Our time with Collections

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Fiona H and Fiona M retrieving the Non-Guardianship Monument drawings from the Main Store.

During our time with  the Collections Department over the past two months we have gained an insight into the various different tasks they do. We have gained experience of cataloguing, accessions, rehousing, retrievals and records management.

We started off by getting to grips with Oracle, the database system that collections use. We begun by cataloguing the Non-Guardianship Monuments Collection which consists of drawings from the former Ministry of Works relating to historical sites not in state care. This collection was quite interesting since the material related to any monument not in state care there was everything from standing stones, country houses, castles and churches. After we had catalogued the drawings we started giving them DP numbers on Oracle in preparation for digitisation so they will be available on Canmore.

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Chris on the front desk of the search room.

We also started shadowing Collections staff in the search room to see how they help visitors to the search room. As part of helping out in the search room we started doing retrievals which meant retrieving material from the collections store for search room visitors for their research. By doing the retrievals it helped us get more familiar with the different collections and material that RCAHMS hold.

As part of our time with Collections we learned about the accessioning process. We went to an architect’s practice with Veronica to select material for a new accession to the collection. Once we had brought the material back to RCAHMS we rehoused it and then accessioned it onto Oracle. Recently we also learned how to accession and catalogue archaeological records. These records are usually reports on an excavation by a commercial archaeology firm and differ from the Non-Guardianship Monuments Collection as the material in this collection consists of drawings whilst the archaeological records are manuscripts. This will be an ongoing task that we will continue to work on over the next couple of months.

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Storing a new accession with Iain .

During our last week with Collections we made a start on doing records management. We have been sorting through old correspondence  which contained things like public enquiries and information on new accessions. We have to decide what records are worth keeping and which ones can be disposed of. This is a big task which we will continue to work on.

Although our two month placement with Collections has officially finished we will continue to work with Collections one day a week. Last week we started a month long placement with the Scran team. Our project is to select images to edit from The Scotsman Publication collection which holds a staggering 66, 348 records. Wish us luck!

 

 

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New Skills for the Future Trainees 2015 – 2016

Hello from the new Skills for the Future Trainees 2015 -2016!  It’s hard to believe that we have been at RCAHMS for six weeks now; the time has just flown by!

Our traineeships differ from the previous Skills for the Future Traineeships in that this year there are only three of us: Fiona M, Fiona H and Chris and we will all be undertaking the same traineeship, that of a trainee Heritage Officer.  Previously there were ten trainees on the programme who followed two different strands: Curatorial trainees within Collections and Education trainees within Education and Outreach.  The newly developed programme for this year is a combination of the two different strands and we are very excited that we will be gaining valuable skills and experience in the two areas.

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Chris, Fiona H and Angela at Holyrood Park

Over the past six week we have had a busy time at RCAHMS; during the first week we enjoyed several talks from colleagues about their roles and work within the organisation, went on several outings and learned more about each other’s interests by undertaking short starter projects.  Particular highlights include: an archaeological tour around Holyrood Park with Angela Gannon, a trip to Braidwood and Castlelaw hill forts with Dave Cowley, an introductory presentation about the RCAHMS’ collections by Lesley Ferguson and a presentation on stone circles by Adam Welfare

Braidwood

Visit to Braidwood

Dave exiting the souterrain at Castelaw.

Dave exiting the souterrain at Castelaw

We also enjoyed learning more about the Scotland’s Urban Past project which is based at RCAHMS and look forward to being involved with their launch event in Paisley on the 6th of June Click here for more info

For the past month or so we have been learning cataloguing skills using the RCAHMS database system, Oracle, updating both existing records and creating new records. We have been working on a very diverse collection of drawings during this time and came across a particularly interesting collection of design drawings for stained glass windows by Powell and Sons which will be the subject for a forthcoming blog entry.

We were very fortunate to accompany Veronica on a site visit, to help select and box material for collection. It gave us another insight to the role that the Commission plays.   We have also enjoyed cataloguing a wide range of sites and buildings from the non-guardianship collection of drawings and we are currently selecting drawings from this collection which we are hoping to digitise in the near future.

