The HTA offices: Photos, limericks and a mysterious key

As mentioned in a previous post, the majority of the Harris Tweed Authority (HTA) archive material was transferred to Tasglann nan Eilean in 2012. However, there is still some material of interest at the HTA offices, and two weeks ago I spent some time there having a look at it.

The walls of the HTA offices decorated with Ian Lawson photographs

The walls of the HTA offices decorated with Ian Lawson photographs

The HTA offices are located in Stornoway Town Hall, a beautiful building which also houses Stornoway Historical Society and a number of council (Comhairle nan Eilean Siar) services, as well as being used for public events. As you might expect, they’re full of Harris Tweed furniture, and newly decorated with colourful images from photographer Ian Lawson’s book From the Land Comes the Cloth.

I found that the material still being stored with the HTA tended to be more promotional in nature, and therefore more visually exciting, than a lot of the legal and brand protection paperwork that has already been transferred to the Tasglann. There were even modern Harris Tweed samples, such as the cloth produced for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Boxes of records in the HTA offices

Boxes of records in the HTA offices

There are a wide variety of photos, many of which are in the form of transparencies – photographic images on film that can be viewed when held up to the light. Though undated, a lot of these feature fashion shoots of models wearing Harris Tweed clothing, with distinctly 80s and 90s appearances! There are also images of mills and weavers, whom it would be good to be able to identify in the course of the cataloguing project.

In terms of complete advertising or promotional material, there are items originating from the HTA themselves, as well as leaflets and brochures generated by producers of Harris Tweed clothing and other products. There are a number of free-standing brightly coloured HTA signs that could have been used in premises selling Harris Tweed products. Other items are more informative, such as leaflets explaining the origins of Harris Tweed, or showing examples of designs for garments made from the cloth. A different type of promotion took the form of a competition, with fairly generous terms – a Harris Tweed cap was awarded to the writers of the five best Harris Tweed-based limericks each month!

HTA leaflets promoting Harris Tweed

HTA leaflets promoting Harris Tweed

The many folders of press cuttings at the HTA demonstrate what a popular subject Harris Tweed – the cloth and the industry in general – has long been with the wider public. These folders exist from the 1970s up to the late 2000s, but have now given way to the inevitable sea of online articles. More evidence of the popularity of Harris Tweed as a subject comes from the examples of college and university work I found; for instance a project titled Wool and Weaving, including stuck-in pieces of real wool!

Older material includes a list of weavers organised by township, originally written in the 1930s, but updated in the 1950s. The most mysterious find is also one of the oldest – a tobacco tin containing a large metal key, along with a notebook recording the stamping of handspun Harris Tweed between 1939 and 1945. Who knows if the lock that fits this key still exists?!

Tobacco tin containing a notebook and a key

Tobacco tin containing a notebook and a key

Much of the material mentioned above will be transferred to the Tasglann in the next few months to join the many boxes of papers already here, and be incorporated into the collection – by the end of the year it should be searchable in an online catalogue.

 

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What’s in the Harris Tweed Authority archive?

Shockingly, I’ve already been here at Tasglann nan Eilean for six weeks! Time is rushing by. After researching the history and context of Harris Tweed and the Harris Tweed Authority, as I mentioned in my previous blog post, I’ve begun actually looking at the archive material! This was an exciting step, and one which meant that I could start to get a feel for what types of records are in the collection. Today I thought I’d give you a brief overview of what I’ve found so far.

One of the main roles of the Harris Tweed Authority (HTA) is to safeguard the Harris Tweed trademark, and this is reflected in the archive, with a great deal of correspondence on legal issues. The correspondence covers letters to and from solicitors and patent agents, as well as agents in various countries around the world reporting back on fraudulent Harris Tweed advertising. You may have seen a recent news story talking about how the HTA has appointed a company to monitor online sales of Harris Tweed (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-39627877) – this is just an extension of what has been happening for years in the physical realm. There is also correspondence with those accused of misrepresenting the product, with an example penalty being paying for a large advertisement in a popular newspaper stating the true definition of Harris Tweed.

There is also correspondence relating to the passing of the Harris Tweed Act. This took place in 1993, and caused the Harris Tweed Association to become the Harris Tweed Authority. More significantly, it set the definition of Harris Tweed down in law, as being ‘Handwoven by the islanders at their homes in the Outer Hebrides, finished in the Outer Hebrides, and made from pure virgin wool dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides’. This gives Harris Tweed more protection than the trademark did previously.

