The University of St Andrews has always prided itself on a close relationship with its local community and alumni. Now, that relationship is being showcased in an exciting new exhibition running until the end of the semester at MUSA. “Enduring Gifts: 600 years of Philanthropy in St Andrews” is hoping to celebrate the continued support of community and alumni in shaping the student experience that we know and love today. Comprising an all-female team of postgraduate students in the School of Art History, the exhibition is a joyful celebration of community and support.
Juliette Deval, one of the students working on the exhibit describes their goal as wanting “to come up with a story for the University through philanthropy.” She and her colleague Elena Miserotti illustrated with great enthusiasm just how important charitable donation has been to the student experience. Ms Miserotti described how the foundation of the University based on donations of land and money from well-known figures such as Bishop Kennedy helped to create the sense of integration between the University and the wider town. Since then, charitable donations have only increased, with gifts of a library from King James VI and the donations of art collections and the financing of new research at the front of many academic fields.
One of the most interesting things the curators found when researching was the importance of women to the history of St Andrews. Many art collections were donated by women in memory of their husbands. This meant that, in a time where women were still not taken seriously in academic life, many were working hard to curate collections of art and artefacts that are now some of the University’s most important. The exhibition seeks to highlight the importance that women have played in shaping the University and the town through philanthropy. As an example, Ms Miserotti cites Annie Younger, who, along with her husband James donated the money for Younger Hall. However, apart from her husband, Younger was also an active philanthropist in the town, providing financial support to build homes for fishermen in the harbour and a church as well.
Another interesting detail the exhibition aims to highlight is the importance of philanthropy to medical research. The team working on the exhibition aspire to celebrate the various positive aspects of philanthropy, having found medical research as one of the most prominent fields where it shines through. With money needed for equipment, grants and staff, as well as volunteers for teaching, medical research is one of the areas that most benefits from philanthropy. The abstract for the exhibit highlights the “essential role” that philanthropy has played in keeping St Andrews at the top of higher education rankings and in crafting the unique student experience that we all enjoy today.
However, as well as showcasing examples of generosity in the past, the exhibition looks forward to what could be possible in the future. With the alumni weekend on the horizon, we are reminded more than ever just how long-lasting the sense of belonging in the St Andrews family is. It is this sense of community and friendship, the exhibitors believe, that makes philanthropy so crucial to St Andrews. The development office is seeking to continue building these strong links, both with town and gown and current students and alumni and one of the best ways to achieve this is to remember the generosity of the past and highlight how much that it has accomplished.
Staffed by a group of passionate students this exhibition truly is a joy to behold. The students are working to put this exhibition together for their Masters degrees, with the help of the school of management as well as art history, but it is clear that this has come to mean so much more for them. Alongside the exhibition, which launched a few weeks ago, the students are also working with MUSA to put on a series of exciting events. This includes a documentary screening next week, and an interactive display of medieval St Andrews to illustrate how much the town and University has developed. For more details of what is on, drop into MUSA on The Scores or head to their website.
This exhibition perfectly captures the spirit of St Andrews, one of community, support and an enduring connection to this special place. The students who have put together this exhibit are clearly very talented and dedicated as the exhibition is cohesive and engaging to follow. It is clear just how important philanthropy has been to St Andrews, as it is clear how much more we can continue to develop as an organisation. If you have a free afternoon this semester, visit the exhibition at MUSA. It will be running until 30 June and is an enjoyable way to remind yourself just why St Andrews is so special.