University launches online exhibition to mark International Archives Day

Published: 5 June 2009

Archive Services is marking International Archives Day by launching a new online resource highlighting the international scope and reputation of the University and its archive collections.

Archive Services at the University of Glasgow is marking International Archives Day by launching a new online resource highlighting the international scope and reputation of the University and its archive collections.

The exhibition, searchable by region, shows the impact of Scottish businesses on the development of the world economy and the influence that University of Glasgow and staff and students have had on the development of education around the world and on the history of many countries.

The University Archive demonstrates the contribution of the University of Glasgow to events like the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the Union of 1707, the Industrial Revolution and to the education of people from all over the world including those influential in the creation of modern states such as the USA, Nigeria and Japan. 

The Scottish Business Archive is an internationally renowned collection constituting an essential source for business and economic and social historians of the 18th century to the present.  The archives of hundreds of companies are held including esteemed names such as John Brown & Co Ltd - builder of many of the great liners and warships of the 20th century; publishing giant Harper Collins; Tenant Caledonian – a iconic Scottish brewer; North British Locomotive Co Ltd – which was home to the largest locomotive works in the world in 1903; Lloyds TSB Scotland – pioneers of the savings bank movement; and New Lanark Mills where Robert Owen conducted his world-famous social experiment.

Lesley Richmond, Head of the University of Glasgow’s Archive Services said: “The links between the University and the business community are particularly evident during the period when Glasgow was workshop of the British Empire. The work of Professor Lord Kelvin (Kelvin & White, scientific instrument makers), Professor Archibald Barr (Barr & Stroud, suppliers of optical equipment to the military) and Professor John Harvard Bales (consultant naval architect) within these archive collections demonstrate the historical impact the University and the business community have had on each other and on the world.

The collection is one of the largest dedicated business archives in the world and attracts an international audience. For example, researchers from the Caribbean, including archaeologists and plantation historians, have a particular interest in the A&W Smith and Merles Watson collections relating to the Scottish manufacture and export of sugar industry machinery.  Academics interested in Indian history come to consult the records of tea merchant James Finlay who had plantations all over this huge continent and whose records of the social conditions of employees are second to none. Japanese and Korean researchers are regular visitors to investigate their country’s trade links with Scotland. The collection is a diverse and international resource.

The digitized documents give a fascinating insight into a broad range of activities, from geological surveys in Antarctica and Iran to zoological expeditions in South America and medical service in Nigeria; the building of ships and locomotives for service in China, Japan and New Zealand and management of international shipping; the export of sugar machinery to Mauritius and Java, and of beer to Burma, Malta and Australia; and the running of branches and mills in India, Romania, Malawi and Canada. Each entry gives a tantalizing taste of what is available in the wider collection, into which visitors are welcome to delve.

Vice-principal Andrea Nolan said: “The University of Glasgow has a strong tradition of internationalization and there is much to be proud of. Throughout its 550 year history the University has supported the establishment and development of universities all over the world; its graduates have contributed to economic, environmental and social development on every continent; and through its research outputs, the University has contributed in a significant way to the development of new technologies, therapies, economic change and cultural enrichment world wide.” 

It is hoped that this exhibition will ignite researchers' enthusiasm for the potential of the University's archive collections, as well as demonstrating the University's long international connections.

See the new exhibition on this webpage:

Further information: Lesley Richmond, University Archivist & Director of Archive Services University of Glasgow,
Tel: 0141 330 2089

Archives website:

First published: 5 June 2009

<< June