Papers relating to the development and introduction of the Bonas Griffiths double width loom

Papers relating to the development and introduction of the Bonas Griffiths double width loom

Another key turning point in the history of the Harris Tweed industry, the introduction of the double width loom, is also well-represented. This occurred around the same time as the Harris Tweed Act was passed, but, as is shown in the archive, was being discussed much earlier. The older, single width Hattersley loom was originally brought in in the 1920s, and by the 1970s it has become difficult to find replacement parts, as well as requiring a lot of manual effort to use. There was also a great deal of demand in the garment market for double width cloth – c.150cm wide rather than the c.75cm produced by the Hattersley loom. After much debate, production of prototypes, running of training, and arrangement of loans for weavers to purchase the new equipment (all of which is evidenced in the archive), the Bonas Griffiths double width loom began to be used in the mid-1990s – though there are still some weavers using the single width Hattersley loom today.

A Harris Tweed Association ledger

A Harris Tweed Association ledger

In addition to the correspondence mentioned above, there are a number of fascinating volumes included in the archive, some of which date back almost to the founding of the Harris Tweed Association (1909). These volumes variously contain accounts, minutes, and even stamping logs – lists of how much cloth was produced by each weaver each month, and stamped by the Harris Tweed Association inspector. They would likely be especially valuable to anyone researching the Harris Tweed industry, or a particular weaver, so it will be great to have them catalogued.

This is just a taste of the type of records to be found in the Harris Tweed Authority archive. Later blog posts will focus on specific subjects or groups of records in more detail, so look out for those. In the meantime, follow the @HTAarchive Twitter account for daily Harris Tweed-based updates, images, and links!

Harris Tweed Association ledger showing expenses from July 1911 to January 1913

Harris Tweed Association ledger showing expenses from July 1911 to January 1913

 

 

 

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Conserving archives at the Tasglann by Shona

A few weeks ago, I got the opportunity to spend some time with our Conservator, Jane Hamill, who showed me some of the tricks of her trade and how to conserve some archive material. We decided to work on the Harris Tweed Authority folders that needed cleaning before they get catalogued.

Wearing our safety gear and writing condition reports with Jane, our Conservator

Wearing our safety gear and writing condition reports with Jane, our Conservator

The condition of some of the records, when they are arrive, can be pretty poor but after some conservation work, it is always surprising what a difference this can make. For me, I find conservation work fascinating because it involves using your hands – very steady hands at times in order to do the work. As a creative person, doing something practical also makes the work interesting.

In order to carry out the work, I had to get my safety gear on, white dust coat, mask, gloves and safety boots as we were dealing with mould.

Weaving slips humidifying on blotting paper

Weaving slips humidifying on blotting paper

Museum nan Eilean have a special lab where the conservation work takes place. This is separate from the main museum and is part of the museum store and up until now, I hadn’t had a chance to explore what was in there. I always feel like an adventurer entering a jungle when I enter Museum stores, never knowing what you are going to find!

Anyway, back to the conservation work in the lab, we started off cleaning folders of paper. One folder was covered in mould and before we could do anything we had to write a condition report on the item and take a before photo in the ‘studio’, the studio being a table with a grey covering, lights, ruler and a camera on a tripod.

Jane working in the lab with the weaving slips and the smoke sponge

Jane working in the lab with the vacuum and the smoke sponge is top right, just above the weaving slip on the table

Then the item was taken back into the lab to be actually cleaned. In order to clean it, we used a small vacuum and then a smoke sponge to gently lift the mould. Just doing this made a difference and lifted a lot of mould and dirt off the paper. But it wasn’t enough for a small number of weaving slips that needed cleaning too. These slips were used for taking down orders and then put on a nail peg so all of them have a hole in the middle and lots of folds and creases.

We cleaned them up with the smoke sponge before humidifying them, soaking a sheet of blotting paper and putting the weaving slips in between. There were layers of other types of fabric/fibre type sheets involved too. With the weaving slips left to dry between the blotting papers and weights on top we did more paperwork and took more photographs.

Weaving slips on blotting paper

Before humidifying the weaving slips on blotting paper

After half an hour or so, we lifted the blotting paper to see how the slips got on. What a difference!

Three weaving slips stuck together

Three weaving slips stuck together

One weaving slip had three slips stuck together and after humidifying them it was time to separate them. This was the most nervous task I have had to do since becoming a trainee! Using a special tool, I was able to lift the slip free from each other.

