Tis the season to be jolly, and what better way to become jolly than by visiting the university museums or treating your nearest and dearest to a lovely unique Christmas gift?
When the Wardlaw Museum opens it will feature Philip Colbert’s The Death of Marat & the Birth of the Lobster, with corresponding memorabilia available at the museum gift shop.
It’s perfect for pranksters – lobsters are relatives of the coconut crab, a crab that lives on islands in the Indo-Pacific region, including Christmas Island. They are the largest terrestrial crabs that still exist, but if that wasn’t terrifying enough already, their alternative name is the robber crab, as they have a habit of stealing objects, due to their inquisitive natures. For staff and students at the University there’s still time left this semester to visit the Bell Pettigrew Museum before Christmas so you can book a visit come and see some of the amazing examples of crustaceans we have in our Natural History collections.
In addition, the University’s Special Collections boasts a modest collection of Christmas cards ranging from 1879 to 1994, offering tiny glimpses into the lives of people long since gone. One such card is a simple family photo from 1898, to Andrew Bennett, the university Secretary of the Court from 1871-1958.
Another card is hand-drawn by Frances Walker, and was sent almost a century later to thank a client for buying one of her artworks. Though they are just rectangles of paper, they remind us that Christmas has always been a season for deepening connections with others.
These “others” aren’t just restricted to friends and family. Special Collections also has a series of photographs of a 1947 Christmas party for prisoners of war in East Fife. During WW2, captured German and Italian soldiers were interned in camps in Britain and put to work in fields such as the agricultural industry, to make up for some of the manpower that was lost when British men went to fight. They remained in Britain after the war ended, either to help rebuild as part of the war reparations, or because they liked the area and wished to stay. Some of the prisoners lived in East Fife, and the Christmas party was held to distract them from homesickness.
Parties might be irresponsible this year, but the Christmas spirit lives on! Come visit the museums, search the University of St Andrews fabulous and fascinating collections and order gifts online for your loved ones today!
Written by Patsy Ng, volunteer blogger at St Andrews University Museums