Alumnus Peter Freshwater on why an upcoming Short Course about the University’s history and heritage could be just the beginning.
August in Edinburgh is likely to conjure up images of the largest arts festival in the world; throngs of performers, tourists and locals swarming around the University’s central campus and transforming familiar academic locations into comedy venues, make-shift theatres, bars and cafes.
The Enlightened City: The Tounis College 1583-2000, a university Short Course that takes places over two days in the middle of the month, strips away the festival distractions and explores the history and heritage of our institution through its buildings and special collections.
Devised and led by three Edinburgh alumni, Dr Ian Wotherspoon, Professor Ian Campbell and Peter Freshwater, this behind-the-scenes course emerged from conversations regarding their overlapping research interests and a desire to share these interests with a wider audience.
Four centuries of history is not easily condensed into two days but by focusing on buildings and artifacts from the University’s special collections, the team have created an interactive experience that, as well as examining overarching themes such as the evolution of higher education in Scotland, also spotlights key staff and students and their role in in the history of the institution.
Peter Freshwater has a long and varied connection to the University, starting with his father who graduated MBChB in 1932. Following in his father’s institutional footsteps, he first entered the University as an arts undergraduate in the early 1960s. After graduating with an MA in 1964, he worked for a year as a library clerk at Harvard University followed by thirteen years in English university libraries before returning to Edinburgh in 1977 as deputy university librarian.
Despite taking early retirement in 1999, Peter has continued his commitment to the University and as well as serving as President of the Graduates‘ Association from 1997 to 1999, spent 11 years on the Business Committee of the General Council. He is currently Editor of the University of Edinburgh Journal, which is published by the Graduates’ Association, and Honorary Secretary of the Friends of Edinburgh University Library.
Throughout his time in Edinburgh he has researched and written about its history and has developed a particular passion for the role and impact of students.
My role in the course is to focus one seminar on the place of students in the history of the University, who they were, where they came from, what they did at University, where they went and what they did after their time at University, and to introduce students on the course to the many connections that the University has with the world through its alumni and graduates as part of the University diaspora.
As well as providing a detailed historical overview, it is hoped that the course will act as a catalyst for personal exploration and further engagement with the University. Suggested further activities will be signposted and include the university heritage trail and regular exhibitions at the University’s main library in George Square.
We hope to whet students’ appetites to spend more time exploring the University and its heritage on their own.
The Enlightened City: The Tounis College 1583-2000 will take place on Tuesday 16th and Wednesday 17th August 2016 from 10am to 4pm and costs £80 per person. There is a 10% discount for alumni. For more details and booking information please visit the website.