Close of Shona freeing the three weaving slips that were stuck together

Close up of Shona freeing the three weaving slips that were stuck together

The intricate work of prising apart weaving slips that had stuck together

The intricate work of prising apart weaving slips that had stuck together

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once they were freed, the last slip needed a bit more work done to it as it had been hiding more dirt and mould than we knew. So this slip went off to have a bath in deionised water. Once this slip had been in the bath for a while, we took a PH balance – took me back to my school science days!

A weaving slip taking a bath in deionised water

A weaving slip taking a bath in deionised water

Doing a PH balance on the water after the slip had been washed

Doing a PH balance on the water after the slip had been washed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once it had been cleaned in the bath, we put it on the blotting paper to dry out overnight. We headed back to the archive with the material that was heading back to the archive store, got it in the freezer bags and put them in the freezer so they could be catalogued. My two days of conservation work were over and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks to Jane for taking the time to show me how it’s done!

The last weaving slip getting a bath

The last weaving slip getting a bath

 

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Cataloguing the Harris Tweed industry

Me (Victoria Woodcock, Project Cataloguing Archivist) with some of the Harris Tweed Authority records

Me (Victoria Woodcock, Project Cataloguing Archivist) with some of the Harris Tweed Authority records

Hello! I wanted to write a post for the Tasglann’s blog to introduce myself and the project that I’ll be doing over the next nine months.

I’m Victoria, and I previously worked at the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery – part of the University of Glasgow – where I co-ordinated the move of their records and library into the refurbished Kelvin Hall (http://www.gla.ac.uk/hunterian/about/thehunterianatkelvinhall/). Prior to that, I was employed at the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh and the Geological Society in London, after completing my Masters degree in Archives and Records Management at University College London (UCL) in 2013. My career highlight so far came when I discovered an early version of the first geological map of a nation ever made, dating from 1815, which led to meeting Sir David Attenborough at an event to celebrate its anniversary!

Me with Sir David Attenborough, at the Geological Society of London

Me with Sir David Attenborough, at the Geological Society of London

Two weeks ago I started work here at Tasglann nan Eilean at Lews Castle on the Harris Tweed Authority archive project. This is being funded by the National Cataloguing Grants Programme, which is a scheme run by The National Archives awarding money to archives around the UK to catalogue specific collections of records. Tasglann nan Eilean is one of eight archives to receive funding in this round of the Programme (the full list of projects can be found here: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/archives-sector/finding-funding/cataloguing-grants-programme/successful-applicants/).

In the next nine months I’m going to be working with records relating to the Harris Tweed industry since the formation of the Harris Tweed Association in 1909 – and possibly even earlier. In 2012, during the original Tasglann nan Eilean Siar project, the Harris Tweed Authority (which replaced the Harris Tweed Association in 1993) donated a large collection of records to the archive. There are over 20 boxes of material, but at the moment it is not easily accessible. There is a rough list of what is in each box, but it’s not organised, and it would be difficult for a researcher to know where to start. I will be going through these records to find out exactly what’s there, deciding what should be kept, and eventually producing an online catalogue.

What’s more, I will also be arranging the transfer of Harris Tweed Authority records currently held at the Highland Archive Centre in Inverness. The majority of this material relates to a large court case that took place in the early 1960s, which debated whether a group of tweed manufacturers were entitled to call the cloth they were producing Harris Tweed, when it was only the weaving part of the production process that was taking place in the Outer Hebrides. The Western Isles didn’t have an archive service in the 1990s when Highland Archives acquired these records, but now Tasglann nan Eilean exists, it’s possible to reunite this material with other Harris Tweed-related items, store it all in appropriate conditions, and make it available to researchers.

Sample book at the Harris Tweed Authority offices in Stornoway Town Hall

Sample book at the Harris Tweed Authority offices in Stornoway Town Hall

In my first few weeks I’ve been having a look at the lists of records that already exist, as well as researching Harris Tweed and the history of the industry. I’ve mainly been reading Francis Thompson’s Harris Tweed: The Story of a Hebridean Industry and the more recent The Islanders and the Orb, by Janet Hunter, as well as other books and online material. I’ve also paid a visit to the Harris Tweed Authority offices in the Town Hall, which was a great opportunity to see what records are there, as well as checking out their beautiful Harris Tweed furniture!

I’m looking forward to really getting to grips with the Harris Tweed records, and working on a subject so integral to the islands, and significant to a lot of people’s family history. I also can’t wait to get out and about and explore the Western Isles at weekends. I’ll be keeping everyone updated on the project via regular posts on this blog, so look out for more news soon!

 

 

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The Official opening of the Lews Castle Museum and Archive

This month has been a fantastic month for the archive and has been full of energy. We had the official opening of the Lews Castle, Museum and Archive at the beginning of the month and it included a visit from the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.

