Mapping out: working with Business Archives

The Scottish Archives have published a new Case Study on Art and Business Archives, focusing on the Bartholomew Archive, housed in the National Library of Scotland. This coincided with the completion of a six year project to conserve and list Bartholomew Archive, funded by the John R. Murray Charitable Trust. The Bartholomew Archive is the remarkable record of the Edinburgh-based firm of map engravers, printers and publishers - John Bartholomew & Son Ltd.

It contains records of daily business operations, engraved copper plates, glass printing plates, advertising for the Bartholomew firm and competitors, and also Maps, plans and correspondence from around the world used to prepare and revise Bartholomew publications

But perhaps what is more remarkable is the creativity inspired by the Bartholomew Archive. In 2013 the National Library of Scotland hired a resident poet Tom Pow, and a resident artist Diane Garrick, to work alongside the map archives. As well as tasked with creating new, exciting and original pieces, Tom and Diane also developed workshops to help breakdown and connect the complex, visual nature of maps and archives with the human imagination.

Part of this case study was not only to encourage artists to interact with archives but to open up the mysteries of archives to the world in general.

In one workshop for adults with visual impairments activities included lino cutting, as a way of developing a deeper understanding of the map making process. Workshop participants were also encouraged to create poems inspired by memories and mental maps of places, which were transcribed by sighted members of the group.

To also help open up the exhibitions to all, members of Library staff were offered training in audio description, a technique of describing items in exhibitions in a studied and meaningful way. 


Although the Case Study Art and Business Archives illustrates the beneficial and stimulating relationship between Art and Archives, it is perhaps a little sad and ironic that no photographic documentation of the art works or archive material accompanies the case study.


Here is Diane Garrick at The National Library of Scotland exhibit with her reflections on her residency with the Bartholomew Archive.

To follow Diane Garrick’s journey during her residency with the Bartholomew Archives, take a look at her personal blog –