We have a very busy year ahead and are looking forward to being involved with various heritage events and undertaking placements both within and out with RCAHMS.  Updates to follow soon!

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Drummond Collection Integration Project

The trainees have just finished their integration projects. The integration project is an opportunity for collections and education trainees to work together to deliver a project using a collection from RCAHMS. Collections trainees John and Holly and Education trainee Annie were assigned an album of drawings by James Drummond.

James Drummond was a 19th century artist and antiquarian who drew a large number of archaeological and architectural sites throughout Scotland. In 1861 Drummond published Scottish Market Crosses. Many of the drawings from this publication can be found in the Drummond collection. We decided to focus on drawings of mercat crosses for our integration project as sites at the heart of communities which are often overlooked.

Clach A' Bhranguis

Clach A’ Bhranguis

Prestonpans mercat cross

Prestonpans mercat cross

 

 

 

 

 

Alongside cataloguing and digitising the drawings we carried out an outreach activity to make the collection accessible to a wide and diverse audience. This took the form of a market stall at Crieff and Elgin; sites where Drummond had drawn market crosses. The stalls held information on RCAHMS, copies of drawings by Drummond, postcards of mercat crosses, a map showing local sites that can be found on Canmore and an information board on the relevant mercat cross. We actively engaged with over one hundred people across the two sites, many of whom were previously unaware of the RCAHMS.

 

Crieff market stall

Crieff market stall

A new Collection Highlights Gallery showing a wide range of drawings by Drummond has been made available on the RCAHMS website: http://www.rcahms.gov.uk/collection-highlights/james-drummond-collection. A Scran Pathfinder Pack giving more information on mercat crosses is now available on the Scran website: http://www.scran.ac.uk/database/record.php?usi=005-000-008-047-C&scache=3s1tt3psrt&searchdb=scran.

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#AskaCurator: A Step-by-step Journey through the Collections Process

For #Askacurator day, the Skills for the Future Curatorial trainees decided to give you a step-by-step journey through the collections and focus on one of their favourite photographic collections at RCAHMS!

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 Views of the ‘Maiden Stone’, near Inverurie, (E 72410, E 69751, E 72399), J Romilly Allen, c. 1890-1903.


Step 1: Before an archivist or curator can do anything with collections materials, these materials must first be acquired by the institution for which they work. Each museum, archive or gallery will have an official collections or acquisitions policy in place and such a document should also be freely available for the public to see. Collections policies are in place to ensure that materials end up in the correct institution and aren’t spread out over the country in unexpected places (however this still sometimes happens). For example, although Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) is the repository for archaeological resources for Scotland, we only collect the reports, plans, drawings and photographs of excavations, not the discovered artefacts themselves, such materials should find their way to the National Museum of Scotland (NMS) or an equivalent local museum.

For this blog post we are focussing on a collection of glass plate negative photographs of ‘Early Christian Monuments of Scotland’ (ECMS) which are notorious for their use in Romilly Allen’s book, authored by Joseph Anderson, of the same title published in 1903. These materials were once in the possession of the NMS, they were discovered by Dr Alison Sheridan during a clear-out in the mid-1990s at a time when the National Museum in Edinburgh was moving from Queen Street to its current location on Chambers Street. Although the museum itself has a number of Early Christian monuments on display, it was decided that RCAHMS was a more suitable home for the glass plate negatives used in Allen’s book. Indeed these materials do fit well within our existing collection and satisfy a number of criteria expressed in our official collections policy. The collection itself features over 600 items including glass plate negatives and photographic prints, all shot between 1881 and 1900 by a variety of different photographers such as Reverend James Bannatyne Mackenzie. The majority of the images feature Early Christian Monuments of Scotland; however there are a few images of stones from the Isle of Man as well as some images of treasure discovered in Traprain Law Fort in East Lothian.

