Two million pound gift will make University a centre of expertise in preserving historic collections

Two million pound gift will make University a centre of expertise in preserving historic collections

The University of Aberdeen will become a centre of expertise and learning in conserving rare historic books and manuscripts, thanks to a multi-million pound gift from an American benefactor.

US philanthropist Dr Loretta Brennan Glucksman is making the personal gift of three million dollars towards a purpose-designed specialist conservation studio adjacent to the new University library.

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 safeguard and showcase these priceless items, and make them more accessible to students, researchers, and to the wider public through exhibitions, readings and other public events.

The Glucksman Conservation Studio will build further on this ambition by providing 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. The Studio will become a centre of expertise in book and paper conservation providing services to archive holders across the North East of Scotland and beyond. The University is in discussions with regional and other heritage agencies to establish partnerships.

Dr Loretta Brennan Glucksman is a long-standing supporter of the University of Aberdeen.  As Chairman of the American Ireland Fund, Dr Glucksman is recognised internationally for her role in promoting all aspects of Irish life through culture, the arts, education and community involvement. Her philanthropic support extended to Scotland in 2004 with the establishment of the Glucksman Chair of Irish and Scottish Studies at the University of Aberdeen.

Announcing her generous gift, Dr Glucksman said: "I am delighted to make this gift to the University of Aberdeen. Throughout his life my late husband Lew had a passionate interest in, and commitment to, conserving wonderful literary and historic treasures.  He wanted future generations to enjoy rare materials in the same way as he had done. Lew shared, as I do, the vision and ambition of the University, and our admiration for the excellent work which is taking place there under the outstanding leadership of Duncan Rice."

Professor C Duncan Rice, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, said: "We are one of the very few universities to have experienced fully the journey in social development and knowledge from the Renaissance through the Enlightenment to the present day. This long and rich history has brought us priceless collections of material in 25 languages, combining great scholarly importance with outstanding beauty and immediate popular appeal.

"This extremely generous gift will enable the University in turn to make a gift, by preserving and promoting material to intrigue and inspire researchers and our communities today, and to enrich and educate generations to come."

The University's collections are a unique record of the development of the region, of Scotland, and society in general. Examples include:

  • Archives of local and regional importance, including estate papers from across northeast Scotland dating back to the 13th century, and copies of the Aberdeen Journal from its launch in 1747 to the present day
  • The nationally important MacBean and Jacobite collections which illustrate in depth the context and events of the Jacobite risings and controversies
  • Works of international significance, such as Thomas Reid and the Enlightenment, and the photography of George Washington Wilson whose work covers Britain, Europe, South Africa and Australia.

The new facility will create a wide range of learning and training opportunities for, among others, school pupils, people on lifelong learning programmes, students and graduates, and those who hold archive and book collections. In addition the public will have the opportunity to attend Open Days, talks and tours of the studio to see conservation in action, learn about techniques and processes, and find out why conservation is so important. There will be workshops with the conservation team for school groups, families and the general public.

The new University of Aberdeen library will be much more than a conventional library. It will provide an important resource for the whole community, who for the first time will enjoy access to priceless historical collections of books and manuscripts and regular events. A dedicated Special Collections Centre in the new library will create a welcoming cultural venue where a wide range of public audiences can engage with the collections through educational programming, exhibitions and volunteer opportunities.  Preparatory works are now underway on the site adjacent to the existing Queen Mother Library, and construction of the striking new building designed by Danish architects schmidt hammer lassen will begin late spring.