“We’re Here For A Good Time, Not A Long Time”

This week, my grandfather, Dr. Ronald T. Abbott passed away. He earned his medical degree at the University of Glasgow, after his father, Dr. Sydney Gilchrist Abbott, earned his veterinary degree there, and where I am currently finishing my Master of Research in English Literature. As a young man, he loved fast cars, his country, beautiful women, alcohol, bathroom and absurdist humour, and dogs. As an older man, he loved fast cars, his country, alcohol, bathroom and absurdist humour, his dogs, and a beautiful, tender and kind lady who cared for him until his last.

Ronnie B & W 1956.jpgGrandpa was a rabble-rouser, an adventurer, and was always busy with a new object of his focus and affection, motorized or otherwise. At twelve, I heard about his adventures riding his motorcycle from Iowa to Tierra del Fuego, at fifteen, of his adventures to Alaska and close encounters with bears. At twenty, he sent a short story about the time he mistook a brothel somewhere in the wilds of Mexico for a hotel. And no, he did not speak Spanish. Throughout those years, he had a habit of showing up out of the blue (usually in a different car each time), waltzing in with a belch, a smile, and a “hi, Dearie!”, typically in that order. Seeing him was never boring and was frequently a delightful break from ordinary days.

He was, at times, an abrasive man, but was a man who thought clearly with an evident sense of charisma and confidence which carried him through life effortlessly — going through a reported approximated eighty sports cars in five years in addition to airplanes, dogs, and motorcycles. The impeccable Scottish brogue didn’t hurt either.

At the peak of his medical career, his personal choices, career, and life path often took him away from the responsibilities fathers often encounter at bedtime — checking for ghosts in the shadows, reading, and telling bedtime stories — but my own father was never less grateful for the happy times they did share despite. I would ask that he tell them, in all hilarious detail, over and over as I lay down to sleep on nights when my mother was teaching a late class at a local University. Dad would always repeat the same ones.

I would beg for more stories of this ultimate reckless adventurer-leader — camping in Yellowstone and hearing the dogs fighting with bears as the camper rocked my father and his brother, being stalked through the woods, fishing for dinner, and my Dad, riding motorcycles across the great plains with his .22, being chased by bulls — but would, more often than not, come up empty. There was a finite supply of stories to tell, and I had heard all of the ones my father wanted me to hear. I wanted desperately to have these adventures — the three of us — on our own. Grandpa was an easy character to idolise.
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But Grandpa was still busy ticking things off the list of adventures to have, and I respected that. My father painted him as a character in a story book — Mr. Toad from the Wind in the Willows was a favorite parallel, always looking for another wild ride and always captivated by the sights, sounds, and smells of a clean engine. I came to admire and adore this feature of him — for his absence was in fact a distant presence as this character, off to seek more stories, and I learned early to appreciate this from a distance.

But where Grandpa was still busy with his adventures, others filled the void. A wonderful neighbour, Professor Kent Newmeyer, came into our lives, and is always there to listen and share stories (he will probably never know how much this means to me).  My father gave up his own adventures (of which there were many) to check for ghosts in the shadows of my room, read bedtime stories, teach me to whittle, to work on cars, and take me fishing or to the flea market.  I dreamt up adventures of my own. And Grandpa was still there, too — a character to admire and adore.

The night he passed away, the streets of Glasgow were eerily vacant as if bereft of the normally-lively spirit of the population. All the pubs were empty but one, appearing equally sombre from the outside, in which an impromptu, ten-piece fiddle and cello band enjoyed some drinks while playing a lively melody to what seemed the entire population of the city. I couldn’t have known, but as he passed, I sat in that Glaswegian Whisky bar and knocked a few scotches back with an elderly, politely-vulgar Glaswegian man (with certain disdain for the English) with whom I spoke for hours about politics, culture, and current events. I thanked him for his time. I explained that Grandpa was passing and how much a simple conversation meant. We talked and laughed until the bar spilled onto the streets and bequeathed back to Glasgow the fervor it had been missing.

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I was his first-born grandchild, and I will forever respect him for the gifts he gave to the people I love and cherish: humour, adventure, and a love for the parts of life a Glaswegian cab driver named Stevie best described when he once told me “we’re here for a good time, not a long time”.

Whether right or wrong, we often pursue things in life to seek the pride of those we love, or to otherwise fill the spaces which are, to some extent, unfilled either due to our own flaws or the flaws of the characters in our lives. In seeking the adventures I have seen thus far, I hope only to have achieved the pride of my Father, for everything he has sacrificed, so that I may pursue my own ‘Miss Toad’s’ adventure.