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John, Holly and Marta working towards conserving the collection

Step 2: After the collection had been accessioned John and Holly collaborated with Marta Garcia-Celma, an ICON Conservation Intern here at RCAHMS, to assess the condition of the negatives and re-house the archive. We identified what kind of glass plate negatives were in the collection and if they were in a poor condition for example if the glass was broken, passed them on to conservation to be conserved. The negatives were then surface cleaned on the glass side only to remove any harmful chemicals or grease before being re-housed in folders made from acid free paper and stored in archival boxes lined with plastazote to cushion the glass. The final stage in the re-housing process was to store the boxes of negatives in our negative store room, a humidity and temperature controlled environment that helps prevent the deterioration of negatives. The conservation and appropriate re-housing of material is vital for a collection to be preserved for future generations.

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After Conservation: But still very fragile!

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Before Conservation: Inaccessible

Step 3: In order to catalogue a collection, it is first important to understand what the collection is in terms of the material and subject. The ultimate aim of cataloguing is to allow people to find and understand the material that we hold so cataloguing in as much detail as possible is essential in helping people to do this. Research is a vital part of cataloguing. Most of the images were used in Romilly Allen’s book, The Early Christian Monuments of Scotland, so this was a good starting point. We were able to search through that book and a few others to identify the stones that appeared in the negatives. Another important aid was the help of researchers themselves such as Dr Iain Fraser and Dr Sally Foster in identifying the stones. This is an example of where collaboration between different organisations and shared knowledge is important to allow collections to be catalogued in the best and most effective way possible.

Photography scanning the glass plates using ScanMate F10

Photography scanning the glass plates using ScanMate F10

Step 4: In order to maximise the accessibility of the glass plate negatives, ideally they could all be digitised and made available online through Canmore. The digitisation process is a collaborative process between the conservation, collections and photography departments. The glass plate negatives are an example of a digitisation priority, as not only are they a culturally significant addition to RCAHMS collections, their fragile and easily-degradable condition means that digitisation reduces further damage by public handling. Some researchers are still interested in seeing the physical plates themselves, especially those interested in photography and collections history, where it would be beneficial to their research to see the photographs in their original contexts. Having the collection available online inspires learning and curiosity on a world-wide scale, not only of Early Mediaeval carved stones, but also the RCAHMS collections as a whole.

Our Search Room at RCAHMS

Our Search Room at RCAHMS

Step 5: Research is often seen as the primary use of a collection, and whilst undertaking all the steps covered so far, it is essential that we have the needs of the researcher in mind. In many ways, the RCAHMS system and Canmore website help researchers by making them aware of other material related to what they are working on, signposting them as to where to look next. However, it is equally important that both we and the researchers are aware of the limitations of our systems. For example, for the ECMS plates, the locations given on Canmore are unlikely to be the original location of the stone, just the first known one, making the descriptions potentially misleading to the unaware.

Step 6: The final step of the collection journey is to inform potential new researchers and the wider public that we have such a visually engaging and historic collection at RCAHMS, and that is readily accessible for them to access. A further advantage of having this collection fully digitised, and under our own copyright, is that it enables the utilisation of their digital and print form for use in online and print media. RCAHMS regularly produces fantastic publications, talks, tours and exhibitions on a huge range of our archival collections, with these EMS and JB Mackenzie photographs as regular features. The intrigue and amazing detail retained within large scale prints from this collection certainly makes them exhibition/gallery-worthy! [watch out for a future tweet!]

As curatorial skills trainees, we also update the CANMORE ‘browsable’ galleries and regularly provide snapshots from archival collections through @RCAHMS, @SkillsRCAHMS, other twitter feeds and social media platforms. So, you may have heard about this EMS collection and the collaboration with Marta in conservation through the RCAHMS facebook page, seen them crop up in the flickr image of the week, or even heard about ‘the odd masking’ methods on the photographs through @RCAHMSphoto!

@RCAHMSphoto highlighting the collection

@RCAHMSphoto highlighting the collection

The Skills Twitter Feed in Action!

The Skills Twitter Feed in Action

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So the journey is complete and the collection is now accessioned, conserved, catalogued, digitised, on our online database, and promoted as much as possible! We only hope the public will enjoy the photographs as much as we have and choose to access this collection in the future!

