Souvenir Tapes of Graduation

Monday 24 June 2019

As a living collection, the muniments (the University’s own archive) continue to grow with regular transfers of historical records from across the University’s departments and units. One of the more recent transfers was a batch of VHS tapes. As many of the tapes were recordings of graduation ceremonies, and since we have recently had them digitised, it seemed appropriate to share some clips from these tapes during this special graduation week.

The tapes were offered to us by the staff of our Media Services team, who found them during a clear out. The collection comprised 117 tapes in all, including a (nearly) complete set of master copies of graduation videos from 1990-2000, and some tapes used for teaching purposes. On the whole the tapes were in decent condition, and all had labels explaining their contents – very useful for an archivist!

The tapes before they were sent to us from Media Services

As VHS players are no longer being produced, and the tapes were not designed for long-term preservation, we decided to digitise the graduation videos so that these important records will continue to remain usable (though digital preservation does present its own challenges).

This week, many of our graduates will have the chance to purchase a copy of their graduation ceremony on DVD or USB. The practice of recording graduation ceremonies at St Andrews can be dated back to at least 1971. In the collections, a promotional cinefilm for the University dated from 1971 (available to view here), includes Scottish Television recordings of graduation ceremonies in the Younger Hall. In the 1990s the videos offered to students were produced by Media Services as souvenirs – both of their graduation ceremony and their time at St Andrews.

The videos include footage of various University halls of residence, teaching and study spaces and sites around the town.

Some of the souvenir tapes include aerial footage of the University and town most likely taken from the top of St. Salvator’s tower.

Gaudeamus taken from the 1992 Graduation ceremony programme. The Library’s Special Collections retains a number of graduation programmes from 1929 to the present day (UYUY343).

All graduation ceremonies at St Andrews include the singing of the Gaudeamus Igitur, a famous student song in Latin, common to many other University’s graduation ceremonies. The video clip below records the Gaudeamus being sung during the procession of the Academic Council into Younger Hall, with the accompaniment of trumpets and the University organist. While present graduation ceremonies no longer have the fanfare of the trumpet, the procession into the hall is still led by the University Bedellus or mace bearer and the University’s six maces. Three medieval maces, the medical mace from 1949 and the University mace of 1958 have been joined by the 600th Anniversary mace, commissioned in celebration of the University’s foundation in 1413.

As discussed in previous blogs about graduation, there are a number of degrees which can be awarded by the University, honoris causa. The awards are in the gift of the University and there is no academic submission involved. A few of our Honorary graduates from the 1990s are as follows.

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004) or Willie, as she was known, was an abstract artist, raised in St Andrews and Carbeth in Stirlingshire, who defied family opposition to realise her ambition of becoming an artist. After studying at Edinburgh School of Art she was advised to move to Cornwall for her health, and arrived in St Ives in 1940, just at the start of its artistic renaissance. She played an important role in the development of the art scene there through the St Ives Group, the Newlyn and Penwith Societies, and socialised with Borlase Smart, Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Naum Gabo, Peter Lanyon, Bernard Leach, Phyllis Bottome and others.

Selection of catalogues and invitations for exhibitions of art work by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham

The archive of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham is held by the Library’s Special Collections with the permission of the Barns-Graham Trust.

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham received an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt) on the 2 July 1992. In this clip the laureation address was delivered by Professor John Guy, then Provost of St. Leonards College.

Sir Eduardo Luigi Paolozzi (1924-2005), sculptor and artist, born in Leith was the eldest son of Italian immigrants. After studying at Edinburgh College of Art, Saint Martin’s School of Art and the Slade School of Fine Art, Paolozzi worked in Paris and London. Paolozzi was awared the office of Her Majesty’s Sculptor in Ordinary for Scotland in 1986 and was knighted in 1989.

Paolozzi donated many of his works to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and parts of his studio, which you can see recreated in the Dean Gallery. The University also holds some of his works in the Museum Collections.

Paolozzi was awarded the Honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt) on the 8 July 1994. In this clip the laureation address was delivered by Professor John Guy, then Provost of St Leonards College.

Eve Arnold (1912-2012) was an American photojournalist. Joining Magnum Photos agency in 1951, Arnold travelled the world taking photos but is most well known for her pictures of Marilyn Monroe on the set of The Misfits (1961). Two of her prints were donated to the Library’s Special Collections in 1997 including the image of Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn Monroe rehearsing a scene from “The Misfits”, Nevada, 1960. Image copyright: Estate of Eve Arnold. StAUL ID: 1997-2-2

Arnold was awarded the Honorary degree of Doctor of Science (DSc) on the 25 June 1997. Professor Graham Smith, then Head of the School of Art History delivered the Laureation address.

Dame Muriel Spark (1918-2006) was a Scottish novelist and poet. Born in Edinburgh, Spark is most well-known for the very successful novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961).

Muriel Spark was awarded the Honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt) on the 26 June 1998. Dr Michael Herbert, School of English delivered the Laureation address.

At each of the graduation ceremonies shown, graduates were tapped on the head with the graduation cap. A common myth was that the cap used in the ceremony is a fragment from the trousers – “breeks” – of John Knox. This is untrue as the cap used in these clips, and used still, is an ordinary academic cap (birretum) bought from a local tailor, James Johnston in 1696 for the graduation of Dr John Arbuthnot. The capping ceremony symbolises the conferment of degrees with the words:

Te ad gradum Magistri Artium/Baccalaurei Scientiae/Baccalaurei Sacrossanctae
Theologiae promoveo, in cuius rei in symbolum super te hoc birretum impono  

I promote you to the Degree of Master of Arts/Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Divinity, as a symbol of which I place this cap upon you.

For all those graduating this week, well done and good luck!

Sarah Rodriguez
Principal Archives Assistant

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2 thoughts on "Souvenir Tapes of Graduation"

  • Sally-Anne Walsh
    Sally-Anne Walsh
    Friday 2 July 2021, 12.46am

    Amazing records. Do you have any plans to make the digitised footage available to alumni?

  • Special Collections
    Special Collections
    Friday 2 July 2021, 2.13pm

    Hi Sally-Anne, thanks for your comment. Yes, we are aiming to publish as much as we can on our collections site in the coming months, and there is a rolling programme of digitising old tapes and old dvds.


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