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Robert Burns Lives!
Digitizing Robert Burns By Frank Shaw

Edited by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Dawsonville, GA, USA

My good friend Alastair McIntyre, creator of the www.electricscotland web site, is also my editor and “boss”. I am prone to listen when he sends something to me since he makes Robert Burns Lives! possible and available to interested Burns readers.

Alastair sent me an email on 04 October 2012 saying, “Hi Frank…I came across this article…”


Note: Picture to the right is: Stained glass panel, Bute Hall, University of Glasgow (Courtesy University of Glasgow)

Alastair is not really a man of few words as his email might depict, and Electric Scotland testifies to that fact. I enjoyed this article so much that I contacted a friend in Scotland to see if there was additional information available on this project and learned a bit more which I am sharing below.

For now it is a pleasure to ask each of you to click on the URL above to discover that a new world regarding Robert Burns is on the horizon. The BBC article has to do with digitizing all of the Robert Burns manuscripts in Scotland.  This greatly anticipated collection will be housed at the Centre for Robert Burns Studies at the University of Glasgow.

Phase 1 of this project will be done over the next 18 months or so. The database will provide a research resource for use by all of the Burns Scotland partners. It will have particular application for the University of Glasgow in terms of the database providing research material for the new Oxford University Press edition of Robert Burns based at Glasgow. The project calls for establishing, by chromatography, an ink signature for Burns, as well as for Antique Smith and other Burns forgers. In time they hope to extend the database both internationally and to encompass material in private hands.

The following quote is from the BBC article mentioned above:

“Burns Scotland is a partnership agreement between the university, the National Library of Scotland, the National Galleries of Scotland, Glasgow Life, the National Museums of Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway Museums, East Ayrshire Museums and South Ayrshire Museums.”  I point this out for a specific reason - no where do I see the Burns Birthplace Museum mentioned.

Of all entities working together on this project, I am compelled to say a word about the Burns Birthplace Museum. Susan and I had the privilege of visiting the museum with Kenneth Simpson in January of 2011. We were allowed to tour the vault, thanks to Ken, and see the wonderful collection they have there and on display throughout the building. It is a special place to me and a place that cries out for one to find a corner to read and study Burns. Of all the places you might visit in Scotland, and there are many important ones, do not make the mistake of not going to the Burns Birthplace Museum. They are a leading partner in Burns Scotland and you owe it to yourself to visit this magnificent structure. It is a leader among facilities that possess Burns manuscripts, and it will make you proud of Burns and proud of Scotland! How the museum came to be left off the list by BBC is a mystery to me.

In addition, I was told by my Scottish friend that Burns’ manuscripts from outside Scotland will be added to the project in the future. This thrills me because it will perhaps one day allow the G. Ross Roy Collection of manuscripts at the University of South Carolina to become a part of this project. I might add that the Roy collection is not a dormant one and continues to add Burns manuscripts and letters from time to time and, who knows, might be doing so as I write this. Maybe the few manuscripts Susan and I have, along with some bits and pieces of others will be included. It would be exciting to share our wee treasure with fellow Burnsians.

As a postscript, I also leaned that Nigel Leask of the University of Glasgow will complete his prose volume soon and will make its way to press in the near future. You may also look for the flier regarding Glasgow’s January Burns Conference being released at the “Kilmarnock Edition” symposium. By the way, I am told it may feature an illustration of the Burns cottage in Atlanta. You will soon be able to check out the “Editing Robert Burns for the 21st Century” online site for the letters of James Currie, as well as new songs recorded by Davina Pittock.

From the collection of Susan & Frank Shaw, Autograph Manuscript Poem by Burns
"Jessie - A Scots Song"

I have taken a big interest in the Centre for Robert Burns Studies at the University of Glasgow and, for the last two years, have worked with a small group of other like-minded individuals on the centre’s business board. We meet again in January 2013 prior to the Centre for Burns Studies annual Burns Conference. I am proud to be associated with the centre and the wonderful and talented scholars who make projects like this one possible. This is the latest I have on the project and until next time, enjoy a great Burns Supper Season.

(FRS: 10.18.12)

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