By Tom, Holly, John, Gilly, Philip and Gillian.

For more photographs from the collection click for: New digital images gallery or Glass Plate Negatives Gallery.


 

If you have any further questions about this collection or our work as Curatorial Skills Trainees then get in touch by tweeting us: @SkillsRCAHMS and make sure to include #askacurator!

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Update from The David Livingstone Centre

It’s been a busy few weeks here at The David Livingstone Centre with several exciting projects and events taking place. The centre held a ‘Magical May hem’ event which featured several family friendly activities including a Green Man themed one that I ran. This involved encouraging the children to think about the importance of trees to both humans and animals and linking this to the close connection to nature that Pagans have had for centuries gone by. They were then tasked to create their own green man (or woman!) using natural materials and clay.

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Last week I was lucky enough to view the DLC archives with our volunteer curator, Ann who looks after the cataloguing and conservation of materials held on site. It was impressive to see the wide variety of content ranging from spears and other traditional African specimens, to more out of the ordinary items such as an umbrella stand made from an elephants foot through to the library which features texts from the time that Livingstone was here as a boy. It was great to be able to study some of the boxes with items of particular interest including the shirt that Livingstone wore when he met Stanley and the various letters written in honour of Livingstone’s discoveries.

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Last week also saw the delivery of a programme called ‘Livingstone’s Lifepaths’ which is run in conjunction with the chaplaincy teams from two local high schools. This week long event involved different classes visiting each day to take part in a variety of activities which were designed to encourage links to be made between the life that Livingstone led and the life decisions that he had to make. Links were also made between the young people’s life path choices and the decisions that Livingstone had to make in order to inform his own destiny.

Time was also provided for reflective thinking as well as creating a programme that would feature activities to challenge the young people both mentally and physically through the medium of teambuilding tasks. One such reflective activity involved the young people being tasked with noting down one thing they would like to change in their lifetime, one thing they’d like to discover and one thing they’d like to tell people. We had some profound responses as well as the more humorous ones including wanting to discover a flying car!

A project that we have been running this week is an archaeological dig focussing on the area where we believe the mill managers’ house stood. By using maps from different dates, the NTS archaeologists have been able to overlay the location of the house on a plan which shows that it was located where the children’s play area now stands. After scanning for service cables and ensuring the area was safe to dig, we positioned two small pits in the flower bed (we asked first!) adjoining the play area.

Working with a different group each day, we found some interesting items including a small silver broach, a variety of coins, a few keys and some lovely pottery. During the week, we worked with staff and volunteers here at DLC, The Criminal Justice Service team and young people from our very own Work it Out Team. The young people on this scheme are learning horticultural skills whilst working in the grounds here at DLC and have found many items whilst carrying out their duties. Their involvement in the dig this week has meant that they have been able to locate some more finds as well as identifying and contextualising some of their earlier finds through the use of maps and photographs.

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The finds from this dig will be processed in preparation for Blantyre Village Gala Day on the 21st June where I will be interpreting them to the public through hands on activities. We had much interest from members of the public during the dig and hope to explore the potential for carrying out a community wide dig on site at DLC in the future. This week has also proved useful in terms of my assessment of the scope of the site for outdoor learning and an analysis of this week’s project will feature in the strategy that I am working on.

Over the next few weeks, I will be assisting with the Outdoor Learning Event at Holyrood Park, running some Landscape Heritage themed guided walks and a stall interpreting our archaeological finds at the Blantyre Village Gala Day in conjunction with our funding partner from ERZ and planning and preparing for my two main events in July. These are a day project with Columba 1400 and a four day part residential project with a group from Liber8 who are working towards their John Muir Discovery Award.

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New Lanark and the European Route of Industrial Heritage

On Monday I attended the European Route of Industrial Heritage (ERIH) summer conference in New Lanark. Industrial history, and the political and social factors associated with it, has long been an interest of mine and one that I was keen to further here at RCAHMS, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to go to the conference and learn more about the efforts been made to raise the profile of our industrial past.

