Andrew Martin, the NLS Curator for the Modern Scottish Collections, gives us an exclusive overview of the new exhibition at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh – Going to the Pictures: Scotland at the Cinema, and explains how plans for the displays have evolved…
The trailer produced especially for the exhibition…
Ruth Washbrook of the Scottish Screen Archive and I have been part of the team working on the displays for eighteen months, so it is good to see those our ideas now in three dimensions, lots of colour, sound, and moving images in our exhibition hall at George IV Bridge.
When we first thought of the exhibition plans were for a simple display of original film posters, supported by a few cases of objects and printed items. Like any ambitious cinema project however our dreams grew. We now present the film posters as planned, beautifully restored by our conservators, but also seven screens of film footage, fifteen cases of nearly 200 printed and manuscript items, a high level screen and a mini cinema with authentic tip-up seats, a continuous film programme, and gold stars on the ceiling!
We have tried to do justice to Scotland’s cinematic history, quite a challenge given that there are so many stories to tell. We decided on a straightforward chronological narrative, accessible to all audiences, starting with the arrival of cinema in Scotland in 1896, and taking us right up to the present day with the premiere of Brave at the 2012 Edinburgh Film Festival.
This is a rare chance to bring together the gems of the collections across our sites at the National Library of Scotland, to explore the film collections of the Scottish Screen Archive, as well as their little-known paper archives, and also to make the best use of the vast collections in Edinburgh. Highlights for me include reminders of the great documentary tradition in Scotland, with clips from the Films of Scotland series – and an Oscar, the script for Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps, from John Buchan’s own collection, with a clip from the film, and the trailer for Brigadoon, in its full CinemaScope glory.
We are a wee nation, but there’s no doubt we have a place in cinema history, so we feature four Rob Roys, four Mary Stuarts, two Bonnie Prince Charlies, two Greyfriars Bobbies – and one William Wallace.
I think visitors will enjoy taking the journey through Scotland’s cinema history, learning a bit about the pioneers, the importance of picture-going, viewing clips from over seventy films from the national collections, and perhaps remembering their own cinema experience in picture houses big and small all over the country.
We are asking visitors to record their own cinema memories – though unfortunately the ice cream and drinks on offer are only cardboard. Going to the Pictures: Scotland at the Cinema plays like a good old-fashioned cinema programme – a bit of glamour, beautiful faces, a couple of laughs, a splash of colour, a few songs, some informative scenes – and an entertainment worth remembering and seeing more than once!
Find out when you can visit the exhibition online at nls.uk/exhibitions/cinema