Archive team with the First Minister on the day of the opening.

Archive team with the First Minister on the day of the opening.

During her visit to the archive, we displayed some of our most interesting collections that included:

  • A Barvas Rent ledger from 1854 -1867, one of the oldest items within the archive
  • The Minute Book of the Lewis District Committee from 1916-1920 which shows the first woman elected in 1919 to serve in local government in the Outer Hebrides, just a year after women over 30 were given the right to vote in 1918
  • And a Hudson Bay Contract from 1870 between the company and Malcolm MacDonald.
Seonaid Mc Donald, archivist, showing the First Minister the Lewis District Committee Minute Book from 1916

Seonaid Mc Donald, archivist, showing the First Minister the Lewis District Committee Minute Book from 1916

Each item has fascinating information held within and interesting stories to tell. They tell us a lot about how people lived from 1850-1920 and it is this era that is covered the most by the archive.

Shona MacLellan, trainee archivist, showing the First Minister the Hudson Bay Contract

Shona MacLellan, trainee archivist, showing the First Minister the Hudson Bay Contract

If anyone wants to do any research, and we mean anyone, the archive located in Lews Castle, Stornoway is open between 09:30 – 17:00 Monday to Friday, just call us on 01851 822750 to make an appointment and you too can see the items that the First Minister has seen.

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150 years of the Public Health Act 1867

150 years of the Public Health Scotland Act 1867

Public Health Scotland Act 1867

Public Health Scotland Act 1867

To commemorate 150 years since the Public Health Scotland Act of 1867, the Tasglann has been busy researching what this meant for the Western Isles. To coincide with the First Minister’s visit to officially open the Museum & Tasglann nan Eilean, we have put together a small exhibition in the archive.

The Public Health Scotland Act meant a lot of changes for the islanders that included making conditions better and reducing the impact of infectious diseases as well as building hospitals, new housing and bringing in doctors and district nurses. All of this meant big changes.

Regulation stipulating the cleaning of school slates for hygiene purposes.

Regulation stipulating the cleaning of school slates for hygiene purposes.

Some of the highlights of our collection include a Cleansing register that schools used to register the cleaning regimes within the school to help reduce the spread of infections and diseases. In the instructions it mentions how the slates that children used needed to be cleaned daily due to sharing of slates and children licking slates. We have a slate and some chalk on display along with the cleansing register that came from Tighgarry School in North Uist.

During our research we also found some interesting letters sent by Stornoway’s Cleansing committee to the Sanitary Inspector. Reading about the conditions and what was done at the time to improve the situation was fascinating but also very sad. Schools closed due to outbreaks of diseases like typhoid, scarlet fever and tuberculosis.

Detail of Lewis District Committee Council Minute book stating 3335 houses defective

Detail of Lewis District Committee Council Minute book stating 3335 houses defective

In one minute book, the conditions of the island was described as being so bad that 3335 houses in Lewis alone were inhabitable. It was because of this that the Board of Agriculture decided to provide grants for new housing to be built in the 1920’s.

I think it is fair to say that the Public Health Scotland Act of 1867, did a lot to help improve the conditions of the Western Isles. It may have been a long process but it has helped shape the islands to what they are today.

If you are passing Tasglann nan Eilean anytime soon, pop in and take a look at the display. We hope you enjoy finding out more about Public Health.

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Na Comainn Eachdraidh / The Local Historical Societies

Beurla gu h-iosal / English is below

Seachdain eile seachad agus cha mhòr deireadh a’ mhìos cuideachd! Doirbh a chreidsinn gu bheil an darna leth dhen bhliadhna agam aig an Tasglann air a dhol seachad mu thràth ach tha gu leòr agam ri dhèanamh ron Lùnastal.

Mar phàirt den seirbheis a tha an tasglann a’ toirt seachad, bi sinn gu math tric a’ tadhal air buidhnean ionadail, na Comainn Eachdraidh, airson comhairle, taic agus fiosrachadh a thoirt seachad. An t-seachdainsa, chaidh mi fhèin is Seonaid sìos dhan na Hearadh, dhan t-Ob airson coinneachadh ris an Comann Eachdraidh is ùra anns na h-Eileanan an Iar. Tha seo a’ leantail air a’ chuspair air an robh mi a’ bruidhinn air an t-seachdain sa chaidh – Fo-ruigheachd neo Outreach.

