Treasures in our Archive: Byre Theatre Slides

Over lockdown, Jill Galbraith continued to volunteer by digitising and cataloguing archive material from home. Post-lockdown, Jill has continued with this important work and has discovered a treasure trove of previously unseen images of the Byre Theatre. Here, Jill discusses her project.

Many of us will have enjoyed events at the Byre theatre in the building off South Street, but do you remember the first Byre theatre in Abbey Street? A derelict barn, belonging to Abbey Street Dairy Farm, was converted to make a home for the St Andrews Play Club. At first the audience sat on cushions until seats were obtained from the local cinema, but audience numbers grew until in 1964 it was necessary to plan a new theatre further up Abbey Street.

2021 is the 20th year since the new Byre opened. Memories have recently been revived when a collection of slides in the Museum archives was digitised, after the museum was able to purchase a dedicated slide scanner.  They had been gathering dust for 7 years, unseen for want of a projector and have led to many images previously unknown. We believe these slides were taken by photojournalist Andrew Cowie, who recorded the final years of the first Byre and the building of the new theatre in 1969.

The Method

These slides were a mixture of 35mm set in size 2×2 inches in cardboard or plastic, along with older types with larger transparencies. Slides are first loaded into the holder of the scanner, which was tricky with the older slides due to their thickness, and the size of the transparency meant the whole photo was not always captured.  36 slides can be captured in one sitting, then uploaded to a computer where light and colour can be adjusted. The new images are given a title and a reference number, then entered into the museum catalogue where they can be viewed by anyone interested.

There are photos of several of the last plays performed at the ‘first’ Byre, along with some of its facilities, its demolition and the construction of the ‘middle’ Byre in 1969. Once catalogued, we will make this valuable and interesting collection available to view online. Perhaps you will recognise some of the people in this collection?

Images © St Andrews Preservation Trust.