 

New Lanark

The Mills of New Lanark as drawn by Robert Scott in 1799 (c) Scran

The Mills of New Lanark as drawn by Robert Scott in 1799 (c) Scran

The ex-cotton mill town of New Lanark was the ideal location for such a conference as it acts as a standing reminder of both the importance and potential of industrial heritage. New Lanark is one of five UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Scotland and the only one that is solely concerned with the country’s modern history. The mill was founded by Stewarton born David Dale in 1785, in partnership with early industrial entrepreneur Richard Arkwright. Alongside the mills themselves Dale built a village to house its workers.

New Lanark is perhaps best known for its time under Dale’s successor and son-in-law, the visionary utopian socialist Robert Owen, who took over management in 1800. Owen used the village as a social experiment to show that you can make profit without degrading your workforce. He opened a school which all children attended, the working day was cut to ten hours and

Robert Owen, drawn by Mary Ann Knight c.1799 (c) Scran

Robert Owen, drawn by Mary Ann Knight c.1799 (c) Scran

there was even a crèche to help working mothers by 1816. Owen left in 1825 to found the Utopian settlement of New Harmony, Indiana, but the mill continued in production until 1968. Following years of dereliction the town was refurbished, with a hotel in one mill, a visitors’ centre in another and many of the houses rented on a not-for-profit basis. The staff present at the conference were keen to stress that New Lanark was not a Museum but something that was true to Owen’s aims of a site  ‘born of a spirit of enterprise allied to a vision for a better and fairer society’. A living, working site providing local employment and education, not just a monument to the past.

 

ERIH

The ERIH conference itself looked at how a Scottish Route of Industrial Heritage could help to make more of Scotland’s industrial landmarks as attractive for tourists as New Lanark. ERIH was set up with help from the European Commission to promote the wealth of industrial heritage across Europe and currently has 1000 member sites in 43 countries. More recently, regional routes have been set up within ERIH to help industrial sites in smaller regions work together to attract more visitors; the idea was tried in South Wales with initial success before tailing off. It was suggested that, despite Scotland’s lead role in the industrial revolution and the fact that industry dominated the lives of millions of people for almost two centuries, industry still plays a very distant second fiddle to castles and ancient monuments in Scottish Heritage, and this need not be the case.

Newtongrange Colliery before its conversion into the National Mining Museum, one of the key sites in Scotland's industrial heritage (c) RCAHMS

Newtongrange Colliery before its conversion into the National Mining Museum, one of the key sites in Scotland’s industrial heritage (c) RCAHMS

It was agreed that the potential for Scotland’s industrial heritage to be central not just to its heritage sector but to its identity is huge but for many a regional route covering the whole of Scotland is not the answer. Scotland’s size and the remoteness of some areas was one issue as was the wide range of industries across the country.

Industrial history seems to be harder to sell than romantic visions of castles and the ‘olden days’. Perhaps it is too recent and brings back bad memories for some. Perhaps it lacks the stereotypical beauty and is seen as a blight on the landscape. Perhaps it is just too dirty. Or perhaps the industrial heritage bodies are yet to find a way to market their sites as effectively as other monuments. However, groups like ERIH, and more global organisations such as the International Committee for the Conservation of Industrial Heritage (TICCIH) are important vehicles for sharing ideas about how to unleash the potential of this area in the future and educate people of the importance of industry in their ancestors’, their country’s and the modern world’s history.

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A day out at the HVOS conference

Rob Jackson deleivered the keynote speech and one of the workshops

Rob Jackson delivered the keynote speech and one of the workshops. Photograph (c) HVOS.

Last week, the four collections trainees who were not on placement attended the Heritage Volunteer Organisers Scotland (HVOS) symposium, ‘Managing Volunteers Successfully in the Heritage Sector’.  The symposium addressed a range of issues surrounding contemporary issues in volunteer management, and was attended by volunteer managers from various national and local museums and organisations as well as other trainees and interns.

After a cup of tea and some pastries, a welcome talk was followed by a short presentation on volunteering projects in the heritage sector based around the Commonwealth Games, in which the potential of the games to inspire people not usually reached by volunteering in areas other than sport was shown.

