Since its establishment in 2007, The Centre for Robert Burns Studies has proudly followed the University of Glasgow’s ‘world-changing’ ethos through its significant contribution to Scottish knowledge and culture. The Centre has the biggest concentration of Burns experts in the world and carries out research focused on his life, works, cultural period and related literature.
In the last year, the Centre’s academics have been using the power of virtual reality to enhance how they teach about historical figures and interact with material culture associated with them. Collaborating with Scottish Immersive Learning Platform, Edify, ‘Burns Beyond Reality’ was created to allow the user to travel both back in time as well as into the imagery of Robert Burns’s famous poem, ‘Tam o’ Shanter’.
In celebration of Burns Night 2022, the partnership hosted a free online event via Zoom that explored the art of the Burns Supper in virtual reality, and also unveiled a special Burns-inspired artwork by Scottish artist David Mach.
As well as allowing viewers across the world to examine and learn about rare Burns relics in 360-degree detail, the interactive experience took viewers on a virtual journey to the Alloway Auld Kirk as Rabbie imagined it in ‘Tam o’ Shanter’, bridging both distance and time, reality and imagination.
The event ended in the unveiling of a brand new artwork by Scottish artist David Mach. The artwork, commissioned by the University of Glasgow, is titled 'The Flying Haggis' and features over 350 images crowdsourced from people all over the world who shared photos of their Burns Night celebrations in 2021.
Here, we explore some of these artefacts with Dr Pauline Mackay and Dr Paul Malgrati from The Centre for Robert Burns Studies, and get a sneak peek of the new artwork from David Mach himself.
Guid auld Scotch drink!
One of the most important elements of a Burns supper is ‘a toast’ whether that’s to the Bard, the haggis, or Scottish culture in general. In this video Dr Pauline Mackay looks at an 19th century whisky jug and whisky bottle whilst discussing the importance of whisky and Burns’ works.
Burns’ appreciation of Scotland’s national dish
In this video Dr Paul Malgrati discusses what is undoubtedly the most famous Burns poem ever written in appreciation of Scotland’s national dish - 'Address to a Haggis'.
Journeying to Alloway Auld Kirkyard as Burns imagined it in 'Tam o' Shanter'
The poetry of Robert Burns should of course take centre stage at a Burns Night celebration. Here, Dr Pauline Mackay takes us to Alloway Kirkyard and through one of Burns' most iconic and entertaining poems, 'Tam o’ Shanter'.
Unveiling a new piece of Burns-inspired artwork by Scottish artist David Mach
Here the Scottish artist David Mach unveils his centrepiece, ‘The Flying Haggis’, sharing his inspiration and vision.
Masonic Jug which belonged to Burns (18th Century) - Burns House, Dumfries. Dumfries & Galloway Museums.
Whisky Bottle from the Burns household (18th Century) - Burns House, Dumfries. Dumfries & Galloway Museums.
Edinburgh Edition of Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect by Robert Burns (1787) - University of Glasgow Archives and Special Collections.
Mauchline Ware PIn Cushion: Alloway Auld Kirk (19th Century) - Centre for Robert Burns Studies.
Burns Supper Table by Timorous Beasties - Burns House, Mauchline. By Permission of East Ayrshire Council/East Ayrshire Leisure Trust.
Staffordshire Jug with scenes from Tam o' Shanter (19th Century) - National Trust for Scotland Robert Burns Birthplace Museum.
Photo Credit: Martin Shields