Give your plants a little (Peat Free) love this Valentine’s Day!

For Peat’s Sake Compost packs

Planning the retail offer for an exhibition is an exciting challenge.   Whilst preparing the shop shelves for the current For Peatlands’ Sake exhibition at the Wardlaw Museum the Visitor Services team have been sourcing products that give our visitors the opportunity to continue the message of the exhibition.  Many visitors love to take away something  – a memento of their visit so when we can combine that with something that also helps continue the message of sustainability that makes us very happy! It also helps us to contribute to the University of St Andrews strategic aim of sustainability.

Whist planning the retail offer for the exhibition we were finding out more about how using peat free compost can help to protect and preserve peatland areas.  

One of our new suppliers George Davies runs a business called For Peat’s Sake™.  George is passionate when it comes to preserving peat and earlier this year he gave us an insight into his business.

“For peat’s sake!™ was founded by 21 year old George, following his study of Environmental Geography at Cardiff University, where he first learnt about peatlands and their vital role in our natural world. Disappointed by the continual destruction of peat bogs for the purpose of compost manufacturing, George was spurred on to find an alternative and spread awareness about the importance of peatlands as well as teaching people about the benefits of growing your own plants.

For peat’s sake!™ offers a growing medium made from a waste product of the coconut industry, the husk. This growing medium, called coir, also happens to be a favourite of the professional growing industry. For peat’s sake!’s coir is sustainably and ethically sourced, and is made to a professional-grade standard through a buffering and grading process which turns the coconut husk into the optimum soil structure. Following production, the coir is dehydrated and compressed to make it more efficient to transport and store, and also means no plastic packaging is needed. A world away from the traditional big, wet, plastic bag of peat-based compost most people are used to. All the user needs to do is add water, watch the compressed coir expand and start planting!” (George Davies Founder of For Peat’s Sake™)

A bit of an activist when it comes to preserving peatlands and how essential this is globally to the environment George has supplied us with packs of compost which we are selling in the museum shop as well as some T Shirts sporting the slogan “Love Peat, Don’t Dig It!”.  Cathy our Retail and Operations Officer decided to give the peat free compost a try when repotting a spider plant at home.  The compost pack was really easy to transport (no heavy bags to carry!)  and really easy to recycle as the packaging is entirely made from paper.  The process was really straightforward – just adding water to the cube of compost, waiting for it to expand and then planting.  You can watch a video of the whole process here!  Cathy said “the coir feels quite different from the compost I’d probably be using and it’s much less messy!” 

We love the Peat free option and recommend that you try it!  You can even help by asking your local garden centre about stocking it. 

Palm oil free products for sale in the Wardlaw Museum Shop

Whilst we’re at it – palm trees grow in the Peatlands of Peru and the overuse of these areas along with a demand for palm oil for a great variety of products is threatening these areas.  You can find out more about how communities in Peru are working together to make these areas more sustainable by visiting the exhibition.  In the Wardlaw Museum Shop  we’ve stocked some palm oil free products that you might like to try.  A variety of toiletries, washing up bars and even some chocolate are on offer so give them a try!

We can’t wait to see you and remember Love Peat, Don’t Dig It!

The For Peatland’s Sake Exhibition is running at the Wardlaw Museum until 7 May 2023.

A Guide to Exhibit

Libraries and Museums at the University of St Andrews have been doing digital differently. With the rapid digitisation of collections for teaching and research, we sought to find new and innovative means of making these collections accessible to our audiences. The result of this was the Exhibit visual storytelling tool, supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund and developed by Mnemoscene and the University of St Andrews.

Exhibit is designed to promote engagement and learning with digital collections by offering a unique visual experience for users. It can be used to present both 2D and 3D objects, and offers audiences the chance to get up-close and personal with collections. Audiences can take their time with each object, uncovering detail and creating a unique digital experience – one that could not be replicated in person.

Powered by IIIIF technology used globally, Exhibit allows diverse audiences to offer their own interpretations of collections on an international scale.

How do I use it?

Exhibit uses the Universal Viewer and is compatible with IIIF (International Image Interoperability Framework). In simple terms, IIIF is an open standard for delivering high-quality digital objects. A manifest is created for each object which can then be imported into Exhibit, presenting high resolution images and 3D models.

Institutions with IIIF enabled collections can present objects in Exhibit, pulling through the relevant attributions and copyright information in the same manifest. This means that objects from multiple institutions can be used in Exhibit. For example, objects from the University of St Andrews can be viewed alongside material from The British Library, to compare and contrast collections.