Tha dùil aig Comann Eachdraidh Cheann a Deas na Hearadh taigh-tasgaidh fhosgladh ann am pàirt den t-seann sgoil an t-Ob. Tha e cudromach coinneachadh le buidhnean mar seo agus taic a thoirt dhaibh, ‘se an aon amas a th’againn air fad, eachdraidh na h-Eileanan a’ ghlèidheadh airson ginealaichean eile.

A bharrachd air a’ bruidhinn air na planaichean aca agus na h-amasan aca, bha gu leòr sgeulachdan aca ri innse mu Ceann a Deas na Hearadh, rud a gheibh sibh cothrom barrachd fhaighinn a-mach mu dheidhinn nuair a tha iad air stuth a’ steidheachadh. Agus bi tasglann coimhearsnachd aca fhèin airson dealbhan agus gnothaichean dhen t-seòrsa sin ann.

Agus ‘se seo an rud a tha mise a’ faicinn a tha cudromach mu dheidhinn na Comainn Eachdraidh anns gach sgìre, gu h-àraidh na bailtean beaga, tha eachraidh iongantach aca ri innse. Mu bha sgoil, eaglais neo togalach mòr eile san sgìre, bi sgeulachdan a’ leantainn na àiteachan sin a tha ag innse tòrr mun choimhearsnachd agus cuideachd ag innse gu leòr mun choimhearsnachd an latha an-diugh.

Abair latha a bh’ againn airson tadhal air na Hearadh, ged a bha gaoth is uisge ann, tha daonnan sealladh àlainn a’ choireigin ann. Tha e doirbh uaireannan siubhail eadar a h-uile eilean is baile a th’anns an h-Eileanan an Iar ach ni sinn oidhirp sin a dhèanamh mu thèid fiathachadh a thoirt dhuinn.

Tha mi an dòchas gun tèid gu math leis an Comann Eachdraidh ùr agus nach bi fad ann gu faigh mi sùil a thoirt air na aca san tasglann!

Abair latha anns na Hearadh air obair. Great day to be in Harris for work!

Abair latha anns na Hearadh airson obair. Great day to be in Harris for work!

Harris 2

 

The Local Historical Societies

The end of another week and almost the end of another month. It’s hard to believe I am half way through my year with the Tasglann already but I have a lot to do before August!

As part of the service the Tasglann provides, we often visit local groups, in particular the Comainn Eachdraidh or historical societies to help support them by providing advice and information. This week myself and Seonaid went to visit the newest historical society in the Western Isles. This follows on from my theme last week about Outreach. The local historical societies are very much part of our Outreach activities to tell them more about archives and the service we provide.

Comann Eachdraidh Cheann a Deas na Hearadh (South Harris Historical Society) hope to create a local museum within the old school. It’s important for us to meet with historical societies and to support them. We have the same aim at the end of the day, conserving the local history for future generations.

As well as finding out about the Comann Eachdraidh’s plans, we were told about the special stories that South Harris has to tell, something you will be able to find out about once they are up and running. They also hope to have a community archive with photos that you will be able to browse through.

And this is why I think the Comainn Eachdraidh are important, each one in each area has a unique history to tell. If there is a church, a school, a port or some other big building within the area, there will be stories in those buildings and more often than not , a history that shaped the community as it is today.

We had such a fantastic day visiting Harris, even though there was wind and rain, the views were still amazing. It might be a challenge at times to travel to different areas of the islands but I always find that the effort is worth it.

I wish Comann Eachdraidh Ceann a Deas na Hearadh well and hope it won’t be long before I get to visit their new premises.

Please note: Comann Eachraidh = (singular) one historical society, Comainn Eachdraidh = (plural) historical societies

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Fo-Ruigheachd / Outreach

Beurla gu h-iosal / English version below

Fo-ruigheachd

Gu leòr air a bhith a’ tachairt on Nollaig chan eil mi fiùs a’ faighinn an cothrom blog a’ sgrìobhadh! Thoiseach mi a’ dèanamh aon module còmhla ri Oilthigh Dhùn Dè air Fo-ruigheachd neo Outreach mar a chanas iad anns a’ chanan eile.

Agus ‘se sin bu motha a tha mi air a bhith ag obair air thar a’ mhìos a chaidh seachad. A’ tadhal air sgoiltean agus ag innse mun Tasglann agus na gnothaichean a tha ann.

A bharrachd air a’ tadhal air na sgoiltean, tha na sgoiltean air a bhith a’ tadhal oirnn cuideachd. Bha sgoil as a’ Rubha againn agus buidheann bho Sgoil Mhic Neacail a’ toirt sùil air an stòr agus a’ coimhead air leabhraichean agus stuth a’ buntainn leis an Iolaire.