Throughout the day  volunteer management consultant Rob Jackson was on hand to provide expert advice, and started his day with the keynote speech addressing  the topic of ‘understanding and engaging 21st century volunteers’. Jackson brought up some thought provoking points about the nature of volunteering and volunteers in the modern day and how the sector must adapt to change and become more flexible if it is to avoid a shortfall of volunteers in the next decade or so. He set out a convincing theory of how different generations approach volunteering. The point he made about younger generations coming to resent volunteering as they feel forced to do it to get a job was an important one and one that resonated in many of our experiences.

The symposium ended with a panel discussion

The symposium ended with a panel discussion. Photograph (c) HVOS

 

The middle of the day was taken up by workshops on a range of topics, all of which we attended between us.

Rob Jackson also ran one of the workshops, entitled ‘Generating Positive Working Relationships between Staff and Volunteers’.  During this session we were encouraged to talk in groups about a number of questions including; ‘Even if you had all the money in the world, would you still involve volunteers in your organisation?’ The answer of course was a resounding yes and it was great to hear directly from heritage professionals how important volunteers were to their organisations and the benefits that they can bring.

Another of the workshops we attended in the morning introduced us to the HVOS Toolkit, a guide to managing volunteers which was created by the organisation. The workshop involved interesting group discussions about specific aspects of the toolkit, including legal issues such as volunteer age restrictions, and ideas for how to maximise the two-way benefit of having volunteers.

A delicious cake was made to celebrate HVOS' 10th Anniversary

A delicious cake was made to celebrate HVOS’ 10th Anniversary. Photograph (c) HVOS.

A theme that ran through the conference was the changing nature of volunteering and, as in all sectors; social media has become an essential part of volunteer management over the last decade, becoming particularly important in encouraging young people to volunteer.  The ‘using social media’ workshop looked at how organisations (including RCAHMS, which were described as ‘light-years ahead’ of many other organisations in this area) have used social media and crowd sourcing effectively to assist with projects and promote themselves, and how to keep up in the fast changing world.

In the afternoon we attended a workshop on volunteering and legal issues.  The workshop covered volunteer’s rights and outlined the distinction between a volunteer and an employee.  It was interesting to examine case studies where organisations had been taken to court by people who deemed themselves as employees, whilst the organisation viewed them as volunteers. It highlighted the importance of volunteer agreements and being aware of the legal side of managing volunteers, which will be useful for our future careers if we become involved in volunteer management.

The symposium concluded with a panel discussion from which we picked up much invaluable information on volunteer management. The day was topped off by a reception to celebrate ten years of HVOS with some lovely cake and (non-alcoholic) fizz provided.

The trainees all learnt a great deal about this essential aspect of the heritage sector throughout the day and were thrilled to have had the opportunity to discuss a range of issues with such experienced company

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Critical and Inspiring Workshop on Museological Collections at The University of Stirling

With many of the other Collections Trainees off on their two week placements to different archives, I got to take a slightly different day trip on Friday May 16th to Stirling University for an AHRC workshop entitled: ‘(Mis-) Representing Cultures and Objects: Critical Approaches to Museological Collections.’

I thought it would be good to write a little post summarising my experiences at the workshop, touch upon on how my personal research and experiences at RCAHMS proved useful in workshop discussions, and how discussion outcomes were applicable to the concerns and processes of RCAHMS.

My previous academic interests prior to starting at RCAHMS had been focused on taking a critical approach to the mis-representation of Medieval collections, particularly ‘Islamic’ objects in the West, principally in terms of the loss in understanding of their dual-contextual histories through museum classification and display (or lack of). Since starting at RCAHMS I have truly come to appreciate how such a critical approach is also readily applicable to museums and archives, whose historic collections stem from a wide array of sources and contain a variety of materials, including many of the collections held at RCAHMS.

