Musings of the University of Dundee MLitt Publishing Writing students

What I did today at my placement

Dundee University Archives

The documents I requested from the university archives were nothing to do with the Saltire project, but a project I might start once I finish up the MLitt. After my first couple of experiences in archives, the visit was just as much an opportunity to get another insight into a different archive.

As with the previous two, the documents I had requested were laid out for my arrival. One was a lovely old map of Dundee in a tube, which gave me a great excuse to use the weights I’d seen in the National Archives. They were so satisfying to hold and lay on the corners of the map! In Dundee I really got a sense of the tactile nature of looking at old records. Something about the small room I was in, the window to my left with a view into the dark stacks and the lovely props all encouraged a hushed care and respect for the documents, but in a far more cosy way than in the National Archives with its airport like security.

Jan the archivist was also extremely generous with her time. Knowing I was coming to the archive to research for my dissertation, she sat down with me for a meandering conversation about materiality, digitisation and storage among other things.

These visits have given me an insight into the wonderful free resources that are archives, and I am now thinking about the next stage of the placement project where I will be gathering together creative responses to the archival documents from the Saltire Society. The contributors to this collection won’t necessarily have ever been to an archive, as the workshops we ran were simply using documents we had found there. I’m interested to see how this project develops, and how being that one step removed might affect the final peices. In one sense it is a challenge, but I think it’s also an opportunity for the creative work to be freer and more inventive, less tied to an individual’s understanding of what an archive, or even history can be.