National Library of Scotland

The aims and objectives

The National Library of Scotland is committed to interrogating our collections to draw out new stories especially those of marginalised communities.  This project set out to show not only the breadth of the Library’s LGBTQ+ collections but also the many  LGBT+ stories waiting to be discovered through the creation of a series of videos.

Key milestones

Unfortunately, the project took longer than anticipated.  This was mainly due to the procurement process.  There was a wider procurement for video production taking place at the Library, which we wanted to wait for to enable us to produce higher quality films  than originally thought, working with film company Stroma so we wanted to take advantage of this.  The filming and edited also took longer than we had anticipated.


The National Library of Scotland has produced a series of three short films with Special Collections Assistant, Alex Wilson, highlighting some of the hidden LGBT+ stories represented in the Library’s collections.

The first film features the English Novelist EM Forster (1879-1970) and his book ‘Maurice’, a gay love story inspired by a visit to his friend Edward Carpenter (1891-1928) and his partner, George Merrill (1867-1928) who lived together as openly as was possible in the Edwardian era. The second video focuses on a series of early 18th century Broadsides featuring the sensationalised depiction of characters who did not conform to the gender stereotypes of their day. The third film looks at the story of Marianne Woods (1781-1870) and Jane Pirie (1779-1833) who opened a girls’ school in Edinburgh in 1809 and became involved in a court case as a result of one of their pupils accusing them of being lesbians.

Impact of the activity

The project has enabled us to draw out fascinating LGBTQ+ stories from the collections and present them in an accessible and engaging way.  This video content can be used on social media, hosted on our website and other platforms and used at events and talks.   Revealing these hidden stories is a key aim of the Library’s current strategy entitles ‘Reaching People’ and this project has created valuable content that can highlight and promote the research resources available for anyone to use.  It has been a valuable test case in how to present these lesser-known stories from the collections.

It has also given us valuable experience in creating this type of video content – which was a steep learning curve.  But we now feel much more confident producing more of this content in future.

Web links

Edward Carpenter and E.M. Forster: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aWLnyyeu4A

The Story of Marianne Woods and Jane Pirie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCQ1JvQKF8c

Early 18th century Broadsides: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4Ik3DohCnE