While it may sound complicated, all you need to do is:

  • Copy and paste the manifest URL – usually available from the collections online database – of your chosen objects into Exhibit and you’re ready to start putting together your Exhibit.
  • Once your chosen material is imported to your Exhibit, you can add text, zoom in on images and rotate 3D models. The flexibility of the tool allows you to guide the viewer through each aspect of the objects you wish to showcase.

Exhibits can also be widely shared by the URL, linked to on social media and can be embedded into websites.

Ways of storytelling

Exhibit offers a variety of ways to showcase your chosen objects.

  1. Kiosk

Kiosk mode allows you to leave your Exhibit on a loop. You can decide how much time each slide is on show for, making it an ideal tool for digital displays or exhibitions.

  1. Slides

Slides mode offer a new alternative to traditional modes of presentation, with a sleek design and seamless transition moving through slides.

  1. Scroll

Scroll mode lets you scroll through the Exhibit, providing a platform to showcase material in a way which is user friendly for desktop and mobile users alike.

  1. Quiz
    The new quiz function means you can use quizzes throughout your Exhibit for even more audience-object engagement. You can make multiple choice questions on each slide, as well as creating pinpoints on the object itself

Teaching and assessment – what’s possible?

Originally designed and used for online teaching and seminars, Exhibit continues to be used in assessments. This has ranged from Exhibits on chosen topics, to visual analysis exams.

The tool allows such assessments to be conducted remotely and securely, as Exhibits can be password protected. As a result, the tool has become a key feature of the core assessment for teaching modules. Exhibits can be duplicated, meaning an Exhibit can be copied and expanded on further by students.

Thinking outside the box

The ability to think and programme outside the box with the Exhibit tool has been one of its key strengths. Alongside object showcases, guided views of maps and interactive displays, Exhibit has been used in an Escape Room experience – using the quizzes function to get participants thinking about how they progress to the next test, with the collections holding the secrets.

Another unique use of Exhibit we have piloted is our Headspace programme. Run online during revision and exam periods by our Learning and Engagement team, Headspace guides the viewer through an artwork, employing mindfulness techniques to encourage engagement with collections in a way that could not be replicated seeing the artwork in person.

Our key takeaways from this work are:

  • Working collaboratively across departments – the combined expertise of our teams has led to unique interpretations of how the platform can be used. Better still, having input from different teams at the development stage.
  • Set objectives and learning outcomes for your online experiences just as you would in person, and ensure they guide you in the development stages.
  • To design the experience with the platform in mind – rather than simply trying to replicate an experience you have in person on the platform. By manipulating the possibilities of the platform and letting them guide you, stronger digital offers can be developed.

Written by Eilidh Lawrence, Learning and Engagement Manager and Lydia Heeley Digitisation Officer, Libraries and Museums, University of St Andrews

Marble Preservation Society

Detail of Ilana Halperin, Chaos Terrain, 2022, Courtesy of Patricia Fleming, Glasgow

Artist Ilana Halperin has completed a new sculptural commission for the Harry and Margery Boswell Collection of Scottish Contemporary Art. 

Halperin (b.1973) is an American, Glasgow-based artist whose work is characterised by a sustained interest in geology, bringing an intimate human poetics to the measurement and comprehension of deep time. She is intrigued by all manner of rock formations and likes to approach her work in an incremental way that mimics the longitudinal nature of landmass formation. 

Through collaboration with the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences (SEES) involving geo-walk field trips around coastal St Andrews and one-to-one conversations about current SEES research on planetary geology and diamondiferous landmass, Halperin has become interested in the chemical compound calcium carbonate which makes up common materials such as marble, coral and seashells. Calcium carbonate has an ancientness as well as an intimate, micro-biological aspect; it shows us how to combine geological time processes with lived experience. For Halperin, the research process and making is always as significant if not more so than the final outcome (though we are delighted she has produced such an exquisite art object for our Collections!) 

For this particular project, she has become interested in the idea of the preservation, or, as the artist puts it, the long-term care of past life species encouraging future care in turn. Halperin decided to embark on an ambitious sculptural artwork for the Boswell Collection which combines laser engraving on Scottish Ledmore marble with a calcium encrusted coral specimen from our Oceans Institute.

Detail Ilana Halperin, Chaos Terrain, 2022, preparatory drawings for laser drawing on Scottish Ledmore Marble, courtesy of Patricia Fleming, Glasgow

To make this sculpture, Halperin has salvaged three large marbles from a local St Andrews stone mason Watson’s and Sons. Once upon a time, these marbles formed a fireplace in a student hall of residence. This ties the artwork to the site specificity of St Andrews University and encourages us to each ‘save a marble.’ The artist tells us Ledmore marble is now primarily used for aggregates, so the chance to salvage intact samples of marble can be seen as part of the mission of the Scottish Marble Preservation Society!

