Life Lately

Life lately for the Special Collections Learning Team has been a mixture of doing and planning. On Saturday we had our first Family Fun event based on our exhibition New Found Land: Scottish Emigration to CanadaIn the Land of the Moose Family Fun explored the Canadian animals named in “In the Land of the Moose, the Bear and the Beaver”; a novel on display in the exhibition. Children went animal spotting in the gallery, turned themselves in to moose with antler head bands and made paper bag and finger puppets of the various wild animals. Check out what they produced below as well as our moose selfie – or “Moofie”?

This week has also been very busy, planning for two exciting events over the summer. The first is our annual Summer School. This year we are exploring Ancient Egypt through the eyes of Victorian Egyptologists so we have been busy researching exciting Egyptian facts and meeting with our colleagues in King’s Museum so that our summer school participants can handle real Ancient Egyptian objects. The participants even get to interview an archaeologist who has worked on a dig in the Valley of the Kings! Keep an eye on the blog, Facebook and Twitter for updates from our summer schools.

Ancient Egyptian gods

Our second summer event is Pioneer Day on Wednesday 6th August. This is a day long event for children in The Sir Duncan Rice Library and the Cruickshank Botanic Garden. Participants will go on a pioneer adventure and follow in the footsteps of Scottish emigrants to Canada to discover if they have the skills to survive! In the Cruickshank Botanic Garden there will be shelter building, fire lighting and wilderness activities, and in The Sir Duncan Rice Library participants join in with storytelling, songs and crafts. From 10am-1pm we will be welcoming holiday clubs and out-of-school groups onto campus. Booking is essential for this part of the day so if you wish to book please contact us on From 2-4pm families will be invited to drop-in and take part, no booking required. We hope to see you there!

pioneer day poster

Finally we’d like to say a big thanks to our volunteer, Alice, who has been a big part of SCC life lately as she was here for a two-week work placement. Alice is a familiar face at our Family Fun events but during her placement she was able to work with lots of other sections within SCC. She helped to catalogue archives, de-install an exhibition, make protective dust jackets for books and much more. Here she is working in the Glucksman Conservation Centre.

Alice - melinex dust jacket

Posted by: Lynsey

May Festival 2014

Last week was very busy here at the University as it was time for our annual May Festival again! For a whole week campus is taken over by lots of exciting events, exhibitions and activities for schools, adults and families.

Our new exhibition New Found Land opened just in time to welcome May Festival visitors, but don’t worry if you didn’t get a chance to see it over the weekend, it’s our summer exhibition so you’ll be able to visit until the end of August.

New Found Land poster

School workshops - Storybox: David Cardno
During the week we ran school workshops based on our favourite Peterhead sailor, David Cardno. Davie’s memoirs are filled with exciting stories from his time on whaling ships in the Arctic, and pupils from St Peter’s R.C. Primary and the Aberdeen Waldorf School brought these tales to life with drama activities.

Davie lived alongside the Inuit people on Baffin Island for a number of years and he noted down facts about their culture and customs in his notebooks. This included descriptions of some of the Inuit deities and how the conjurers would please these gods and goddesses to bring their tribe good hunting, weather or cure sickness. Masks were used to disguise the conjurer and please the gods and the pupils designed their own masks inspired by Davie’s notes and sketches.

Family Fun – Under the Sea
On the Saturday of the May Festival we held a Family Fun event inspired by the work of artist Anne Beavan, whose exhibition Things Unseen is currently on display in the library’s Events Space. Anne’s work is inspired by science and sea life and features amazing images of tiny sea creatures. Participants were inspired by Anne’s art as well as zoological teaching aids of sea creatures from the Special Collections to make their own aquatic art. By the end of the session there were lots of floaty jellyfish and fierce angler fishes swimming across the University campus.

Bookbinding workshop and talk
Finally for adults we held a bookbinding workshop and talk on Sunday 11th May. Participants spent the afternoon in the Glucksman Conservation Centre, learning bookbinding skills from our Book Conservator Brannah MacKenzie. The group also learned about some of the amazing bindings in our collection from Rare Books Cataloguer Jane Pirie. Both Brannah and Jane are so enthusiastic and informative that it’s hard not to come away with the bookbinding bug! One of our archive volunteers was able to attend the session and it already planning bookbinding activities to do with his grandchildren!

A busy and fun weekend was had by all and we’ve had just enough time to recover before Night at the Museums on Saturday. We just need to make our sea monster, ready to go into his lair and menace all the pirates! Visit the Night at the Museums website to find out more. We hope to see you there.

Posted by: Lynsey


World in a Box Family Fun

Last week’s Family Fun focussed on how the photographs in our Above Scotland exhibition were taken but this week, for our second Easter Family Fun, we looked more closely at what was in the pictures. The amazing photographs show views of modern Scotland but they also show glimpses of Scotland from long ago such as the Ring of Brodgar, the ruins of houses on Scarp and Dunnottar Castle on the cliffs at Stonehaven. The aerial photographs show these historic sites in a totally different way to our usual view from the ground. Participants used these images as inspiration to create their own mini-worlds in boxes, including stone circles, castles, beaches, airports and even Batman’s bat cave. It was tricky to create these mini worlds from above, having to think about how all sorts of things would look like from up in the air and how to attach them to the box so that it looked realistic, but I think you’ll agreed that our participants were very creative and inventive with their shoe boxes.