Gaelic Careers Day at the Nicolson Institute

Gaelic Careers Day at the Nicolson Institute

An t-seachdain sa chaidh bha La Dreuchdan Gàidhlig aig Sgoil Mhic Neacail agus thug iad dhomh fiathachadh a dhol agus innse dhuibh mu na cothroman a th’ann a thaobh na Gàidhlig. Thug mi leum rudan inntinneach a thaobh an sgoil agus Steòrnabhagh cuideachd airson barrachd innse mun Tasglann.

Chi sibh gu h-ìosal gu robh an sgoil luach £50 ann an 1917.

Stornoway Valuation Roll 1916-1917

Stornoway Valuation Roll 1916-1917

Agus an t-seachdain sa, chaidh sin gu Sgoil Sir E Scott anns an Tairbeart airson beagan innse dhaibh mun Tasglann agus thug mi leum mapaichean agus dealbhan a’ buntainn ri Ceann a Deas agus Ceann na Tuath na Hearadh a bharrachd air leabhar Sgoile bhon sgoil ann an Scarp.

Tha sinn fhathast ag obrachadh a-mach de tha ag obrachadh agus de tha a’ còrdadh ri sgoilearan a’ toirt sùil air ach tha dùil againn tuilleadh a dhèanamh leis na sgoiltean agus ga sgaoileadh gu diofar eileanan.

Ach tha an obair seo air a bhith feumail dhomhsa a thaobh an obair a tha agam ri dhèanamh airson an Oilthigh. Tha mi a’ cur ann an gnìomh an stuth a tha mi ag ionnsachadh, rud a tha mi cinnteach a ni feum dhomhsa agus an Tasglann.

Outreach

So much has been going on since Christmas that I haven’t had the chance to write a blog in a long time. I have started a module with Dundee University on Outreach and Education – an Introduction to Promoting Archives.

And that is pretty much what I have been doing this past month. I have been visiting schools and explaining to them more about archives and some of the material we have here.

As well as visiting schools, the schools have been visiting the archive as well. We had a local primary school from Point visit us and some pupils from the Nicolson Institute who came to see our stores and have a look at some of the archive that we have regarding the Iolaire.

Last week, the Nicolson Institute had a Gaelic Careers Day and I was invited along to explain a bit more about my work, how I use Gaelic and also to explain more about archives and I took a couple of things that included the school with me.

From the Valuation Roll above we can see that the value of the school was £50, 100 years ago.

This week included a visit to Sir E Scott High school in Tarbert, Harris to promote the archives and I showed them a couple of maps and photos related to South and North Harris as well as looking through some of the school log books.

We are working to create some materials for the schools and this is very much a work in progress to see how the pupils enjoy and interact with the archive materials and I hope to expand it to other areas soon.

All these school visits though have been very helpful for me to put theory into practice and I hope that this will not only be useful for me to complete my module but also for the Tasglann.

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Hugging Archives and Christmas

Hugging Archives

This week I wanted to focus on accessioning archives and the processes involved. When a collection has been offered to an archive, a lot of thought, care and attention are required.

Archives need a lot of attention which is why, once a week, I hug the archives. Yes, you did read that right, and it’s not as daft as it sounds!!

Bagged archives, hugged and ready for the archive

Bagged archives, hugged and ready for the archive

 

Before any material enters the archive store, it has to go through quarantine. For us, that means we have to bag the archives into freezer bags, get all the air out and then put them in the freezer which freezes the archives to -40 degrees.

Our quarantine freezer that freezes material up to -40 degrees

Our quarantine freezer that freezes material up to -40 degrees

Now the best way that I’ve found to get all the air out of the bags is to hug them! See, not so daft after all. This is to make sure any beasties don’t have any air to survive should they survive freezing.

Frozen material acclimatising

Frozen material acclimatising

Once the material has been frozen, it is left to acclimatise before being put back into boxes and into our store.

Christmas Display

As well as hugging archives, we have been very busy putting together a small Christmas and New Year display for the festive season until the Old New Year – 12th January.

Thanks to our museum friends we have a few interesting items for our display. The Kenneth MacLeod collection includes a Christmas tobacco tin from 1914, and some other fascinating objects.

The Archive Christmas and New Year Display

The Archive Christmas and New Year Display

Kenneth MacLeod was born on 14 February 1894 in Garenin, Lewis. He was known as ‘Coinneach Fox’. During WW1, he served with the Royal Naval Reserve on HMS Victorian which was an armed merchant cruiser. After being captured, he ended up in an internment camp in Murren, Switzerland due to illness. He later became a minister in the Church of Scotland, Nigg Chapel Hill and retired to Tain.

