Two scrapbooks of 19th century ephemera relating to Greenock

Item date: 19th century
Grant Value: £185
Item cost: £185
Item date acquired: 2016
Item institution: Inverclyde Archives
Town/City: Greenock

The application process to apply for funding from the Friends of National Libraries was very straightforward and the decision made within an exceptionally short timeframe. It was great news to hear that our service had been awarded a grant, thus permitting the successful acquisition of a pair of 19th century scrapbooks for Inverclyde Archives.

These date from 1815 to the late 1890s and contain an assortment of handwritten letters, family history and drawings, newspaper articles, photographs, invitations, pamphlets and even botanical specimens, all relating to a former Greenock Provost called John Black and his family. It is not entirely clear who compiled the scrapbooks, though both the wide scope of material and the date range suggest that several generations contributed. John Black was JP and Provost of Greenock between 1899 -1901. After some research, I managed to locate a living descendant and was able to piece together the provenance of the scrapbooks. In doing so, I made contact with Cupar Heritage who are researching one branch of John Black's descendants known as the Duffus family of Dalclaverhouse. The scrapbooks have thus already opened a couple of new avenues for research and allowed for engagement beyond our geographical location. The diversity of contents gives an interesting snapshot of 19th century civic life in Greenock, although the scrapbook format presents challenges when considering issues such as preservation, display and digitisation of the material. The contents have several threads which have potential for further research; for example, John Black was an active member of the Greenock St John's Masonic Lodge, and there are several items within one of the books that reference this connection. Another area for potential study could relate to events that are recorded by the inclusion of invitations to opening ceremonies, exhibitions and even funerals.

All in all, the experience of applying for - and successfully receiving - the grant has been hugely positive and a great learning experience at this early point in my career and professional development. I would absolutely encourage others to consider applying to the FNL acquisition fund as they were incredibly supportive.