The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Archives & Collections are ten years old this year. In 2011, four old digital film and television editing suites had been repurposed to house the rolling stack shelving and to create a search room in the west wing of Renfrew Street.
To begin with a lot of work was done to build the collections, and to establish exactly what we still had secreted in forgotten cupboards, down the back of filing cabinets, in the houses of retired staff and deposited in other archives and facilities throughout the city. Our nineteenth-century governance records were held by Strathclyde University Archives, for instance.
We share our origins with Strathclyde University through the Glasgow Athenaeum (RCS grew up out of the Athenaeum School of Music whereas one of Strathclyde University’s predecessors was the Athenaeum College of Commerce), which is why they were looking after those papers. Similarly our old student records were deposited on long loan with Glasgow University Archives.
The first few months involved a lot of white vans and heavy lifting, repatriating our history within the building.
Since opening our doors ten years ago, the service and the collections have grown considerably. The acquisition of the John Webb Collection of historic musical instruments, added to our own significant historic instrument collections, broadened the scope of the service and has turned the archive into an archive and living museum.
Many of our instruments are playable, having been extensively overhauled and refurbished, and these are made available to students and staff for historically informed performance. The instrument collections have grown to be one of the most popular collections in our care.
In our first year, we only had 50 enquiries. The service was still finding its feet and nothing was catalogued. A lot of our collections still aren’t! Last year, by contrast, we received around 2850 enquiries, making RCS the busiest conservatoire archive in the United Kingdom.
In 2016 the collections outgrew their original home in Renfrew Street and alternative accommodation was found on the top floor of the Whisky Bond at Speirs Wharf, just up the hill from Wallace Studios. After packing 960 boxes and wrapping items in more than 2 kilometres of bubble wrap, the entire archive was moved on 18 July 2016 to their new home.
Ten years is a short time to have reached the dizzying heights of the UK’s busiest conservatoire archive, and the collections continue to grow with new acquisitions enriching our resources continually.
From the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall Archive to the early film career of Jazz singer Annie Ross; from the original manuscript music composed for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and King George VI to an early nineteenth century glass harmonica made up of tuned musical glasses, our Archives & Collections have something to interest everybody.
For more information on the collections, or to book an appointment in our search room, please contact Stuart Harris-Logan, Keeper of Archives & Collections: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also explore some of our archive on Archives Hub.
Here are just ten highlights.