So, if you partake, knock one back tonight for the man who in is part responsible for my globe-trodding — and if you don’t, picture my Grandfather staring at you, belching, and bluntly asking “Why not?” in perfect Scottish brogue.

 

“Sky’s On Fire”: Urban vs. Rural Reactions to Fire

On March 5th, 2017, a fire tore through a Scrap Yard in Govan, Glasgow, sending plumes of billowing smoke skyward — much to the curiosity of Glasgwegians. On the streets in City Centre, on campus at the University, and in Partick near the River Clyde, bystanders at bus stops and crossing the street stood frozen in awe of the never-ending formations forming from the billowing smoke.

A few months ago, I was living and working in Northern California when wildfires tore through the hills, blackening everything in their path. Wildfire crews worked around the clock to extinguish the flames, but not before a fair amount of damage had already been done. There’s only so much which can be done for a wildfire when the fields of sun-dried grasses present an opportune tinderbox for even the smallest flame (I reflected on that experience with an essay and photo series here).

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After The Fire II, Brooks, California © Caroline C. Evans Abbott 2016

In both scenarios, a fire commands the attention of powerless bystanders who chance upon it or its effects. But in stark contrast to fires in urban areas, bystanders can be few and far between, only seeing the effects of a blaze up close and personal when it’s on their doorstep.

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Lake Berryessa Fire, Brooks, California, (c) Caroline C. Evans Abbott 2016

But in urban areas like Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city by population, human reactions happen in real-time, expressing emotion and concern for something which instantly hits close to home. The outrage, concern, fear, and sadness hits every citisen within hours of the first spark.

IMG_4214.jpgAnd fire crews in urban areas clearly have a different set of parameters to work with: tasked with extinguishing a flame in an incredibly high-risk area where human life flourishes and congregates.  Urban areas are engineered around accessibility, and while battling a blaze in a densely populated area carries with it its own logistical issues, a wildfire taking multiple acres of land per day in the midst of some of the most unforgiving terrain in the world for motorcars is not an easy task — simply getting firefighters and tools to the periphery is a critically challenging, dangerous, and very costly endeavour.

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Urban Fire Under Glass, Glasgow, Scotland, (c) Caroline C. Evans Abbott, 2017.

Even from the safety of a cozy flat, there are few views which are not inclusive of a fire’s effects in some light — and the longer it burns, the more this issue presents itself. The slightest change in vantage point in an urban area will reveal the fire’s presence even if the fire itself is not directly visible: the demeanour of bystanders going about their day to day, the chatter of a local shop, a television or radio giving updates. Concern hangs thick in the air.

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Fire’s Effects Linger in the Atmosphere, contributing to Beautiful Sunsets — themselves often a product of pollutants. Glasgow, Scotland, (c) Caroline C. Evans Abbott 2017

But in California, where the Lake Berryessa fire burned thousands of acres, outrage, while certainly felt amongst NorCal’s population, was not as personal: it wasn’t on their doorstep… yet.

We have something to learn from the discrepancy between these events not just for their obvious differences, but chiefly, for their overall commonality. It is critical for the preservation of forests and the management of wildfire, particularly, that accessibility to personalised images which demonstrate fire’s impact on human and animal populations are distributed — because otherwise, human populations will always continue to be more terrorised by a lit match in a humid cement jungle than in a massive field of hay.

New Glasgow Guardian Article Out Now: “Glasgow protests Trump’s Muslim Ban”

At the end of January, I covered Glasgow’s two protests of Trump’s ‘Seven Nation Ban’ — or ‘Muslim Ban’ in a much more ‘newsier’ style than is typical of my past work for the Guardian. I investigated two separate rallies which took place within mere blocks of each other — one sponsored by Stand Up To Racism (SUTR), and the other, a privately-organised and unaffiliated event organised by Hali Amezianne Campbell. The new article investigates the reasons for the two separate gatherings in addition to covering the events themselves. Read it here.

Covering these events and subsequently reflecting on them  has given me immense faith in the character of the global community and in humanity, but has also elucidated the fact that truly, no one is perfect — particularly political parties, individuals, organisations, and factions — no matter how worthy their cause. Critically, it has drawn to my attention the fact that the responsibility of global citisens (in an age which poses increasingly more daunting challenges to that state of being) is ‘simply’ to keep one another in check: fact-checking, remaining objective, and ensuring that we all recognise our ability to morally falter. The longer an individual remains unchecked, the higher the risk of detrimental decisions, and serious ramifications to follow. The task of democratic constituents is to continue challenging our leaders — something the American press is consistently attacked for doing, guilty of doing incorrectly, or some combination thereof.