The collection includes a booklet given to the soldiers by Nestlé and the Anglo Swiss Condensed Milk company for Christmas 1916, exactly 100 years ago. Inside there are scenes of the soldiers who were interred as Prisoners of War in Switzerland.

The Nestlé Booklet given to soldiers at Christmas in 1916

The Nestlé Booklet given to soldiers at Christmas in 1916

A number of postcards are also in the collection. This one shows Kenneth MacLeod sitting on the floor in a seaman’s uniform.

Kenneth MacLeod's Christmas photo postcard from 1916. He is seated in the middle of the front row behind the man lying down.

Kenneth MacLeod’s Christmas photo postcard from 1916. He is seated in the middle of the front row behind the man lying down.

The decorative brass tin was sent by Princess Mary to members of the British, Colonial and Indian Armed Forces for Christmas 1914. The tins were filled with various items including tobacco, confectionery, spices, pencils, a Christmas card and a picture of the Princess.

Kenneth MacLeod's Christmas Tobacco Tin from 1914

Kenneth MacLeod’s Christmas Tobacco Tin from 1914

The idea was the initiative of Princess Mary, the 17 year-old daughter of King George V and Queen Mary. Princess Mary organised a public appeal which raised the funds to ensure that ‘every Sailor afloat and every Soldier at the front’ received a Christmas present.

We have also included a picture Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, Castlebay, which opened on Christmas Eve 1888.

Our Lady Star of the Sea, Castlebay, Barra was opened on Christmas Eve 1888

Our Lady Star of the Sea, Castlebay, Barra was opened on Christmas Eve 1888

In Barra, Eriskay and South Uist the hymn ‘Taladh Chrìosda’ or ‘Taladh ar Slanair’ (Lullaby to Our Saviour) is traditionally sung at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. I found a video on Youtube that is a similar to the one sung in the islands. Check out the video here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaqQ78e9Oag

Traditionally, however, New Year was the more important winter celebration. Festivities often took place on the 12th rather than the 1st of January, based on the old calendar which is why our exhibition will disappear after this date. If you are visiting Lews Castle or museum, pop by and take a look while it is still here.

Shona in her Christmas Jumper and the Archive Christmas and New Year Display

Shona in her Christmas jumper and the Archive Christmas and New Year Display

 

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Tasglann na Gàidhealtachd / Highland Archives

BEURLA GU H-IOSAL / ENGLISH VERSION BELOW

Anns a’ bhlog mu dheireadh agam, bha mi ag innse mun turas agam gu Lunnainn ach mus deach mi gu Lunnainn, fhuair mi cothrom tadhal air Tasglann na Gàidhealtachd airson barrachd fhaighinn a-mach mu na stòran aca.

Tasglann na Gàidhealtachd, the Highland Archives

Tasglann na Gàidhealtachd

Tha 16 ag obair anns an tasglann agus tha obair sònraichte aig gach fear agus tè. Thug Fiona NicLeòid, àrd-tasglannaiche, timcheall an togalach mi, a’ toirt sùil air na seòmraichean rannsachaidh aca, an seòmar-glèidhteachas agus an stòr mhòr aca far a bheil iad a’ cumail an stuth airson a’ mhòr chuid den Ghàidhealtachd. Tha ionadan a bharrachd aca cuideachd ann an Loch Abair, an t-Eilean Sgitheanach agus ann an Gallaibh. Thèid tasglann ùr fhosgladh an ath bhliadhna ge-ta ann an Gallaibh, Ionad Nucleus. Mu tha sibh airson barrachd fhaighinn a-mach mun an t-ionad ùr faic an lionc gu h-ìosal.

https://www.highlifehighland.com/caithness-archive-centre/caithness-archive-centre/uk-nuclear-archive-caithness-archive-centre/

Chòrd a cheilidh rium gu mòr, gu h-àraidh a’ coinneachadh le oileanach a bha ag ionnsachadh obair-gleidhidh a thaobh tasglann. Bha I dìreach air cùrsa a dhèanamh air ciamar a dhèanamh I leabhar, neo ‘book-binding’ agus bha I a’ sealltainn an fheadhainn a thèid am measadh aice fhathast. Cuspair inntinneach agus rud a chòrdadh rium a dhèanamh mi fhèin uaireigin.

