The National Library of Scotland's multimedia retrospective, Back to the Future: 1979-1989, is gearing up for a summer of nostalgia at Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Back to the 80s

Back to the future: 1979–1989 – the National Library of Scotland’s multimedia 1980s retrospective – is gearing up for a summer of nostalgia at Glasgow and Edinburgh.

The National Library at Kelvin Hall, Glasgow will host an ‘80s takeover’ next week (from Tuesday 23 July) where visitors can rediscover analogue technology, play arcade games such as Ms Pac-Man and Space Invaders, take part in family-friendly activities, attend a gaming seminar and film screenings.

An 80s treasures display opens at the National Library on George IV Bridge, Edinburgh on Thursday 1 August featuring texts and ephemera related to the Miners’ Strike, AIDS, Princess Diana, Boy George, economics, digital technology, self-help and consumerism, The Troubles in Northern Ireland, UK party political manifestos, the Cold War, and a piece of the Berlin Wall.

All activity complements the Library’s Back to the future: 1979–1989 website of long reads and moving image content, which was published in the spring.

The Library’s Head of General Collections and self-professed 80s devotee, Graeme Hawley, said:

“In the Library’s history of collecting, few decades surpass the sheer volume of material we received during the 1980s – 2.9 million publications which chart this incredibly transformational decade. From the key texts that underpin the new economic thinking and practice of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, to Smash Hits and Jane Fonda’s Workout Book, it’s all there. The conflicts of the decade, the cultural changes, the endless developments in science, pharmaceuticals, the novels, the newspapers, the government leaflets. It’s bewildering.

“My favourite item is the Peter Craig mail order catalogue, one of which will be on display at George IV Bridge. This once ubiquitous, now rare artefact would give anyone researching 80s culture an overview of how we once lived or aspired to be. It’s everything you could want in a treasure. My old duvet cover was in it – I hadn’t thought about for over 30 years.

“As a child of the 80s, I have loved every minute of putting this initiative together. It’s been a journey of nostalgia, but also one of discovery and reflection. Studying the decade through a 21st century lens has made me reconsider what I thought I knew or believed. That’s what we hope to stimulate for our audiences – how did events of that decade shape the world we live in today? And have we learned anything since? Reading a book like Alvin Toffler’s The Third Wave, published in 1980, was especially fascinating – to examine what he predicted for future decades and consider how prophetic he was.”

A series of ‘in conversation’ events with journalist and broadcaster Stephen Jardine will take place in the autumn to complement the display and essay content. Details, including how to book, will be announced soon.

A further tranche of essays and moving image clips will be published on the Library’s Back to the future: 1979–1989 website in August – new topics include pulp horror fiction, the 1984 LA Olympics, women’s protest culture, state funerals, and the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole.

Contact Information

Barbara Burke

National Library of Scotland

+44131 623 3738

+447904 791002

Notes to editors

Media opportunity:

Tuesday 23 July, 10.30am

National Library of Scotland at Kelvin Hall, Glasgow

Kelvin Hall, including its staff, will be decked out in all-things-80s. People will be engaging in ‘analogue attack’ workshops, retro arcade games and more.

Head of General Collections, Graeme Hawley will be available for interview. To confirm your attendance, email or


Events and exhibition schedule:

Kelvin Hall, Glasgow

Computer gaming seminar

Wednesday 24 July, 1–4.40pm

  • Dr Matt Barr (Glasgow University) – the history of videogames
  • Dr Mona Bozdog (Abertay University) – creative work with former employees of Dundee’s TIMEX factory
  • Mike Dailly (Grand Theft Auto prototype designer, and co-founder of DMA Design) – ‘Talking KACC: building a gaming community in the 80s’ – a look at Kingsway Amateur Computer Club, Dundee.
  • Dr Emilie Reed – collecting and preserving videogame collections.

Film screenings:

Saturday 20 July, 1.45pm – Yoof TV (in conjunction with BBC Scotland).

Wednesday 24 July, 5.45pm Gregory’s Girl (1980, Cert 12A)

Thursday 25 July, 2pm – Yoof TV (in conjunction with BBC Scotland)

Friday 26 July – Cine(sthesia): Fierce Women – 10.30am, 11.45am, 1pm, 2.15pm, 3.30pm. No need to book.

Saturday 27 July, 1.45pm Local Hero (1983, Cert PG)

Also, Cine(sthesia): Glasgow’s 1980s – 10.30am, 11.30am, 12.30pm, 1.30pm, 2.30pm, 3.30pm. No need to book.

Wednesday 7 August, 5.45pm Highlander (1986, Cert 15)

Events are free but bookings are required unless otherwise stated – visit the National Library of Scotland on Eventbrite.


George IV Bridge, Edinburgh

Back to the future: 1979–1989 treasures display

Thursday 1 August–Saturday 9 November

Back to the future: 1979–1989 video installation (as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe)

Thursday 1–Friday 24 August (except Friday 9, Saturday 10, or Thursday 22 August)


National Library of Scotland

The National Library of Scotland holds approximately 2.9 million items relating to the 80s. It is a major European research library and one of the world’s leading centres for the study of Scotland and the Scots – an information treasure trove for Scotland’s knowledge, history and culture.