Thursday 23 May 2013

Texts In The City

Today in 1911, the New York City Main Library building was dedicated and opened to the public. Orkney was a couple of years earlier as you can see here on our handy history page.

The New York building cost $9 million to build and from laying of first stone to stamping of first book took 9 years to build. It was the largest marble structure in America at the time.

Incidentally, a precursor to the building was the Astor library. The First President of the board of that library was none other than Washington Irving, son of Orkney lad William Irving. The Irving family came from Quholm on the island of Shapinsay.

We shall be celebrating our sister library's birthday today by eating enormous pastrami sandwiches, blasting Frank Sinatra's 'New York New York and shouting "HEY! What are you lookin' at? You talkin' to ME?" every time a customer catches our eye.

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Gunnie is Go...

Gunnie Moberg by Alistair Peebles

You may remember this breathless post from early March in which we crowed with delight at our purchase of the Gunnie Moberg Archive.

Gunnie Moberg was a Swedish-born photographer, artist and friend to many in Orkney where she and her husband, Tam McPhail, made their home. It is wonderful that her collection of negatives, prints, slides and cameras get to stay here in Orkney and become part of the Orkney Archive.

Photographer Rebecca Marr has been given the enviable job of cataloguing, conserving and curating the collection and she can tell you about it in her own words here in the lovely blog she has made to document the process.

Thursday 9 May 2013

Aboot the shore hintin' flooers

 We have a new display up in the Foyer, Searchroom and the Orkney Room to coincide with the Orkney Nature Festival 11th-19th May 2013.


We love coincidences in the Orkney Archive and the first one today is a beauty. In our new display we have a few pages from Gunner Astles Diary (Archive Reference: D1/237) showing what the weather was like in May 1918. Gunner Astle, originally from Great Budworth, Northwich, was stationed at Hoxa Battery on South Ronaldsay from 1917-1918 and wrote more about the weather and wildlife of the island than the progress of the war. Here is the entry for Thursday 9th May 1918:

It seems that he had just recovered from the flu or something like it and had been confined to his hammock, so he was not delighted by everyone saying "Many Happy Returns", as he did not want to return to his hammock.

We are also delighted to be able to use a selection of photos from the newly acquired Gunnie Moberg Archive. Our second coincidence of the day, was that the only photos catalogued so far  - are nature ones!

In the Orkney Room we have a selection of books about Nature in Orkney written by Orcadians and visitors and travellers to Orkney, including A Countrywoman's Diary by Bessie Skea, Orkney Shore by Robert Rendall, The First Wash of Spring by George Mackay Brown and Orcadian Papers of the Orkney Natural History Society 1887-1904.

Saturday 4 May 2013

We 'May' Not See You On Monday...

We shall be closed on Monday for our May Day holiday, apologies for any inconvenience this may cause.

The current plan is to pinch the book trolleys and ride them down the dunes of Dingieshowe beach on route to swimming in our pants but we may just sit at the back of a bus throwing sweets, we haven't quite decided. We're definitely all dressing up as Pop and Ma Larkin though.

Posts from other years have already explained Orkney beliefs and customs for this time of year so we shall just leave you with Ernest Walker Marwick's thoughts on May taken from his Island Calendar show for BBC Radio:

'I've always thought that one of the loveliest lines in English poetry is, "Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May." They are a comment on life itself. If you were to talk of May in human terms you might say that it is the adolescent month.

We have no sooner had a couple of halcyon days, blue as sapphire, than there comes a bleak wind which cuts us to the bone, and which makes the kye in the fields look so miserable that we speak of the koo-kwacks o'Mey. In other places this is the gab of May.

And yet in May we feel that the time has come when we must really forget the winter and get on with the work of the spring...'

He goes on to say that, to people of his age (EWM was born in 1915), May was when children's winter boots were taken away 'no matter how cold the weather' and they went bare-foot until harvest was over.

Excuse us won't you? We must go and kiss and hug our shoes and socks with tearful gratitude...