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February 6, 2019

Searching for history

The call from Glasgow Caledonian University for donations to its growing archive of materials charting the history of Scotland’s social enterprise movement, has caused me some regret. At no stage in my career has it occurred to me that what we were doing might be of interest to others further down the line. Others may not have been so profligate with their old papers and if you have any sort of ‘collection’ which records your work, no matter how mundane or trivial the detail, you might want to run it past GCU’s archive team before switching on the shredder.


Inspiring social enterprise in Scotland by preserving and retelling the history of the sectors distinctive heritage is the aim of a new project, funded by the Scottish Government, to develop the Social Enterprise Collection (Scotland). Based on a collaboration between the Glasgow Caledonian University Archive Centre and the Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health this funding will build on recently published research by Dr Gillian Murray into the origins of social enterprise in Scotland. The central message of the project is that consigning material to the archive does not mark the end point of a project or organisation, but can be the spark for a whole range of new beginnings.

The Collection of documents and oral histories relating to the development of social enterprise in Scotland, including the papers of community enterprise pioneer John Pearce, will ensure that the legacy of such forerunners to social enterprise is preserved for future generations. Acquiring new material for the archival collection and recording oral histories will be an important feature of the project, and the team are passionate that the Collection should be a living resource. Therefore, as part of working to make the Collection as accessible as possible to the sector and the wider public, a travelling exhibition is also planned for this summer.

The exhibition will provide and introduction to the history of social enterprise in Scotland and showcase the images and documents held within the collection. By breaking these materials out of their boxes and demystifying the archive, the team hope it will provide a point of inspiration and learning for established and future social enterprises alike. Locations and dates for the exhibition will be announced as soon as possible. If you have been part of the history of social enterprise in Scotland and would like to share your story with the project, or donate materials to the archive please get in touch with Dr Gillian Murray ( or contact the GCU Archive Centre here.   

If you’re interested in donating materials to the Collection – here’s the online form.