Halperin spent time at local Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA) Print Studio, laser-engraving the polished marble with a series of markings which were then inlaid with ochre soil from James Hutton’s farm, another tangible link to the founding of the discipline of Geology with the very ground of Scottish landscape. The soil sample was ground up in SEES laboratories, pulverising it to make a fine powder that could be more easily adapted into ink. The mark-making was inspired by looking at the patterns found in trace fossils during her coastal walks. ‘Trace Fossils’ are geological records of the activities of past life such as footprints or burrows captured in the paleontological record. (Trace fossils are not to be confused with body fossils that preserve the actual remains of a body such as bones or shells).


Detail of Ilana Halperin, Chaos Terrain, 2022, Courtesy of Patricia Fleming, Glasgow

Halperin also sent a coral specimen from the Oceans Institute on a five month ‘residency’ to the rapid calcifying springs in the Fontaines Pétrifiantes in France. This mode of accretion or culmination is a key technique for Halperin (and she has previously coated other geologic materials such as terracotta in such stalactite-like substances to provoke a new kind of conglomerate through artistic process). The limestone encrusted coral specimen was retrieved from France in September before being placed on the marble shelves to complete Chaos Terrain.

The title ‘Chaos Terrain’ is a term borrowed from planetary geology and serves as a visual metaphor for enmeshed landscape features which feels appropriate for a sculpture that is loaded with meaning. Chaos Terrain is going on immediate display in The Bute building, next to the Bell Pettigrew Museum inside a ‘curiosity cabinet’ in the heart of SEES on Tuesday 8 November 2022.

Dr Catriona McAra is editor of Ilana Halperin: Felt Events (2022).

With very special thanks to Dr Claire Cousins and Dr Sami Mikhail.

Hidden Histories

The University of St Andrews portrait collection was established to commemorate important figures in national and institutional history. However, a walk around Parliament Hall or the Senate Room, two of the University’s State Rooms containing the most venerable portraits of the collection, does not show the full story. Women were fully admitted to the University in 1892 and many figures worked hard to improve educational opportunities for women, but they are not on display and their histories are therefore hidden from the narrative. There is currently only one portrait of a woman on display, despite the fact that the University currently has a female Principal and Rector and sixty percent of the student population is female. How can we best diversify the collection and commemorate those who have made a difference?

‘Portraiture’ for most people brings to mind large, old fashioned oil paintings, an idea which the current display supports. However, it can be found in many more forms including in sculpture, photographs, banknotes and all over social media. As well as diversifying the people represented, it is important that the State Rooms better present the various forms of portraiture in the University collection, including photography and sculpture. I have selected three portraits which bring to light hidden narratives, depicting figures who worked hard to allow women a university education at both St Andrews and across the country.

Miss E. Garrett,
Image courtesy of University of St Andrews Libraries and Museums

The portrait of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1862–63) was taken by photographer John Adamson and can be found in his Playfair Album of the 1850s and 60s. In 1862, Anderson matriculated to study medicine, but once the board found out she was a woman, she was no longer allowed to study at the University. Anderson did not let this stop her, going on to become Britain’s first female doctor and working tirelessly to improve opportunities for women in medicine across the country, co-founding the New Hospital for Women and the London School of Medicine for Women. Although Anderson has more recently been recognised by the University for her efforts, her story is still obscured by other important medical alumni such as Edward Jenner who invented the smallpox vaccine.

Anderson’s portrait also serves to highlight St Andrews’ important place in the early history of photography. John Adamson (1809-70) was overshadowed in history by his brother Robert, despite making Scotland’s first calotype photograph, a portrait, in 1842. His photograph of ‘Miss E. Garret’ uses motifs traditionally used in male portraits to show intellect, unusual at this time for a portrait of a woman. Anderson wears a plain, dark, button-down dress and holds a book, showing her desire to learn. In the background of the photograph sits a microscope on a wooden table, which she faces away from, just as she was refused an education. Importantly, she avoids any eye contact with the viewer of the portrait, showing her shame and frustration. Photographs create a stronger sense of truth than painted portraits and are more familiar to modern day viewers, who are constantly surrounded by photographs on social media.

Graduates in St Salvator’s Quadrangle,
Image courtesy of University of St Andrews Libraries and Museums.

Other photos in the University archive commemorate women who, thanks to the efforts and determination of Elizabeth Anderson, were able to graduate from St Andrews. A photograph by an unknown artist shows a group of female graduates in St Salvator’s quadrangle (1896) and the woman on the left is likely Agnes Blackadder, the University’s first female graduate. Blackadder graduated in March 1895 and became a dermatologist before working for the Scottish women’s hospital during the First World War. Without Anderson’s rejection and determination, Blackadder and other women may never have been able to study at the University.