Fhad’s a bha mi ann, bha mi a’ cluinntinn ceòl tighinn bho seòmar eile anns an togalach. ‘Se ionad-clàraidh a th’ann cuideachd agus mar sin bi seirbhisean pòsaidh aca ann an seòmar sònraichte. Bha bèibidh beag air tighinn a-staigh airson an clàradh cuideachd.

Agus ann an dòigh, air sailleabh gu bheil Tasglann nan Eilean aig Caisteal Leòdhais bi sinn a’ faicinn gu leòr bainnsean an seo cuideachd!

Là na Gàidhlig

A bharrachd air a seo, bha Là na Gàidhlig ann aig Bun-sgoil Steòrnabhagh an t-seachdain sa chaidh agus chaidh fiathachadh a thoirt dhomh rudeigin a dhèanamh leis a chloinne mu an t-Eilean Mòr neo na Flannan Isles. Thachair rudeigin uabhasach aig an taigh-shòlas ann an 1900 agus chan eil fhios aig duine chun an latha diugh de thachair ach gun deach an triùir a bha ag obair aig an taigh-shòlas, cha robh sealladh sam bith dhuibh. Ged nach eil mòran aig an Tasglann a thaobh na thachair (tha seo aig Tasglann Nàiseanta na h-Alba), rinn sinn beagan rannsachaidh air craobhan teaghlaich agus air sloinneadh.

Pios bhon Leabhar Eachdraidh Croitearan aig Bill Lawson mu Dòmhnall MacArtair

Pios bhon Leabhar Eachdraidh Croitean aig Bill Lawson mu Dòmhnall MacArtair

Fear de na fir a chaidh air chall bhon Taigh-sholais ‘se Dòmhnall MacArtair neo Dòmhnall Calum Sheoc à Breascleit. Thug mi seachad an fiosrachadh mu na croitean agus pìosan a chaidh a’ sgrìobhadh leis an Comainn Eachdraidh Loch Ròg an Ear mun tubaist airson toiseach tòiseachaidh a dhèanamh air an craobh-teaghlaich aig Dòmhnall Calum Sheoc. Tha a chlann ag obair air an còrr agus tha iad a’ dol a thoirt thugam an obair aca ron Nollaig. Tha mi a’ coimhead air adhart ris. Mu tha sibh airson barrachd fhaighinn a-mach mun t-Eilean Mòr faic an làraich lìn gu h-ìosal:

https://www.nlb.org.uk/historical/flannans.htm

THE HIGHLAND ARCHIVES

In my last blog post, I wrote about my trip to London but before I headed there, I got the chance to have a look around the Highland Archive in Inverness.

Tasglann na Gàidhealtachd, the Highland Archives

The Highland Archives

Fiona MacLeod, the senior archivist showed me round the building and introduced me to some of the 16 staff members that work there. We had a look around the reading rooms, family research rooms, the conservation room and the stores that house most of the Highlands archives including some of the Western Isles too. They also have bases in Lochaber, Skye and Caithness with the new Nucleus opening next year. To find out more about the UK Nuclear Archive, check out the link below.

https://www.highlifehighland.com/caithness-archive-centre/caithness-archive-centre/uk-nuclear-archive-caithness-archive-centre/

I really enjoyed my tour of the Highland Archive, especially meeting their student who is training to be an archive conservator. She had just completed a bookbinding course and was showing me her examples that she made which will be going for assessment in the future. It is something I would really like to try myself and learn more about conservation too.

While I was there, I heard music coming from one of the rooms, wedding music! The Highlands Registry Office is located in the same building as the archive. But mind you, we do see our fair share of weddings here at Tasglann Nan Eilean when weddings take place at Lews Castle and plenty babies visit too.

GAELIC DAY

Last week, it was Gaelic Day at Stornoway Primary and I had been asked along to give the children a session in Gaelic based on the Flannan Isles. Although we don’t hold anything on the incident that happened at the Lighthouse in 1900 when 3 men disappeared, I decided to do a session on family trees and patronymics (something that is very prevalent in Gaelic culture even to this day and useful to know when dealing with island family trees).

Extract from Bill Lawson's Croft Histories regarding Donald MacArthur

Extract from Bill Lawson’s Croft Histories regarding Donald MacArthur

We concentrated on Donald MacArthur from Breascleit, one of the men who worked at the lighthouse and went missing. I gave the children some basic information from the croft histories books and some articles kindly provided by the Loch Roag Historical Society. The children will work on the family tree between now and Christmas and will show me their family tree in the New Year. To find out more about the Flannan Isles, I would take a look at the website below:

https://www.nlb.org.uk/historical/flannans.htm

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