Scotland's Feminism Archive To Be Given New Home

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 24 June 2008
a photograph of several documents

Glasgow Women's Library archive contains thirty thousand publications, letters, drawings, recordings, film and photographs. © Glasgow Women's Library

Scotland’s long and distinguished history of feminism is to be preserved in a new dedicated Women’s Archive.

The Glasgow Women’s Library currently has material in storage filling 500 packing boxes, containing material documenting the social history of women over the last ten decades.

Now, thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £410,000, the boxes will be unpacked, catalogued and properly archived to form the core collection of a new purpose-built facility within the city’s Mitchell Library.

“This is an exciting development for Glasgow Women’s Library and is very timely as we look towards our relocation to the Mitchell Library,” said Sue John, Strategic Development Manager at Glasgow Women’s Library.

“The award for this project acknowledges that our collection is of national significance in Scotland and it will enable us to provide a focus for the gathering and celebrating of women’s diverse histories and achievements.”

Containing thirty thousand publications, letters, drawings, recordings, film and photographs the collection illustrates women’s experiences and activism and includes material on family planning, the Suffragette movement and the second wave of Feminism (1960’s – 1980’s).

a photograph of boxes in a basement

The archive at the moment - in storage and filling 500 packing boxes. © Glasgow Women's Library

It also includes rare materials such as the first edition of the 1928 Lesbian novel, the Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall, which despite containing no explicit sexual references, was seen to defend homosexuality and, as such, was instantly banned. Nearly all copies were recalled by the publisher and subsequently figured in an obscenity trial.

An archivist will be employed to catalogue, audit and conserve the material, create an online catalogue, and train volunteers in how to maintain the collection. There will also be an extensive community programme throughout the development of the archive that will bring women together to contribute ideas and shape its future.

There will be opportunities for 60 volunteers from community groups to write archive interpretation and create new oral and video histories. A programme of historical re-enactments, film, talks entitled ‘Living Heroines’, discussions, oral history and art will culminate in an exhibition at the Mitchell Library and a road show in Dundee and Aberdeen.

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