Scottish Design and Innovation at St Andrews Photography Festival 2017

Eddie reflects on his quirky selection of photographs which will be on display in an outdoor exhibition on The Scores, during the St Andrews Photography Festival (1-30 September 2017).

For centuries Scotland has been a creative crucible, giving the world a plethora of architects and artisans, craftsmen and inventors whose global contribution has often belied the smallness of their native land.  The Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th and 19th centuries was made possible by a humanist education system and disproportionally large number of universities, giving rise to generations of educated and creative men and women. The impact on everyday life was profound; improvements in agriculture, better understanding of economics and new ideas in industry and architecture propelled Scotland to the heart of the industrial revolution. Trade links with the rest of the world carried Scottish people, Scottish ideas and Scottish material culture to the four corners of the earth.

The Tunnocks Teacake production line. A family firm since 1890, Tunnocks export their products to over 40 countries. © Sophie Gerrard. 2014-1-59

Even in prehistory the people of Scotland sought to express themselves, to leave a legacy, to produce objects of beauty.  The stone circles, roundhouses and brochs demonstrate a symmetry and form that goes beyond mere functionality.  From hoards of exquisitely decorated Pictish silver to the simplest of personal adornments it can be seen that style, art and design have always had an important place in the hearts of the people of this land.

Standing Stones of Stenness, Orkney. Thousands of years after their erection, these monoliths still exert a powerful attraction over humans. © Stephen McLaren. 2014-1-172

This creative spirit remains strong in the Scottish national psyche and it is this spirit that we have attempted to capture in this small exhibition entitled “Scottish Design & Innovation”.  The photographic collection in the University of St Andrews Library Special Collections Division is not particularly well-stocked with images specifically relating to design and technology, but it does cover a wide spectrum of Scottish culture over the last 178 years.  It is from these photographs, with a hint of lateral thinking and an element of tongue-in-cheek, that we have selected exhibition images that swing from the mundane to the exotic, from large to small and from ancient to modern.

The Kelpies, Falkirk. Designed by Andy Scott, these mythical water beasts guard the entrance to the Forth and Clyde Canal. © Hamish Brown. HMB-1554

Inspired initially by the coming of the Kelpies maquettes to St Andrews, this exhibition will hopefully complement them nicely as it will be on display on the nearby railings at The Scores.

Eddie Martin
Photographic Collections Cataloguer

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