Professor William Angus Knight by Elizabeth Hean Alexander,
Courtesy of the University of St Andrews Libraries and Museums, ID: HC196

The third portrait shows Professor William Angus Knight, LL.D. (1892) who became a professor of Moral Philosophy at St Andrews in 1876. Just one year later, he established the ‘Lady Literate in Arts’ (LLA) programme which offered university-level courses on a range of subjects and continued until 1931. Although the programme has been criticised for its distanced-learning approach, which made sure women would not mix with male students in classes, the programme was an important step towards female education. By 1892, women were allowed to study full time under an act of parliament and in 1896, the first female hall of residence in Scotland was built with funding from the LLA, University Hall. Knight also donated 139 framed portraits and eight portrait busts to the University collection which he believed would help to read students about the character of those portrayed, true also of his own portrait.

The artist, Elizabeth Hean Alexander (1862–1951), has left little trace in Scottish art history and shows determination at a time when it was still difficult for women to obtain artistic training. The State Rooms only have the work of one other female artist on display, Victoria Crowe, and once again her work is overshadowed by famous artists such as Henry Raeburn and David Wilkie.

Although the painting appears traditional, showing Knight’s power through his large body and direct eye contact, he is not intimidating, instead coming across as thoughtful and meditative with a relaxed pose. The artist has created visual unity through the red crest, book and drapery, the key symbols of the portrait. The crest in the background is the unofficial University arms used before 1905 and designed by St Andrews librarian, James Maitland Anderson. Including the crest in the portrait recalls the rich history of the University and ensures Knight’s place within this.

Both Elizabeth Anderson and Professor Knight were resilient and determined figures who sparked change at the University and throughout society. Including their portraits in the State Rooms would bring to light their untold stories and help the display to more accurately represent the current community’s beliefs and ideals.

Freya Irving, 4th-year student in the School of Art History of the University of St Andrews

A fish that makes memories

Tenualosa Ilisha (Ham Buck) BPM 1553 Courtesy of the University of St Andrews Libraries and Museums, ID: BPM1553

“The Ilisha frequents the Bay of Bengal and the large saltwater estuaries of the Ganges, and in the rainy season, ascends the larger rivers to spawn. I have seen it as high as Agra and Kanpur, but so high up it is very rare. At Patna on the Ganges and Goalpara on the Brahmaputra, it is pretty common, but rather poor and exhausted. About Calcutta and Dhaka it is in the utmost abundance and perfection and is the richest and highest flavoured fish that I know.”

These are the words of Francis Hamilton, who was one of the first scientists to formally describe and identify this fish, which he called Tenualosa Ilisha, known and revered by generations of Bengalis as Ilish, the best and most delicious of fishes.

Hamilton describes the Ilisha’s scales as “oblong, striated, indented on the edges and easily rubbed off”. He writes that “the back and the belly are nearly equally arched and that the pectoral fins are much shorter than the head.” With the typical confidence of the 19th century colonial explorer and administrator, he is able to categorise and define the Ilish; he knows what it means.

As an expatriate Bengali member of the St Andrews community, however, for me it is a strange experience to see this fish presented here simply and uncomplicatedly as a zoological sample. The neatness and precision of Hamilton’s description and of the display here makes me think of the messiness of the Bengali fish market and suddenly I am ten years old again, holding my father’s hand, standing in front of the fishmonger as he slices off the fins and scales using the black curved blade known as a bonti.

The Ilish season is also the rainy season, so my father and I would go back home in the rain where the Ilish would be cooked, fried, steamed in banana leaf or poached in a mustard sauce. As a delicacy it would usually be saved for special occasions. So these memories are also family gatherings; loud, messy affairs full of so much fun. How different that sense memory feels to this poor, solitary, lifeless specimen in a museum display case.

Contrary to Hamilton’s easy confidence, objects and indeed fishes do not mean one thing, cannot be safely put into boxes and can always surprise you.

As for fishes, so for people. The landscape that Hamilton is describing has changed quite a bit since 1822. Calcutta and Dhaka are now separated by an international border. In 1947, Bengal was split into West Bengal, which became part of India, and East Bengal, which became East Pakistan in 1972. East Pakistan changed again to Bangladesh as new nations and new categories emerged in the form of national identities.

Reading Hamilton’s account of the Ilish traversing the length of the Ganges, caring not a jot for the national borders that would one day divide the people, is poignant in the way that he could not have imagined. For millions of Bangla Bengalis, like myself, whose family origins lie in what is today Bangladesh, but who have lived for 75 years in what is now India, the Ilish is so much more than just a delicacy.