The workshop was centred around  the PhD topic of Inbal Livne, who undertook a Collaborative Doctoral Award (CDA) between the Department of Critical Religion at The University of Stirling and the National Museums of Scotland, entitled ‘Tibetan Collection in Scottish Museums 1890-1930: A Critical Historiography of Missionary and Military Intent.’ The speakers ranged from those working within Museums and Universities from Edinburgh, Dundee, Liverpool as well as Germany and America, all of whom who had either undertaken research on Tibetan material culture; or for whom the critical study of museum collections and processes is significant to their research; or even those who utilise alternative methods of collaboration to provide new approaches to material culture and language histories.

I thoroughly enjoyed every presentation and particularly those by Inbal Livne, Deborah Sutton and Diana Lange fuelled frantic note-taking on my part and many questions of my past and future research. There were also many inspiring discussions following the sessions which enabled all of the speakers and attendees to put forward their perspectives from each sector.  I was certainly encouraged to delve further into the later biographic history of the objects I am concerned with and feel more confident in my criticism of their display and approach in a museum context. Besides from also learning more about Tibetan Material culture and approaches to military and missionary colonial collections; issues such as digitisation, public access, material display, collection management and dispersal of written/object collections were raised consistently and such that I found able to respond to due to my work at RCAHMS.

Even though few of the collections at RCAHMS were acquired in a colonial context like many the workshop discussed, there are small collections that have come to us with little known provenance, collection history and many that are not entirely related to the role of RCAHMS. On a practical level it became increasingly apparent throughout the day how valid and insightful this form of critical approach to colonial Scottish collections is proving, but how much needed future research is being restricted by a lack of knowledge of and access to collections. Having worked for some time now with the collections at RCAHMS I can only appreciate from the other side quite how difficult and time consuming it is to provide access to even a small amount of material, and certainly how little of the collections held are accessible online due to time and monetary constraints. Nevertheless it was agreed all institutions on a national and local level would do well to work with researchers, on similar projects, as they can aid in filling that knowledge gap of a collection too often restricted by their own resources.

There was also some discussion concerning the benefits of CDA PhD’s and all three participants agreed it was a success in this case. Sadly the reality of a second collaboration occurring at the NMS appeared quite unlikely as it would ultimately depend upon the previous curatorial training of the candidate at the institution. Having undertaken a collaborative dissertation project for my MSc with the NMS last year I witnessed and completely understand the causes of such constraints at the NMS, but only hope these won’t completely prevent such a CDA there in the future. It is worth noting as well that RCAHMS does also have similar CDA opportunities with various universities so keep a look out.

Ultimately the day seemed successful for all and though I had to return to NMS Lates in the evening I am sure dinner proved fruitful for nurturing future collaborations. For me the workshop was certainly a welcome break from my current work, very beneficial to my personal research and shall aid in my future approach to collections as I venture to my placement next week at the National Galleries of Modern Art!

Many thanks must go to the organisers at the University of Stirling, Michael Martin and Rajalakshmi Nadadur Kannan, along with Inbal Livne and all the other speakers and participants for a brilliant day!

For a full break down of the speakers, their presentations, the CDA award and the Critical Religion department at The University of Stirling, do consult the workshops website, http://misrepresentingcultures.wordpress.com/images/.

There is also talk of a publication of presentations in the future and hopefully also Inbal Livne’s PhD, so keep an eye out if the work interests you.

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Historic Scotland Placement: Dunfermline Abbey and Beyond

I have now been on placement with Historic Scotland for over 5 weeks working under the supervision of the Central Region Learning and Development Officer (LDO), Fiona Davidson. Whilst I have had the opportunity to visit a wide range of Historic Scotland properties, the main site of my placement is Dunfermline Abbey and Palace. Born and bred in Dunfermline this has been a wonderful opportunity to get to know my local site better and to get further involved with local heritage, focusing on heritage education.