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Protesters take on increasingly sombre expressions as protests continue, growing in numbers: Glasgow City Centre Trump Muslim Ban Protests, Glasgow, Scotland, Caroline C. Evans Abbott, January 2017.

Conjoining photography with writing through my continuing coverage of Glasgow’s reaction to Trump’s election and subsequent executive actions — and this project in particular — is an exceptional opportunity for which I am very grateful. To capture the faces whose attendance to these rallies made the difference in proving Scotland and the United Kingdom’s majority state of solidarity with United States political discord has made all the difference in the way I perceive, process, and draw conclusions from the cultural events I cover.

Reading student journalism from around the world can truly take one on a journey without ever leaving your desk — for this reason alone, I encourage everyone to reach out and take a few moments to read some content they otherwise may not have.

 

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“A Boy Called Blue”, Glasgow City Centre Trump Muslim Ban Protest, Glasgow, Scotland, Caroline C. Evans Abbott, Jan. 2017

A sample of the article, below, details my interactions with a young boy called Blue (above) whose protest sign was by far the greatest of the night. For more photos of the rally and a thank-you note to Blue, click here.

But among the swarming crowds trying to make sense of the separate rallies, a little face, bundled in hat and coat, held a sign high at the periphery and gazed into the droves of people. His name is Blue, with eyes to match, and as he bravely consented to have his photo taken with permission from his Dad, he peered over the top of the cardboard picket sign he made all by himself, it’s big letters and colourful handle conveying a very direct message: “Mr. Trump [,] Everyone is the same change your ways!”

Hues of Old Glasgow

Glasgow is a friendly city rife for exploration even on the coldest of days. The winter brings with it the evocation of drab imagery: it is expected that every day spent wandering in this bitter season will include only gales from the North Atlantic to match the monochrome surrounding denizens whose wardrobes seem to have submitted to the bleak conditions. Fortunately, aside from the frigidity of the atmosphere, none of that is accurate… at least not all of the time.

The city is, of course, unforgivingly cold in the winter. Humidity hangs motionless in the air and sinks into even the most weatherproof of clothes indiscriminately. Citisens and visitors old enough to have errands appear as regularly as ever, going about their duties, where children seem less easily affected by the cold, darting between alleys and streets chasing one another on scooters and bikes. Aside from the historic tenement flats overlooking some of the city’s most popular roads, their ancient architecture looms over modernised storefronts as occasional, glamorously sleek structures blink between them.

Living here demands recognition of this fact: it is a confluence of old and new at every turn, an undeniable embodiment of the cyclical nature of life. History is patchworked into every element of life here even in the most modernised parts. Often, this overlap is felt most strongly through the creative freedoms taken by residents of tucked-away homes and buildings: using colour and quirkiness to underline the overlapping ages through architectural self-expression.

Attn. Mr. Trump: You Are No Son of Scotland

When I arrived in Scotland this September, a cab driver told me “Scotland always welcomes back her Sons and Daughters”. This sentiment has been echoed by many for each month I have been here, often at points when I would otherwise have felt alone. Instead, I felt surrounded by a community which loves its people – all of its people.

Just like me, Donald Trump is a Scottish-American citizen. And as a Scottish American whose culture and family is rooted so deeply within this community, I can speak to the fact that that connection carries with it a great deal of pride. Pride in country, in family, and in fellow men and women.

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Peaceful Protest: Inaugural Protest a Demonstration of Varying Opinions Coming Together to Admonish Trump. Glasgow City Centre, Trump Inauguration Protest Rally. Glasgow Scotland. 20 January, 2017. Caroline C. Evans Abbott

The fire and ferocity behind Scotland’s pursuits of freedom are a well-documented (and frequently embellished) facet of our culture. That fervour was present tonight in the hearts of the people who came together in City Centre.

There were no blue faces tonight, no tartans – and no, no haggis. But there was peaceful protest, there was ferocity, and there was a sense of safe community.

Being behind a lens frequently gives you a free social pass into diplomacy — the world sees you photographing and assumes you are doing your job and are to be left alone.

I make every effort when photographing to reveal truth, to remain objective, to analyse in the moment so that others may see that truth: to capture my perspective through compositions which convey the emotional and cultural relevance of a scene. But today I am a participant as well.