Many Bengalis in their 80s and 90s still salivate at the memory of the fish they had eaten back home seven decades ago. No fish of today can compete with those memories. “What a taste,” they will say, “you young people have no idea.”

Hamilton might have complained about the innumerable small bones and that the fish is heavy of digestion, but for these old people, it sometimes feels like these memories are what keep them going. Because the memories are about much more than the fish. They are about home and belonging. About the helplessness of having one’s nation reorganised by someone else and against one’s will.

As I look at the specimen today, that is what I think of – of home and homelessness, about belonging and unbelonging. Uprooted as a family when we were forced to move westwards to Calcutta in 1947. Uprooted again as I moved further west to Britain in the 21st century. This fish reminds me at once of how far I have come and of what I have left behind.

Written by Dr Anindya Raychaudhuri, School of English, University of St Andrews

Why are we Re-collecting Empire?

Re-collecting Empire exhibition logo ©University of St Andrews Libraries and Museums

Empire has some tangled legacies. For some people colonial expansion brought glory, power and a great deal of wealth. For others it spelled disaster. And there were many people who occupied positions in between these two extremes.

These legacies are also still with us today, in street names, memorials, statues, and the buildings that surround us. If you look in your kitchen cupboards you’ll probably find products that became popular as a result of the British Empire’s expansion, like tea, chocolate and sugar. You’ll get a hint of it through who has power and influence today, and the power structures that usually dictate this.

You’ll also see these legacies in museums. In many museums some of the objects on display or in storage came to the collection from imperial or colonial contexts, legitimately or otherwise. These objects embody stories of peoples, countries and cultures who were subsumed into one empire or another. Some museums were specifically established to tell stories of empire, or to demonstrate the power of colonialists over the colonised.

Museums still perpetuate these legacies, and this can still cause hurt. The stories we tell about objects from colonial contexts can ignore or marginalise the voices of those who used or made them; the way objects are stored might be disrespectful to the originating culture. We might misunderstand an object completely.

Chinese Bell used in sacred and royal ceremonies, Courtesy of the University of St Andrews Libraries and Museums, ID: ET1977.110

Some of these things are a result of how these objects were acquired, and how they have been studied and catalogued since then. In St Andrews the first University museum was established by members of the Literary and Philosophical Society in 1838, who filled it with objects from around the world. Some of the people who gave things to the collection had lived and worked in colonised countries, but the information they recorded about an object was often scant, saying little of what it was or how it was acquired. A bell acquired at this time, for example, is recorded in the Society’s minutes simply as “hand bell” from China; nothing else is said about how it was obtained, which part of China it comes from, or what its original use was. The truth is that it’s not a hand bell at all, but part of a much larger set played with hammers, and in sacred and royal ceremonies. Described as a “hand bell”, this object was reduced to being a curiosity, its cultural importance removed.

This lack of information makes responding to the legacies of empire that we find in our collections difficult. Nevertheless, we believe that it’s important to tackle those legacies. That’s why we have written into our strategic plan that one of our goals at the Museums of the University of St Andrews is to “tackle institutional legacies and work for a more inclusive and equitable future”. Re-collecting Empire is a central part of this. However, the exhibition is not the end of this process; rather, it’s a statement of progress and of intention, as well as a starting point for conversations that we need to have.

The Re-collecting Empire exhibition at the Wardlaw Museum is the result of a lot of careful thinking and consultation about how we tackle the colonial legacies in our collection. It’s one of our first attempts to explore these stories publicly and trial new ways of telling them, with the voices of those who have often been excluded at the forefront.

Behind the scenes the Museums team have been doing provenance research to better understand when, how and in what circumstances objects came into the collection – a painstaking but important step in tackling those legacies. We’ve been talking to different communities to know how we should store and display the collections, and what the stories we should be telling about them should be.

The exhibition is a part of the process. We will probably get things wrong, but we will learn from it, listen to our visitors, and improve so that we really can work for a more inclusive and equitable future. It is part of a wider programme of work within the University, and one that will continue after the exhibition closes, building on the conversations we hope to have in the coming months.

Written by Dr Catherine Eagleton, Director of Libraries and Museums, University of St Andrews

King Kenny!

For the first time since 2019, St Andrews University will be hosting in-person graduations. To mark three whole weeks of graduations – covering not only graduates from 2022, but from 2021 and 2020 as well – many high-profile names will be receiving honorary degrees.

Sir Kenneth Dalglish MBE will be one of them, receiving an honorary degree on the 21st of June in the Younger Hall in St Andrews.

Kenny Dalglish was one of Scotland’s greatest footballers, achieving great success at both Celtic and Liverpool in the 1970s and 80s, he then went on to manage both clubs. Aside from his glittering footballing achievements domestically and internationally, he is also known for his charity work, most notably founding The Marina Dalglish Appeal to help raise awareness and money to treat cancer.

