Back to the future: Exhibits take a trip into the 1980s

The National Library of Scotland is gearing up for a summer of nostalgia in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Back to the future: Graeme Hawley in his best Marty McFly outfit. <strong>National Library of Scotland</strong>
Back to the future: Graeme Hawley in his best Marty McFly outfit. National Library of Scotland

The National Library of Scotland is gearing up for a summer of nostalgia by going “back to the future”.

As part of a multimedia retrospective, Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall will host an “80s takeover” where visitors can rediscover analogue technology, play arcade games such as Ms Pac-Man and Space Invaders, take part in family-friendly activities, attend a gaming seminar and film screenings.

An 80s treasures display will also be exhibited at the National Library in Edinburgh, and will feature texts and ephemera related to the miners’ strike, aids, Princess Diana, Boy George, economics, digital technology, self-help and consumerism, The Troubles in Northern Ireland, UK party political manifestos, the Cold War, and a piece of the Berlin Wall.

The two exhibitions complement the library’s Back to the future: 1979-1989 website of features and videos, which was published in the spring.


Graeme Hawley, the library’s head of general collections and self-professed 80s devotee, said: “In the library’s history of collecting, few decades surpass the sheer volume of material we received during the 1980s – 2.9 million publications which chart this incredibly transformational decade.

“From the key texts that underpin the new economic thinking and practice of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, to Smash Hits and Jane Fonda’s Workout Book, it’s all there.

“The conflicts of the decade, the cultural changes, the endless developments in science, pharmaceuticals, the novels, the newspapers, the government leaflets. It’s bewildering.”

Edinburgh: Items will go on display. Google 2019

Mr Hawley added: “As a child of the 80s, I have loved every minute of putting this initiative together. It’s been a journey of nostalgia, but also one of discovery and reflection.


“Studying the decade through a 21st century lens has made me reconsider what I thought I knew or believed.

“That’s what we hope to stimulate for our audiences – how did events of that decade shape the world we live in today? And have we learned anything since?”

The “80s takeover” will begin in Glasgow on Tuesday, July 23. The treasures display will then open in Edinburgh on August 1.

A series of ‘in conversation’ events with journalist and broadcaster Stephen Jardine will take place in the autumn, while a further tranche of essays and moving images will be published online in August – new topics include pulp horror fiction, the 1984 LA Olympics, women’s protest culture, state funerals, and the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole.

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