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“Mary with Child”: Protesters Smile at Joke Told by Speaker. Trump Inauguration Protest Rally, Glasgow City Centre, 20 January 2017. Caroline C. Evans Abbott

Behind my lens, I was shaken and moved to tears as a man began his speech with an emphatic battle cry: “Donald Trump: I am not afraid of you”, followed by the screams of the crowd. Sons and daughters of Scotland and of the World stood together tonight in a joint effort — putting aside political and cultural differences to stand in solidarity with my American friends and family. With me. With you.

Today my heart bleeds for the millions of innocent people at home who are afraid of facing a future which jeopardizes their religious, social, and human freedoms. For my friends. For my family. For those who choose to believe the values of the Democratic Party to be so clearly portrayed by one or two examples, and who then choose to regard my loved ones and I as ‘unsaved’ because of it. If that is the saviour you follow, then I am justified in divorcing myself from your brand of faith and am further at peace with my own.

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Protesters Gather Below Donald Dewar Statue. Glasgow City Centre Trump Inauguration Protest Rally. 20 January 2017. Caroline C. Evans Abbott

Mr. Trump has taken his oath today, and it is my hope that millions of Americans do so as well. Whether they be participating in his festivities, remaining impartial, or protesting his inauguration, may they vow to keep their hearts and minds open to the opinions of their fellow Americans.

It is my hope that they vow to expand their horizons. To not get angry, but to be thoughtful. To read more. To vow to do act with the class and grace our nation deserves, to commit acts of kindness, to deny gilded temptations which gloss over the truth. To make themselves uncomfortable, and then to come to terms with why they may feel that way. To swear an oath to defend our nation from whatever evil it will encounter: to defend your brothers, your sisters, your countrymen.

Mr. Trump may not support the arts, education, equal rights, or maintaining the separation of church and state which we rely upon for democracy to function, but I do.

In protest to Mr. Trump’s ideologies concerning education, the arts, his blatant lack of support for Native American rights, and his demagogic rhetoric, I will take to mine in whatever way I can through my art and writing.

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He has taken to demeaning, to bullying, and to fighting a big story with a bigger one. He has chosen his weapon of choice in a battle for America. And I will take up mine.

Scotland took a stand today, alongside thousands of citizens all over the world to protest the entry of a man into the most powerful position in the world – a man whose clinically narcissistic temperament has been overlooked by a population which felt abandoned by our government. That abandonment is what we must address going forward: with love, with education, and with exposure to the arts. But all good things in moderation, and I feel I speak for Scotland and for many Scottish American citisens when I say:

Mr. Trump, you are no Son of Scotland.

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“Sons of Scotland”: Two Young Boys Watch Protest Unfold. Glasgow City Centre Trump Inauguration Protest. 20 January, 2017. Glasgow, Scotland. Caroline C. Evans Abbott

Big Ships Turn Slowly? : Student Mental Health Support on the Table at University of Glasgow College of Arts S.S.L.C. Meeting, Questions Raised

Today, Postgraduate Representatives on the Student Staff Liaison Committee convened in our first College of Arts meeting of the year, chaired by Barbara Burns with Adeline Callander, assisting. The meeting’s scheduled theme of ‘wellness’ brought some interesting issues to light.

Chairwoman Burns made it clear that the preferential topics of discussion for promoting wellness concerned more community based efforts to prevent slips in ‘wellness’ before they happen. An admirable goal, but not the nature of mental illness or of healthcare in general. While an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, a picnic will not prevent a heart attack no matter how good the cheese is.

A greater, more streamlined approach to promoting and establishing health-based resources by which incoming students could better navigate healthcare systems would facilitate the transition to life at Glasgow – a lack of this does not promote wellness.

As was acknowledged by Ms. Burns in so many words when I presented this issue to the floor, ‘Big Ships Turn Slowly’, and an issue of this magnitude will take some time to work through. Our responsibility as students in this department is to the future students who will take our place next year, so that their experiences can be improved, and so forth.

We are very fortunate for our close-knit faction of researchers and for the vigilance of Prof. Alice Jenkins for her close personal attention to our research, academics, our hopes and dreams, and critically, our wellbeing.

In light of our exceptional good fortune in the camaraderie department, I used the meeting as a platform to further express the fact that many students I have spoken with outside of our own group have had trouble adjusting to the health services offered through the National Health Service, feeling they were provided very little introduction into ‘life’ in the United Kingdom beyond their student status and what they could expect.

