A Dramatic History: Film and Broadcasting in the University collections.

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From the Archives: the early history of Dramatic Studies and the inventor of the television

The subjects of Film and Television studies within the School of Culture and Creative Arts at the University of Glasgow began life as the teaching of Dramatic Studies. A Certificate in Dramatic Studies and a Diploma in Dramatic Studies were instituted in 1950 and this was taught to students of the (then) Royal Scottish Academy of Music and run by the University of Glasgow’s Department of English. The classes were conducted in the former Athenaeum building in St Georges Place.

In 1966 the University started running its own class in Drama with James Fullerton Arnott as Senior Lecturer. The course was listed under the University Department of Music and Fine Art and this meant that Glasgow was the first in Britain to participate on the vocational training of actors and teachers of Drama and Dramatic Studies.

A Department of Drama was officially founded in 1972 and the University of Glasgow first began teaching a Faculty of Arts course in Film and Television in 1983. By 2001 Theatre Studies and Film and Television Studies were core subjects taken under MA(Creative and Cultural Studies) and MA(European Civilisation) within a broader degree of General Humanities.

R8.5.35.1John Logie Baird
John Logie Baird’s Matriculation slip for the session 1914-15 (Archive Ref: R8/5/35/1)

Archive Services holds the collection of papers from the (former) Department of Theatre, Film, and Television Studies including course leaflets and also publications relating to Gilmorehill G12: opened as the Anderson Free Church in 1877, and used by Glasgow University as an exam hall from 1950 to 1996, the building was refurbished in 1997 as home to Glasgow University Film, TV and Theatre Studies Department. It holds offices, theatre, cinema, cafe and rehearsal space.

The University of Glasgow has another historic connection to television and broadcasting that can be traced in our archival records.  John Logie Baird, inventor and pioneer of the television, studied Engineering at the University of Glasgow during the session 1914-15. Baird later achieved fame for his work developing television, giving the world’s first demonstration of a practical system in front of members of the Royal Institution on 26 Jan 1926. In 1928 the Baird Television Development Co made the first transatlantic television transmission, and during the 1930s and 1940s succeeded in developing colour television.

From Special Collections: radio & television scripts and the career of Alan Cumming

Special Collections within the University of Glasgow Library is fortunate enough to be the repository for the Scottish Theatre Archive, a collection that contains a wealth of material relating to the stage and the screen in various different mediums from playbills and scripts to audio/visual recordings.

The Scottish Theatre Archive was founded in 1981 and seeks to preserve Scotland’s theatrical heritage by carefully storing and cataloguing material deposited with us by theatres and individuals and making this material available to researchers and the public. Whilst primarily seeking to collect stage and theatre related material there is an inevitable and exciting crossover into the film and broadcasting world within this collection as evidenced in, for example, the BBC Scotland radio and television scripts collection or through the personal collections of well-known stage actors and broadcasters such as Rikki Fulton or Stanley Baxter.

STA NTS 2_20
Poster for The Bacchae starring Alan Cumming, 2008 (Spec Coll Ref: STA NTS 2/20)

To take an example, those studying film and television or the adaptation of plays to different mediums, and so on, could find much to think about looking at the career of Alan Cumming as represented in the Scottish Theatre Archive. Born 27 January 1965 in Aberfeldy Alan was awarded OBE in 2009 for his services to entertainment and his role as an LGBT campaigner and he is one of Scotland’s leading actors with roles ranging from Taggart and The Good Wife on television, to the X-Men films and Cabaret and Macbeth on stage.

The Scottish Theatre Archive has material charting Alan’s career in programmes for plays like The Bacchae to press cuttings charting his film career colourfully titled ‘Look who’s Cumming to town!’ Using our online catalogue researchers can access this information and see associated people and works. In this way the STA allows researchers a window into researching the careers, the works, and the interdisciplinary nature of this area of the creative arts industry.

Those interested in the relationship and crossover between the stage, its plays, actors, directors, etc. with the world of radio, television and film can find plenty of letters, scripts and photographs to interest and educate them within the Scottish Theatre Archive. We warmly encourage you to visit our online catalogue and see what you can find.

Words by Rachael Egan and Samantha Gilchrist.

Archive Services and Special Collections within the University of Glasgow contain rare, unique, and downright interesting historical documents and resources available to academics, students and members of the public. All are welcome to contact us and find out more about utilising our collections in their work or research.

Archive Services: enquiries@archives.gla.ac.uk

Special Collections: special@lib.gla.ac.uk


Post Author: Nicole Cassie

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