Susan Wilson is the Principal Officer for the U.S. Consulate General in Edinburgh, Scotland. She most recently served as the Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate in Adana, Turkey. She also served as Assistant Public Affairs Officer in Ljubljana, Slovenia; and as Vice Consul in Kingston, Jamaica.
In the summer of 2015, ahead of my imminent move to Scotland to become Principal Officer of the U.S. Consulate General Edinburgh, I was researching organizations committed to the U.S.-Scotland partnership and strengthening our historic relationship. One such organization that repeatedly appeared on my radar was the National Library of Scotland and its extensive 'Americas' collection.
I was therefore excited to make my first visit to the National Library in November 2015, when I first viewed the Liston Papers.
What a wonderful archive, charting the formative years of my country! Henrietta’s gloriously colorful commentary on some of the most important years in early U.S. history is magical. Although written more than 200 years ago, her candid observations bring the people and events of post-Revolution United States to vivid life.
I found the collection to be so important to our country's story that I have urged every visitor to Scotland to make time to see this collection. These visitors have included some of America's highest-ranking career diplomats, such as former Deputy Chief of Mission UK Elizabeth Dibble, and current Deputy Chief of Mission UK Lewis Lukens. They too were amazed by the treasure trove that is the Liston Papers.
In my role as Principal Officer, one of my jobs is to highlight the centuries-old bonds of kinship and history that makes the Special Relationship between the U.S.-Scotland / U.S.-UK what it is today. However, while history is important (as someone with a BA in Medieval Studies, would you expect me to say anything else?!), it is vital that we make it accessible and relevant to today's generation. That is why I am so pleased the Library has made Henrietta Liston’s North American journals available to all online.
As U.S. Ambassador to the UK Matthew Barzun said on his most recent visit to Scotland:
'As inspiring as our past is, it is important that we don't fall into the trap of getting intimidated by our past, but that we are inspired by it and look forward.'
The introduction of the Liston Papers by the National Library to a whole new generation is doing just that. Henrietta's journals will encourage young people to learn more about this inspiring Scot and her impact on early American society, and underline the enduring role played by influential women in Scotland, at the heart of public life.
I congratulate the National Library of Scotland on this project. I hope you all enjoy Henrietta Liston's journals as much as I did.