As an example of this, there are several mental health and learning disability medications which lack equivalence here across country lines – leaving students without any recourse when the doctor flounders to find a parallel drug with little information. I suggested the instatement of medical reciprocity personnel – even someone who is familiar with the medical aspects of each nation – to harbour a community at the University which is supportive of its postgraduate students’ needs.

As a College, we have not had the clearest distribution of information despite best efforts from the department – this is an established problem which, I hope, is rectified for incoming students. The deficit in clear information distribution translates to abject lack of distribution of mental health information – ergo, making it more inaccessible and perhaps even foreboding.

The need for a better introduction to life here was corroborated by several members of the committee regarding this issue and others – adjustment to academic English language requirements differing strongly from test-indicated ability, more clearly indicated quiet resting areas, and several similar points.

Other topics of discussion included the distribution, functionality, and age of computers ‘given’ up for postgraduate researchers to use (we get the computers after four years of staff use, but then the computer sit for an additional three until they no longer are in functional condition), elucidation of induction and Moodle information, and more. But the largest, unified concern has been detailed above.

Charlotte Orr is leading the charge on the development of a Student Mental Health Support Team, which aims to provide support and listening ears to those in need both to harbour community and train our postgraduates to accommodate and support one another appropriately.

Going forward, I urge everyone to keep checking in with each other. Consider involvement in Charlotte’s initiative. Send GIFs of puppies, kittens, turtles, or whatever else you’re into. Keep the inside jokes coming.

And if you have any questions, or would like to hear the funny story of how I was late to the meeting by a couple of minutes and embarrassed myself by knocking over my briefcase, following it up with forgetting to introduce myself by name, please feel free to chat me up via WordPress, Facebook, or email.

Here’s to an excellent Spring Term 2017!

Winter in Storrs

I was back in the Northeastern United States for the holiday interim, back in the [strange] Connecticut town I called ‘home’ for twenty odd years once again. Same quirky neighbourhood, same interesting townsfolk, same local paper, same solitarily inexpensive coffeeshop I used to avoid for fear of bumping into the past.

Anyone who has been generally rootless for any number of years can attest to the fact that, when the world barrages you with images you’ve never before processed, your analytical side is sharpened as finely as your subjectivity is tested.

I have found over the past few years that this test has awakened an excitement for the simple things I had, maybe, missed in the past. The town which (in the high school just a few moments walk from my front door) my peers and I would minimally complain about to foster within us a unifying hatred for a common enemy has suddenly become visible through a new lens by most of us who have returned to see the colours we couldn’t before.

I once found this scenery bleak in winter — devoid of colour and bereft of life’s motions (and then I met Glasgow [haha]). Coming back to town after months away in a new city, and after over a year on the other side of the country has changed that perspective: there’s colour exploding everywhere here almost as vibrantly if not more as in autumn.

It’s still not exciting here in a cosmopolitain sense which would excite a teenager or young adult. The biggest town scandals usually centre around the neighbouring Willimantic, Connecticut (still a hotbed for drug activity despite continued success with gentrification attempts) and the latest developments near and around the University of Connecticut. The people here love puns, bookstores, eclectically sensitive musicians posted on street corners, and eccentric characters. Things change year to year, but every year, most things remain the same. It is a community of people in a beautiful setting.

It’s still a sleepy town in the winter, and when it’s this cold outside (in the subzero celsius range), no one wants to part with the fireplace, but we like our spiced alcohol, our funny stories, our town anecdotes, and I am so grateful to have this community to come back to in a life which, by all other accounts, has stripped me of static roots… though I’m definitely not complaining about that.

This was always enough for me, and if nothing else, travel has validated the fact that there truly is beauty here unlike anywhere else in the world.

‘Floral’ Prose: Latent Victoriana in Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens

Many parts of Glasgow are a step back in time, and an academic immersion in literature produced between 1800 and 1900 is of little help to the time warp feel of the old tenement buildings with their stained glass windows and decorative ironwork. Architectural details bring on the Victorian vibe, the weather, the gothic.

A visit to the Botanic Gardens of Glasgow, located in close proximity to the University, provide a tempting escape [from class…] and a temple in which to regard a confluence of that very iron and glass which wreaks havoc upon a student’s ability to understand time and place after reading for eight hours without stopping. It is possible in this to lose emotion, feeling, and forget their presence, particularly when considering oneself a welcome visitor in a land before technology. So I cut class and visited the gardens in the hope of a solitary reprieve devoid of my academic woes and research concerns, only to reach an unfortunate, if beautiful conclusion.

