Heritage Lottery award to create centre of expertise in preserving historic collections

A grant of £875,000 will help the University of Aberdeen become a centre of expertise and learning in conserving rare historic books and manuscripts.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has made the award towards the construction of a conservation studio as an important addition to the University's new library, due to start construction this summer. The Fund commended the high quality of the application and the project, as well as recording their excitement about the very significant benefits the project would deliver to a wide range of audiences.

The construction of the conservation studio will enable the University to make a step change in its approach to the conservation of its important collections, with a systematic and sustainable programme of preservation and conservation which will deliver benefits for current and future generations of users.

The studio will also play a crucial role in opening up the collections to as wide a range of audience as possible and will serve as a centre of conservation excellence for the region.

The University is the custodian of extensive collections of historic books, manuscripts, maps and other items. A major purpose of the new £57 million library is to provide ideal conditions to showcase these priceless items, and make them more accessible to students, researchers, and to the wider public through exhibitions, readings and other public events.

Announcing the award, the Heritage Lottery Fund's Manager for Scotland, Colin McLean, said: "The University of Aberdeen has the most amazing collection of books and archives which bring to life over 500 years of Scottish history. With the help of Heritage Lottery funding, they will now be able to share with everyone what was previously enjoyed by academics and students. By enhancing presentation and access and strong education programmes, people of all ages and backgrounds will be able to learn from and enjoy this fascinating collection of treasures."

Professor Christopher Gane, Vice Principal for Culture and Communities, expressed the University's delight at the award, saying: "This is wonderful news for the University and for all our communities.  Amassed over 500 years, our holdings comprise over 200,000 printed books dating back to the fifteenth century and 4,000 irreplaceable archival collections. They are among the most significant manuscript, printed book and archive collections in the United Kingdom.

"Many parts of our collection have long been unavailable due to their fragility, and work is needed to treat, repair and conserve them. The construction of this purpose built studio will give us the ideal space and conditions to carry out the essential conservatory work.

"Our magnificent new library will give us, from autumn 2011, a prominent and public venue for the display of our cultural heritage, and enable our collections to be made available to the wider community as never before."

The conservation studio will provide a specialist facility to undertake, promote, and teach the latest techniques in conserving material originally created many hundreds of years ago. The studio will also promote interest and learning in the art of conservation for many groups in the community, and become a centre of expertise in book and paper conservation providing services to archive holders across the North East of Scotland and beyond.

The project has also received a gift of three million dollars from US philanthropist Dr Loretta Brennan Glucksman, a long-standing supporter of the University of Aberdeen.