Dunfermline Abbey. Copyright M.Beattie

Dunfermline Abbey. Image copyright M.Beattie

Door of nave. Image copyright, M.Beattie

Door of nave. Image copyright, M.Beattie

My placement has thus far largely consisted of shadowing various education activities across sites such as Stanley Mills, Aberdour Castle and Dunfermline Abbey. Shadowing (and often helping to set up) these sessions has given me a brilliant insight into the types of education programmes run by Historic Scotland as well as enabling me to learn some of the tricks of the trade for delivering such sessions. I have also had the opportunity to gain some insight into the responsibilities of Fiona’s job as an LDO and two weeks ago I was also given the chance to meet with Jane Gaze, one of the Local Learning Officers based at Melrose in the South region. This was not only useful in terms of learning about her job role, but Jane also developed the Abbey Life handling box (which I am focusing the rest of my placement on), so it was great to hear from her about what she had achieved using this resource and how she would suggest using it.

View of Abbey Nave from refectory window. Copyright Historic Scotland

View of Abbey Nave from refectory window. Image copyright Historic Scotland

In the last few weeks I have also begun to consult with primary schools in  a five mile radius of Dunfermline Abbey in order to try and determine why many are not making use of this free resource right on their doorstep. So far I have created a survey which has been sent out to all primary schools within a five mile radius of Dunfermline, which should hopefully provide us with some valuable feedback. Within the survey I am also offering the opportunity for a free Continuing Personal Development (CPD) session with teachers and a free, facilitated handling box session for classes at the end of June. As part of our placement we are to develop and deliver our own activity and I am choosing to concentrate mine on the Abbey Life Handling Box available at Dunfermline Abbey. Whilst I wait with baited breath for responses to my survey I will be working on content for possible activities which I can deliver using this resource.

Objects from Medieval Abbey Life Handling Box. Image copyright, Historic Scotland.

Objects from Medieval Abbey Life Handling Box. Image copyright, Historic Scotland.

At the beginning of this week I was given the chance to deliver a short Victorian Mill Workers activity at Stanley Mills. I delivered two sessions but as they were only 35 minutes each, this opportunity was the perfect way to ease me in to delivering activities to primary schools classes. I really enjoyed myself and think it was generally well received by my audience (aged 9-10).

So far the placement has been an invaluable insight into the world of heritage education and I am really looking forward to the coming weeks, getting even more involved, delivering activities and promoting developing activities at Dunfermline Abbey.

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Placement at David Livingstone Centre

 

As part of the RCAHMS Skills for the Future traineeship, we Education and Outreach trainees get the opportunity to work with partners in different locations for three months between April and June.  I have just completed my first month working as Outdoor Learning Intern with the National Trust for Scotland based at The David Livingstone Centre, Blantyre.

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I have been carrying out research into Livingstone’s life focussing on the themes of nature and exploration with the aim of identifying ways in which the outdoors can be used as a tool for interpreting the Livingstone story to visitors. I have also had the opportunity to shadow the delivery of educational sessions to school groups which has included their dressing up in lion costumes to fully embrace the story of the lion attack that David suffered in 1844 during his time in Mabotsa.

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In addition, visiting school children have the opportunity to dress in Victorian clothing for a lesson in the old Victorian schoolroom where David himself used to study.  African handling sessions are also held which involve the children using authentic African instruments and learning about traditional dress and jewellery.

During my time at DLC, I will be running several projects which will pilot outdoor learning on site and will feed in to the Outdoor Learning Strategy which I will be producing on completion of my placement. One such project will be working in conjunction with Liber8 (see more info here http://www.liber8.org.uk/index.php/services/youth-1038871841/streetbase-south-908120299) on the delivery of a John Muir Discovery Award with a group of young people.  This will require them to meet several challenges including Discovering, Exploring and Conserving a place as well as Sharing their experiences with others.

I will also be involved in working with a group of young people from an organisation called Columba 1400 (see more info here http://www.columba1400.com/what-we-do/overview/overview) and I will be devising outdoor learning activities which will enable them to further develop their understanding of the Livingstone story.

We have an exciting archaeological project coming up at the centre which will entail excavating a section of ground close to where the mill manager’s house once stood.  I will be particularly involved in the outreach aspect of this project, considering the way in which we can involve groups such as our Liber8 young people in this and how best to interpret the dig to the general public at Blantyre Gala Day in June.

It has been a very busy few weeks and I look forward to updating you on these projects over the next few weeks.

 

 

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