The “Language of Flowers”, distributed in one of its most popular incarnations with the version by Kate Greenaway in 1884, allowed for a commonly-believed ‘faithless’ era to regain some backing to the femininity so underscored by descriptive writing of the time. Poetry of the Victorian era, from Swinburne and Rossetti to the reflections of Victorian-born expatriate T.S. Eliot, allowed for a reprieve from the darkness of society and the gray streets and skies of the United Kingdom. The meaning of floral communication is deeply rooted in Victorian representations of love, affection, and betrayal. Imagery of nature abounds during times of industrial and technological accomplishment, and today’s world, with its romanticisation of windblown, poetic commentary in the most widely-received contemporary poetry and prose is no different.

Stepping into the gardens is a step back in time and provides a reprieve from the world analogous to the poetry and prose of the era which created it. Therein, the novelty of global travel is embodied and captured for display, authentically showcased in private and behind iron like so many Victorian treasures, and a walk from one room to the next will allow for an around-the-world-in-eighty-minutes style survey of the best of the best.

Academics, when of great interest, are inescapable, and walking through the gardens only succeeded in reminding me not only of the intensity of natural, floral imagery in Victorian fiction, poetry, and even critical writing, but of my own heart and emotions underlying the austerity necessary for a devotion to research and critical analysis. It is a duality of focus, a confluence of critical thought and emotional understanding, and my mind gravitated ever-more towards Charles Baudelaire’s ‘The Painter of Modern Life’ as each viewpoint and perspective provided due compositional quality:

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A refuge of warmth in a bitingly cold city, the gardens are worth a visit even if not for reflection, but for a brand of peace which focuses more heavily on a redirection of thought towards ones original interests. Macro photography not only captures the essence of floral being, but the feeling of the setting under which the subject is photographed by providing an obscured abstraction of the background. For all intents and purposes, the botanic gardens offer a refocusing on the critical and a release of the severe.

Bound to Books: University of Glasgow’s Special Collections Library

I may or may not have held an original Manet in my hands today, itself enclosed in a book from James McNeill Whistler’s personal library.

The University of Glasgow’s Special Collections Library is found on a quieter floor of the Library (the twelfth to be precise) with ample space for reading and reviewing specific rare and protected works from the University’s archives. First editions, rare editions, ancient texts — everything and anything. It offers an intimidating front (the illustrated diagram of a fetus in-utero in the entrance display case, however beautiful, is not altogether helpful), but an inclusive atmosphere once you’re in the door. You sit in peace and quiet reviewing a book lain on a specially designed pillow with “book snakes” (yes, seriously) to weight down the pages. Contrary to popular belief, no white gloves here — bare, clean, dry fingers only. Standing in a line, my classmates and I initially stood with militant precision (though admittedly avoiding laughing at various in sundry jokes) before realising that we could operate normally among the books.

In a world of increasingly freely-accessible literature even for those outside of the academic community, and particularly at a University with so many digitised resources, why are books still important?

While digitising resources in a digital age is critical to accessibility and use of literary materials and their cultural longevity in a society which is more and more heavily rooted in technology with each passing year, reviewing the nuances of an original physical copy which holds high relevance to the period in which it was written or published can tell us more about a work which we otherwise may have easily overlooked due to its physically intangible nature.

As wonderful as digital resources have become (and as advanced) they are a gateway to the pursuit of knowledge itself as they should be a gateway to the handling of real material. At some level, the review of these materials enables students to contextualise nuances of the material which could otherwise be a missed but relevant portion of their academic or personal analysis — the colour of the binding, the manner of the binding, the cut of the pages, the material of the paper. And it doesn’t hurt that you just can’t replace a good book.

We are bound to the books as they are bound to their own history, and it is our responsibility to continue a balance between digital resources and hands-on examination which encourages critical review of the works by parties educated by digital resources first. Digital resources should act as training wheels to handling the books themselves, and while special collections is alive and well, it certainly doesn’t seem the busiest floor of the Glasgow University Library.

These facets of the library provide sustained and childlike hope in discovery itself — discoveries yet to be made in a world which often seems to have done everything already. With continued student participation in special collections and adviser / professor / tutor mandate and introduction of its use in a contextual light, there is hope that the floor might get some more attention… even if it’s not the books that get students in the door, because who can argue with this view?