That was the last Family Fun inspired by the Above Scotland exhibition, next up is our Family Fun for the University’s May Festival, on Saturday 10th May. This will be at the earlier time of 11am – 1pm. There will be lots going on on the University campus so be sure to have a look at the programme and come along. See you there!

Posted by: Lynsey

Let’s Go Fly A Kite!

The stunning aerial photographs in our current Above Scotland exhibition were taken from a high altitude a plane, but did you know that you can do aerial photography by attaching a camera to a kite? This is one of the techniques used by archaeologists to get a quick understanding of how an archaeological site looks from above.

Yesterday at Family Fun nearly 50 children made their own kites out of paper, straws and plastic bags. It was a busy afternoon with lots of activity! Luckily there was a bit of wind so the participants got a chance to fly their brand new kites.

We made two kinds of kites. Below you can find instructions on how to make your own. Our kites and instructions were inspired by various different tutorials that we found on the internet, so if you are interested why not check out the original inspirations – we collated them all together on our Above Scotland  Pinterest board.

Paper kite (easier)
paper kite

Download our Paper Kite instructions and make the kite using this Paper kite template

Plastic bag kite (a bit trickier)
plastic bag kite

Download our Plastic bag kite instructions

We also got one of our favourite feedback comments ever from one of the children, so we just had to share it with you: “tots awsome :) :) * * !!”

Hopefully we can keep up the tots awsomeness standard at our next Family Fun! Come along on Wednesday next week (16th April) between 1-4pm. Be inspired by the forgotten worlds of the past revealed in the exhibition’s aerial photographs and make your own world-in-a-box.

Posted by: Sarah

Above Aberdeen: aerial drawing class for adults

On Saturday the Special Collections Centre hosted its very first adult art class. Adults of all abilities came along to the class led by Aberdeen-base artist Kelly-Anne Cairns. Participants took inspiration from the aerial photographs in the Above Scotland exhibition before heading to the seventh floor of The Sir Duncan Rice Library to draw the magnificent views over the city and out to sea. Thankfully the weather wasn’t too foggy and so the views really were brilliant. By the end of the workshop the sky was beautifully blue and our artists had some fantastic art work to take home. Have a look at some of the photographs from the workshop in the gallery below.

If you’d like to hear about events like this in the future, join our mailing list. Just send your name and email address to us at

Posted by: Lynsey

Aberdeen Art Attack!

On Saturday we finally got to fulfil a long time dream – making an “Art Attack” in The Sir Duncan Rice Library. We grew up watching TV presenter and artist Neil Buchanan create huge images from strange materials, like a huge portrait of the Queen made of bank notes, and we have just been waiting for the day when we could follow in his footsteps. Our new exhibition, Above Scotlandgave us the perfect opportunity.

The exhibition, which is a touring exhibition from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS), features amazing aerial images of different areas of Scotland. From an ancient stone circle on Orkney to Dundee’s modern riverside, the exhibition captures different aspects of the country. One image which particularly inspired us was the aerial view of Aberdeen Harbour. It gives a rare glimpse of the extent of the harbour, a view which a lot of locals never really see. We were amazed by the sheer volume of boats and buildings in there!

Aberdeen Harbour - Above Scotland Exhibition RCAHMS

We decided to recreate the bustling harbour on the floor of the library’s Events Space. First we marked out the shape of the harbour, the seashore and the river with masking tape (our Neil Buchanan moment). Then we challenged visitors to our Aberdeen Art Attack Family Fun to help us fill it with boats and buildings using recycling gathered from library staff.

Masking tape harbour

Recycling ready

As always our amazing visitors rose to the challenge. After a slow start the harbour started to fill up with tug boats, lighthouses, ferries and even a gun boat.

After all that hard work the harbour was looking much busier and more colourful. Even the beach was getting filled with umbrellas and beach huts! See how our finished Art Attack compares to the original photograph.

Aberdeen Harbour - Above Scotland Exhibition RCAHMS Aberdeen Harbour Art Attack

We have two more Above Scotland Family Fun events coming up in the school Easter holidays. Find out more on our Family Fun page. We hope to see you there!

Posted by: Lynsey

New workshop!

Our new primary schools workshop on the David Cardno Story Box is now available!

The workshop consists of a session held at the Special Collections Centre, University of Aberdeen, in which pupils will get to see the original notebooks, scrapbook and journals of David Cardno, a 19th century whaler from Peterhead who had many exciting adventures in the Arctic. This is followed by interpretive drama and art activities based on many of the incidents of whaling and Inuit life described in Davie’s archives.

In addition to the workshop there is also a supporting resource pack available for internet download, which contains transcripts of sections of Davie’s archives along with exciting activity ideas developed from the David Cardno Story Box Project.

Download the David Cardno Story Box schools resource pack

We are very excited to offer this workshop package, as it is the culmination of all our Story Box school projects this last year. In addition to Family Fun and summer school sessions in 2013, we ran an extended project with Kittybrewster Primary School for the 2013  Explore Your Archive campaign and worked with artist Tracey Smith to create art workshops for the Arts Across Learning festival in March 2014. The workshop and pack pulls together the material and interpretive activities from these events into one accessible package for primary schools. The workshop is suitable for P4-P7 classes.

If you are a teacher and would like to book a workshop for your class, just get in touch with us by emailing or phoning (01224) 273047 or 273048.

Below are some photographs of the David Cardno Story Box workshop which we piloted during the last fortnight with classes from Middleton Park primary school.