The first exhibition at the University of Aberdeen’s striking new library will give visitors an insight into the turbulent Jacobite era.
Rebels with a Cause: The Jacobites and the Global Imagination is the inaugural exhibition at The Gallery - a new publicly accessible venue which forms part of the University’s Special Collections Centre.
The exhibition draws upon rarely seen and internationally significant material from the University’s collection, including rare engravings, portraits and letters, a Jacobite recruitment slip and songbook, a letter written by the 'Young Pretender', Charles Edward Stuart, while in exile, a first edition of Sir Walter Scott’s novel Waverley and a selection of artefacts relating to the Jacobite Risings.
One of the rarest artefacts is an ostrich egg carved with secret Jacobite symbols made in memory of the death of James VIII and III.
It also delves into the lives of figures such as Flora MacDonald and Hugh Mercer and highlights the enduring impact of the Jacobites on Scottish history, literature, culture, art and music.
The exhibition is a first opportunity for residents of the North-East to view the exhibition, jointly curated with the Scottish Parliament, which attracted international attention when it ran in Edinburgh.
The Gallery is an important part of the University’s Special Collections Centre, a facility that combines purpose built facilities to collect, conserve and display outstanding rare books and archives for a wide audience, housed within the state-of-the-art new library. It provides for the first time an opportunity to display these treasures to public audiences.
Rebels with a Cause: The Jacobites and the Global Imagination opens to the public tomorrow (Thursday November 24) and will run until March 17.
Ahead of this there will be a private viewing tonight (Wednesday November 23) which will include the performance of a new piece of music composed by the University’s Professor Paul Mealor.
The piece, set to poems by Peter Davidson, Professor of Renaissance Studies, is entitled ‘Shine Forth A Path of Stars' and will be sung by tenor by Josh Baxter, a second year MA student reading divinity with music, with a piano accompaniment from Ed Jones, a PhD student in Composition who obtained a first class honours degree in music from Aberdeen last year.
Professor Ian Diamond, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of Aberdeen, said: “The Scottish Parliament and the University have worked together in partnership to bring this engaging exhibition to a wider audience
“It is wonderful that this is taking place here in our world-class new library, marking as it does the first use of this the Gallery space.
“One of the aims of the new library is to preserve and showcase the University’s extensive special collections and archives and the Gallery will provide a window on the treasures our University holds, bringing them closer to the community.”
Siobhán Convery, Head of Special Collections at the University of Aberdeen, added: “The exhibition is designed to illuminate the enduring subject of the Jacobites from a new perspective for those visitors who already hold an informed knowledge of the Jacobites, whilst serving as an excellent entry to the historical period for those for whom the Jacobites remain an evocative mystery.
“The Gallery has been designed to be dynamic and accessible, and in the coming months will feature a rolling programme of inspiring and enlightening exhibitions that reflect the Special Collections. Exhibitions will be accompanied by regular, engaging events which are free and open to all, including special performances, illustrated talks and accompanied tours.”
Neil Curtis, Head of Museums in the University said, “This exhibition is a wonderful opportunity to show the strengths of the university’s collections of paintings and museum objects alongside its archives and rare books. I am particularly pleased by the way that all contribute to the stories told in the exhibition, some relating to the propaganda of the exiled Jacobite court and others that reveal the continuing influence of the Jacobites in the Scottish imagination.”