Canals firmly in focus

Assistant curator Liam Paterson shows how to access the film archive at Kelvin Hall. PHOTOS: HUGH DOUGHERTY

CANAL history is in focus thanks to the National Library of Scotland, whose moving image collection, based at Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall since September 2016, is now being made more available than ever before, thanks to digital technology.

Over 100 historic films of Scottish canals, from the early 20th century to the present, and including footage of boats, including puffers, and opening bridges in action, on the Union and Forth & Clyde Canals, in the years immediately before their closure in the early 1960s, are available to view. The Caledonian and Crinan Canals are also covered.

How the films are presented on screen. A boat approaches an opening bridge on the Forth & Clyde in 1962.

Sixty-nine films are available exclusively to visitors calling at Kelvin Hall, and a further 43 are viewable on line, via the website. Now, assistant curator, Liam Paterson, is encouraging canal users and enthusiasts alike to dig into time travel on line.

“It’s fascinating just how many film makers included the canals in their work,” said Liam. “The films were made by private and commercial film makers who found canals fascinating, and wanted to record their way of life. We have collected the films, conserved and digitised them so that as many people as possible can enjoy them and learn about their rich past.”

Liam would like to invite anyone with an interest in Scottish Canals to call into the archive, which holds hundreds of films on all aspects of Scottish life, if they’re in Glasgow and staff will be happy to help them search the archive. “If you would like staff help, please e-mail us first to arrange a date and time at and we’ll be delighted to help. You can also just turn up and view on-line yourself,” added Liam.

Temple as it was on the Forth & Clyde in1962, the year before closure.



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