With the excitement of graduation and what the future holds for our graduates, the University of St Andrews Boswell Collection of Contemporary Scottish Art offers a look back to the 1980s – to Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool and Scotland heydays.

Dalglish Round Neck Merino Jumper with Cream Silk Shorts (2015) by Atelier E.B (Beca Lipscombe and Lucy McKenzie), ©Atelier E.B

As the title of this artwork suggests, Edinburgh-based design company Atelier E.B. – artists Beca Lipscombe and Lucy McKenzie – were influenced by Dalglish’s Scotland career and of the male-dominated footballing culture of the 1980s. At the same time, by putting their own mark on the famous Scottish strip, it becomes markedly more striking as a commentary on gender, fashion, and representation.

Replacing the traditional shorts with cream silk shorts offers the viewer to think about the disjunction between womenswear and football wear, and how this plays an unconscious role in the suppression of women’s football from the cultural norm. By only very slightly turning one item of clothing, it turns ‘strip’ into ‘outfit’, ‘kit’ into ‘costume’; it instantaneously removes its male-dominated sportily function, rendered useless by the viewer’s unconscious bias.

In addition to this, the pixelated badge is a subtle yet intelligent way of casting light onto the censorship of women’s football in Scotland and in the UK in general through the 20th century.

From 1921 until December 1969, women’s football was banned by the FA. In the space of two years after the ban lifted, UEFA realised the pace at which women’s football was growing (much thanks to the efforts of England in the 1966 World Cup), and its governing bodies voted to create official status of women’s football in national associations (voted 31 for and 1 against, the sole vote against by Scotland).

Since 1971, the FA has reluctantly been handing over more opportunities, money, and interest into the women’s game – a sentiment of reluctance that reached into popular culture with the 1980 movie production of Gregory’s Girls: a naturally gifted striker who outshines her male counterparts despite the sexist misgivings of her coach.

Thankfully, the women’s game has come a long way since then, but there is still some distance to go before it reaches the popularity and fame that footballers such as the famous Kenny Dalglish – King Kenny – experienced as a player.

He remains a beloved figure of Scottish football, recognised for his achievements and charitable efforts on and off the pitch, and on the 21st of June with an honorary degree from the University of St Andrews.

Written by Struan Watson, Visitor Services Facilitator and Collections Assistant with University of St Andrews Museums

Redefining the Legacy of William Scheves 

Most people do not know the name William Scheves, despite the fact that he was one of the most powerful men in Scotland in the late 1400s. Those who are familiar with the name may simply associate Scheves with his failed political career and his fateful friendship with the unpopular King James III. However, there is much more to Scheves than this maligned story would have it.  

Scheves was a true Scottish renaissance man with a great passion for both science and academia as well as arts and culture. As a leading Scottish intellectual in the 15th century, it is unsurprising that Scheves held deep connections to the town of St. Andrews. Scheves studied at the university during the 1450s and served as archbishop of the town from 1479 to 1497. In the period between his studies at St. Andrews and his tenure as archbishop, Scheves ventured abroad to continue his education, most likely ending up in Leuven, in modern-day Belgium.  

While abroad, Scheves’ education focused primarily on medicine and astronomy. When he returned to Scotland in the 1470s it was this medical training that enabled him to secure a position on the royal court, acting as a physician to King James III. The young king greatly favored Scheves and went so far as to instigate the removal of the then-archbishop of St. Andrews in order to appoint Scheves as his successor. Thus, Scheves reached the peak of his political career as both one of the king’s closest confidants and the new archbishop of the most important church in Scotland.  

Image 1: Illustration of King James III of Scotland, friend of William Scheves 
Public Domain License  

However, Scheves’ rise to power angered many. At the time King James was criticized widely across Scotland for his tendency to appoint his favorites to key positions of command, over better-born and perhaps more qualified noblemen. As it was rumored by many that Scheves was an illegitimate child of non-baronial blood, his rise to archbishop was nothing short of scandalous. In 1482, Scheves’ opponents attempted to remove him, citing his low birth status and lack of experience. While this operation failed, Scheves’ political career eventually came to a downfall six years later when King James III was killed in a battle against rebel Scottish forces, led by his own son. With the death of King James, Scheves subsequently found himself expelled from both the church and the state.  

While Scheves’ legacy is often characterized by his political rise and downfall, this story fails to acknowledge his contribution to art and culture. The bronze medallion pictured below exemplifies Scheves’ active engagement with the arts. 

