The art of graduation

Thursday 16 January 2014

The Rock

Two new exhibitions on show at the University of St Andrews offer a rare glimpse into graduation at Scotland’s oldest university as well as behind-the-scenes artworks.

“May they always flourish”, celebrates graduation at the St Andrews, tracing its history and development.  On show at MUSA (Museum of the University of St Andrews) until September, the exhibition explores the ceremonial tradition at St Andrews by bringing together objects, paintings, costume and archival material associated with the event from the last six centuries.

Visitors will have the opportunity to learn about some of the University’s unique traditions and find out what happens during the graduation ceremony. They can discover University buildings where graduation ceremonies have taken place, from the early beginnings to the present day. The exhibition also examines the development and design of the University’s distinctive form of academic dress.

The exhibition showcases objects from the University’s collections including the three renowned medieval maces commissioned in the 15th century and still used at ceremonies today.  Until the end of January, the University’s three modern maces will also be displayed, the first time that these have been exhibited in MUSA.  Other fascinating items include the birretum (cap) used for centuries in the formal ‘capping’ ceremony.

Claire Robinson, Collections and Exhibitions Curator in the Museum Collections Unit at the University of St Andrews, said: “This exciting exhibition shares with our visitors the story of graduation at Scotland’s oldest university. It begins in 1413, when the first student graduated from St Andrews, and continues into 2014 and beyond. The title of the exhibition is an English translation of a Latin phrase from the official University song, Gaudeamus Igitur, which is sung at graduation ceremonies.”

Accompanying the exhibition will be a series of events, including a walking tour with Head Janitor, John Jardine, who will provide a fascinating insight into his other official role as ‘Bedellus’ (chief mace bearer) in one of the University’s most ancient and important ceremonies.

Adults will have the opportunity to get creative at workshops inspired by costume and portraits in the exhibition. Families can take part in a treasure trail with a twist and discover secret destinations around the town. As part of this event, they will have the chance to don a gown and “graduate”. Drop-in craft activities will also take place at the Art Cart in MUSA.

Meanwhile, “A Scottish Palette” (18 January – 1 March), will showcase enormous diversity and talent from a selection of Scotland’s leading contemporary artists. The exhibition will allow visitors the opportunity to see some of the University’s collected artworks not normally on public display.  Featuring the artworks of eight Royal Scottish Academicians, including well-known artists Elizabeth Blackadder, John Byrne, local artist Will Maclean, Alexander Moffat, Bill Scott, Frances Walker, Adrian Wiszniewski and George Wyllie, the exhibition has been developed along with the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA).  On show at the Gateway Galleries, the exhibition opening this weekend displays work held by the University of St Andrews with the corresponding diploma works by the same artists from the RSA collection.

Claire Robinson said: “Both the University of St Andrews and the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) lead the way in academia and our understanding of art. Just as the painter’s palette aids the artistic process, ‘A Scottish Palette’ reveals the inspirations, stories and styles of Scotland’s leading artists which all help create a Scottish palette.”

‘A Scottish Palette’ is accompanied by a diverse programme of free events including creative workshops such as Whisky and Watercolour, and talks by RSA artist Alexander Moffat and Art Historian Dr Tom Normand. The first of the free family activities kicks off on the day the exhibition opens Saturday 18 January with a Paper Boats Workshop.

Full event details.

‘May they always flourish’ is exhibited at MUSA (Museum of the University of St Andrews) from now until 30 September 2014. Opening times are:

11 January – 31 March opening times: Thursday – Sunday only, 12 noon – 4pm

1 April – 30 September opening times: Monday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm; Sunday, 12pm – 4pm Free admission.

‘A Scottish Palette’ opens on Saturday 18 January and runs until Saturday 1 March at the Gateway Galleries at the North Haugh, open Monday to Friday 9am to 3.45pm, and 12 noon until 4pm on Saturdays.

Note to Editors

Images are available from the Museum Collections Unit

Contact: Rebecca Prentice, Curatorial Trainee

Museum Collections Unit

[email protected]

Tel. 01334 461663

For further details, please contact Claire Robinson, Collections and Exhibitions Curator, Museum Collections Unit, University of St Andrews, Tel. 01334 461683, Email: [email protected]

The University has a growing collection of contemporary Scottish art regularly used in the teaching of art history. This collection continues to expand thanks to the support of the Harry and Margery Boswell Art Collection and Murdo Macdonald Collection. The Boswell Collection was originally established in 1996 by Margery Boswell in memory of her husband and still continues to grow today, with the generous support of the Boswell family allowing new works to be purchased each year.

Murdo Macdonald, an alumnus of St Andrews, donated his collection of Scottish art to the University. This collection continues to expand thanks to the support of Murdo, who regularly donates new works. Between them, these collections cover a wide range of artists and styles and represent a unique cross-section of contemporary Scottish art.

MUSA (Museum of the University of St Andrews) is located at 7a The Scores and tells the story of Scotland’s first university from its foundation between 1410-1414 until the present day.  Visitors can also encounter some notable figures from the University’s history, discover some unique and internationally important objects and artworks and experience stunning vistas over West Sands from the viewing terrace.

The Gateway Galleries is the University’s temporary exhibition venue. There are around four exhibitions each year, on a range of subjects, drawing on the University’s and other collections. The gallery is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 3.45pm and 12 noon to 4pm on Saturdays.

Further details can be found on the museum website.

Category University news

Related topics

Share this story