Cataloguing the papers of David Hay Fleming: St Andrean, local historian and antiquarian

A few weeks ago, Fiona Menzies, our project cataloguer, gave a talk to colleagues, providing an outline of her work on the David Hay Fleming collection.

David Hay Fleming (1849-1931) was a St Andrews-based local historian and antiquarian. He published books on St Andrews, the Scottish Reformation, John Knox and Mary Queen of Scots. He was also curator of St Andrews Cathedral, where he is buried.

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“Mr and Mrs David Hay Fleming”

David Hay Fleming bequeathed his library and papers to the town – he died in 1931 – and the Hay Fleming Library was opened in 1932. The collection has been housed at various locations, including the St Andrews Museum, the Central Library, and now here in the University Library’s Special Collections, where Fiona is working to ensure that the archive collection is fully catalogued and preserved so that it may remain accessible to the public.

The papers are as wide-ranging as Hay Fleming’s interests, and include his notebooks, research notes, drafts of publications, sketches, correspondence and primary historical sources. The earliest item dates from 1467, with the most recent actually post-dating the death of Hay Fleming, as librarians continued to add items in keeping with the spirit of the collection until the 1970s.

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“Examples of materials in the collection: notes, newspaper cutting, and sketches of Celtic stones found in St Andrews Cathedral, excavated by David Hay Fleming”

“A copy of the speech Oliver Cromwell gave at the Long Parliament”

“A copy of the speech Oliver Cromwell gave at the Long Parliament”

“Documents from 1840-1846 relating to protests and legal challenges against the Principal of United College (and early promotor of photography and the inventor of the kaleidoscope) Sir David Brewster”

“Documents from 1840-1846 relating to protests and legal challenges against the Principal of United College (and early promotor of photography and the inventor of the kaleidoscope) Sir David Brewster”

“Minute book of the St Andrews tailors, in its original leather binding and straps, dated 1659-1815”

“Minute book of the St Andrews tailors, in its original leather binding and straps, dated 1659-1815”

“A manuscript containing over 100 Scottish Airs and songs with musical notation and lyrics. Attributed to Alex Smith, 1722”

“A manuscript containing over 100 Scottish Airs and songs with musical notation and lyrics. Attributed to Alex Smith, 1722”

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“A Covenanter’s notebook containing the substance of sermons preached by Guthrie, Cameron, and Renwick during the Killings Times 1671-1688″

Fiona also discussed the challenges she faced in cataloguing the archival collection – it was arranged by box number, but the disparate contents of each box showed no signs of having been sorted out. The existing catalogue was limited in detail and didn’t seem to be systematically arranged – challenging adherence to the archive cataloguing concept of preserving ‘original order’.

The sheer volume of the newspaper cutting collections and correspondence also made the task imposing. As with the rest of the collection, the correspondence was distributed throughout all the boxes in no order. This was frustrating – assistance from colleagues Maia Sheridan, Sarah Rodriguez and volunteers was helpful here.

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How it feels to catalogue David Hay Fleming’s correspondence

As the cataloguing phase draws to a close, Fiona is looking to promote the collection. She hopes to arrange sessions with students and lecturers to demonstrate the potential for using material as part of courses at the University, and to assist researchers investigating the history of St Andrews and the Reformation. Hopefully it will be seen as a collection that has been returned to the town, and opened up in a new way to public access – watch this space for further news!

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