a video game based on Aberdeen’s Burgh Records which allows gamers to enter the city in 1498, when it was trying to keep out the deadly Plague.

The UNI-Versal History and Heritage Festival is produced in collaboration with the University of Aberdeen Museums and Special Collections team as part of Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022.

Neil Curtis, Head of Museums and Special Collections, said: “The University of Aberdeen has a history dating back to 1495 so we have five centuries-worth of stories, artefacts and historical research to share.

“Our first History and Heritage Festival as part of UNI-Versal will showcase highlights of our own past as well as that of the wider region and beyond.

“We are delighted to be able to welcome visitors and families to our campus again and to our recently re-opened Zoology Museum.

“We know that so many people have fond memories of visiting in their own childhoods so we would encourage anyone to come along for a trip down memory lane – or to see the huge variety of exhibits on display for the very first time.”

Most events at the History and Heritage are free of charge and booking is required for some sessions. Please visit  https://www.abdn.ac.uk/events/uni-versal/heritage/index.php