Stirling opened its doors to alumni and the general public to celebrate its 50th anniversary yesterday, with events including special lectures, a science fair, and a rare opportunity to glimpse items from the university’s archives.
The archive display included the royal charter that officially granted Stirling University status in 1967, photographs dating back to the university’s founding, and a selection of Brig issues from the early years of the newspaper, all overseen by the university’s archivist Karl Magee.
Former students and staff were encouraged to bring their own photographs to add to the archives, and many helped with identifying people and places in the pictures already in the archival collection.
Film and media students interviewed some on camera, with the intention of adding clips to the already extensive archive collection of interviews with retired staff.
By the end of the day, the archive had fourteen new video interviews to work with, and over forty new photographs. This was the first time the university had invited such an influx of archive donations from former students.
The fun didn’t stop there, though, as that event was only one of many in a packed programme.
Visitors to the campus could take part in the Daily Mile, a run around the loch which incorporated a quiz on either cognition or physiology. Unfortunately, the rather damp conditions discouraged many from taking part in this.
A large crowd were drawn to the science fair, which was mercifully indoors.
The fair included stalls on the oldest trees in the world, a magic mirror in which you disappear if you stand still, and microscopic images. It also gave children and adults alike the opportunity to pose with Stirling’s giant squirrel mascot.
There were many lectures to attend, too, on subjects as diverse as the jokes of Jane Austen, cinematic androids, and the Queen’s infamous 1972 visit to Stirling campus, during which she was heckled by a drunken mob.
That visit was also referenced in a front page article from The Scotsman, on display in the archives and headlined ‘Queen unruffled by Stirling mob’.
The article, which reports that “the Queen chatted to people in the foyer while students hammered with their fists on the glass panelling above her and chanted a variety of rude messages” and refers to “obscenities linking the Queen with a four-letter word”, proved particularly popular.
Demonstrations of a less violent nature were taking place across the campus at the open day: demonstrations of the Columbian printing press in Pathfoot, which was used to make personalised bookmarks, and CPR demonstrations for wannabe first-aiders in the Cottrell Building.
One of the more unique attractions at the open day was the Pathfoot Sounds installation, which played over a speaker system in Crush Hall all day.
Conceived by Communications, Media and Culture Division staff members Janieann McCracken and Suzy Angus, the installation consists of sounds recorded in and around Pathfoot: birds tweeting, doors creaking, the gentle hum of background conversation with shoes squeaking on linoleum.
The piece, which may be exhibited in Crush Hall again in the future, also contains recordings of people talking about the campus. One woman explains why she thinks of the campus as “female”, while a man discusses the unplaceable, ethereal smell that occasionally pervades the university.
It was a day of nostalgia for many former students and staff, and it led several current students to discover fascinating parts of the university’s history. Most will be hoping that they don’t have to wait another fifty years for their next opportunity.