Created by well-known Flemish artist, Quentin Metsys, the medallion was commissioned by Scheves when he visited Rome in 1491. While the artist Quentin Metsys is better known as a painter (and a famous one at that, with numerous paintings in leading museums like the National Gallery and the Metropolitan Museum of Art) he was also known to practice metalwork. Fellow patrons of Metsys’s medals included prominent intellectual figures like Desiderius Erasmus, a famous Dutch philosopher and one of the leading academics of the northern Renaissance. The design of the medal itself was inspired by traditional Roman medallions reserved for celebrating important leaders in the Roman empire. As Scheves was depicted by such an acclaimed artist in the same manner as distinguished leaders and scholars, the medallion symbolizes both his esteemed status as an intellectual as well as his awareness of greater artistic and cultural trends across Europe. 

Image 3: Illustration of Flemish artist Quentin Metsys, the artist who created Scheves’ medal 
Creative Commons 

Scheves’ connection to artistic and intellectual circles in Europe is further illustrated by his extensive book collection. More than forty books bearing Scheves’ signature survive to this day, giving an impression of just how large and significant his collection was.  

While Scheves is often looked down upon due to his association with King James III, this portrayal is ultimately unfair to his life’s greater work. As a physician, politician, clergyman, art patron, and intellectual, Scheves embodies the quintessential Renaissance man with his interest in both science and the liberal arts. Scheves’ embodiment of Renaissance ideals is particularly notable because at the time, Scotland was not widely associated with the Renaissance. Up until recently, the idea of the Renaissance as a cultural movement was often limited to Italy while Scotland and the rest of the northern region were afterthoughts within popular conception. However, Scheves epitomizes how Renaissance ideals spread beyond Italy into the Northern regions during the latter half of the 15th century. As a man that was ever learning and engaging with the contemporary issues and intellectual trends of his day, Scheves effectively marks himself as part of the often-overlooked Scottish renaissance. This embodiment of Renaissance ideals suggests that Scheves should ultimately be regarded as a figure of Scottish national pride rather than neglect and disdain.  

Written by Cally Wuthrich, University of St Andrews student and volunteer with University Museums.

Medieval Pilgrimage to St Andrews  

When walking down Market Street on a busy afternoon in St Andrews, a myriad of different languages can often be heard. While it may seem surprising for a small town in northeast Fife to have such a global population, in actuality, this international demographic has been central to the story of St Andrews for centuries. Today, most people are attracted to the town because of the university or golf course, however back in medieval period, visitors were drawn to the town for a different reason: that being pilgrimage.  

A pilgrimage is a journey taken to express spiritual beliefs and devotion. In the Middle Ages, it was common for both men and women to embark on pilgrimages to sites of religious importance in an effort to absolve themselves from past sins and thus ensure their entrance to heaven. From the early twelfth century onwards, the town of St. Andrews was one such holy site that pilgrims flocked to for one specific reason: to revere the relics of Saint Andrew himself.  

According to legend, the bones of Christ’s apostle, Saint Andrew, were carried to Scotland from Greece by the monk Regulus in the 350s. The far more likely story is that the relics arrived in St Andrews from northern England centuries later. While the relics only included three fingers, a kneecap, upper arm bone, and a tooth, this was enough to put the town on the map as a site for international pilgrimage as relics from Jesus’s twelve disciples were extremely rare in northern Europe in the twelfth century.  

Image of Saint Andrew whose relics transformed the town of St Andrews – Saint Andrews the Apostle Icon Creative Commons  

The arrival of Saint Andrews’ relics changed more than just the name of the town (as it was still known as Kilrymont until around 1200). In the years leading up to 1100, the number of pilgrims traveling to see the relics was so large that Queen Margaret of Scotland established a free ferry across the Firth of Forth to aid pilgrims on their journey northward. In the town itself, a hostel specifically for housing pilgrims was established at St Leonards. Pilgrimage even influenced the urban layout of the town. As the relics were housed in the Cathedral, the town’s streets were built to accommodate the circular procession of pilgrims up and down North and South Street, with Market Street providing food, trade, and entertainment for the people that came on pilgrimage.  

A map of a city

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Map of St Andrews from the early 1580s by John Geddy. While not entirely geographically accurate, the Geddy Map provides an idealized conception of the town and gives a sense of how the flow of pilgrims would have travelled to the Cathedral by progressing up South Street and down North Street.   

“S. Andre sive Andreapolis Scotiae Universitas Metropolitana.” (National Library of Scotland MS.20996) 

One such item that would have been sold by merchants to pilgrims on Market Street were pilgrim badges like the ones pictured below. These badges were produced in large quantities and often depicted Saint Andrew on his trademark diagonal cross, which is replicated on the Scottish flag. Pilgrims would buy badges to wear as souvenirs to mark the completion of their journey to St Andrews and indicate their special status as a protected traveler.  

Examples of medieval pilgrim badges. The badges included holes in the  
corners for pilgrims to sew them onto their clothing. Open Access API 

By the fifteenth century, the number of pilgrims traveling to St Andrews had greatly decreased. The popularity of St Andrews as a site for pilgrimage waned as other shrines throughout northwestern Europe were established. With its harbor, castle, cathedral, and university, by the fifteenth century St Andrews had become a bustling town that may not have been as attractive to pilgrims as a site of spiritual transformation.  

While St Andrews may no longer be known as a site for traditional pilgrimage, to this day it still attracts people from all over the world. International students, golfers, and tourists continue to flock to this northeast corner of Fife, often following the same route across the Firth of Forth that hordes of pilgrims traversed hundreds of years ago.  

Written by Cally Wuthrich, 4th year student of Art History and Management at the University of St Andrews and volunteer with University of St Andrews Museums.

Cult, Church, City

Oak figure of St Andrew, patron saint of Scotland, On loan courtesy of National Museums Scotland, ©National Museums Scotland

The cult of a saint
The power of the Church.
A city defined by them both.

Cult, Church, City: Medieval St Andrews, a new exhibition at the Wardlaw Museum, brings together medieval artefacts from St Andrews and the rest of the UK to explore the town in the Middle Ages.

Despite its size and location, St Andrews has never been a backwater. In fact during the medieval period it was quite the opposite; a bustling trading port, a centre of spiritual government, a pilgrimage site for the veneration of Scotland’s patron saint, and an ancient seat of learning. It was also visually stunning, as demonstrated by the collection of objects on display, brought together from collections across the country for the first time in 500 years.

The exhibition invites you into a mysterious world, with beliefs, priorities, worldviews and ways of living very different to those we experience today. It also invites you to walk the streets of the town and see the sites; many of the places referenced in the displays today lay in ruins, while some, such as the tolbooth that used to stand on Market Street, have gone altogether. Digital reconstructions from the medieval period, based on detailed research carried out at the University of St Andrews, show the splendour of the cathedral as it was, the long gone cloisters of St Salvator’s College and more besides.

The exhibition is the work of Professor Michael Brown and Dr Bess Rhodes, world experts in the town during this period, and is a collaborative partnership between the Museums of the University of St Andrews, the Schools of History and Computer Science, the St Andrews Institute of Medieval Studies, and the Institute of Scottish Historical Research. It is based on the book Medieval St Andrews: Church, Cult, City (2017); edited by Michael Brown, along with Professor Katie Stevenson, Vice Principal of Collections at the University of St Andrews.  The book will be available in the Wardlaw Museum Shop along with a new publication created specially for the exhibition, Voices of the Past by Bess Rhodes and Michael Brown, which delves deeper into the stories told by the objects on display.

The exhibition takes visitors through four sections, each exploring a different aspect of the town and each with their own objects to uncover. Cult investigates Saint Andrew and his devotees, who travelled from all over the British Isles and further afield to pay their respects to his relics. Church uncovers the now almost unimaginable power of the bishops and archbishops that sat in St Andrews and shows some stunning artefacts, including a brightly coloured causable, or priest’s robe, on loan from the V&A Museum in London. Burgh – defined as an autonomous region, often a town with a degree of self-governance – explores how St Andrews governed itself, and its relationship with the surrounding areas. Finally, in Reformation, uncover how the town changed as a result of the religious turmoil that marked the end of the medieval period.

John Hardyng’s Map of Scotland, on loan courtesy of the British Library, ©The British Library

Alongside the exhibition is John Hardyng’s Map of Scotland, which is on loan from the British Library with the support of the Helen Hamlyn Trust. This rare document is the first detailed map of Scotland, created by the English spy John Hardyng in the 1450s. The map was created in a failed attempt to encourage the English king to claim sovereignty over Scotland, with the ultimate intention of conquest.

Along with the exhibition comes a varied programme of in-person and online events for all ages, interests and levels of knowledge. Take a mini-pilgrimage with expert Dr Ian Bradley, explore how the town has changed on an evening walk with Dr Bess Rhodes, discuss religious division as part of our online Critical Conversations or catch John Hardyng before he takes his secrets to England in our SpyCatcher medieval escape room experience. To find out about the events on offer take a look at our website.

Cult, Church, City: Medieval St Andrews and Treasures on Tour: John Hardyng’s Map of Scotland are both on at the Wardlaw Museum until 3 July 2022. Entry is free.

Opening times: Monday to Friday, 11am – 7 pm,  Weekends, 10am – 5pm

Wardlaw Museum, 7 The Scores, St Andrews, KY16 9AR