Lunastal aig Tasglann nan Eilean le Shona

B’e Dihaoine sa chaidh an latha mu dheireadh aig cuid den luchd-trèanaidh a bha a’ dèanamh bliadhna trèanadh “Skills for the Future”, pròiseact aig Comhairle airson Tasglannan Albannach. Gu fortanach, tha mise air cumhnant nas fhaide fhaighinn agus tha mi a-nis aig an Tasglann chun an Nollaig. ‘S mi a tha taingeil gu bheil.

Tha Samhradh gu math trang air a bhith againn le luchd-rannsachaidh a’ tadhal oirnn, cuairtean dhen Tasglann, fhiolmadh, a’ siubhal, tuilleadh trèanadh agus tuilleadh pròiseactan catalogue.

Calum Angus MacKay filming in the archive for Mac TV / BBC Alba

Calum Angus MacKay filming in the archive for Mac TV / BBC Alba

Air 15mh den Lùnastal, fhuair mi teisteanas airson a bhliadhna a tha mi air a chur seachad a’ trèanadh aig an Tasglann. Bha agam ri taisbeanadh a thoirt seachad air na bha mi air a dhèanamh thairis air a bhliadhna. Bha e cuideachd math cluinntinn bho na luchd-trèanaidh eile air na pròiseactan acasan agus na rinn iad.

Skills for the Future Trainees at the Farewell Event at the NRS, Edinburgh

Skills for the Future Trainees at the Farewell Event at the NRS, Edinburgh

Fhad’s a bha sinn ann an Dun Èideann, thadhal sinn air Sgoil Eòlais na h-Alba airson fhaighinn a-mach barrachd mu na cruinneachan a th’aca a bhiodh feumail airson luchd-rannsachaidh. Thug Cathlin NicAmhlaigh mun cuairt sinn agus tòrr stuth aca bho na h-eileanan eadar notaichean, fuaim agus dealbhan, ‘se tlachd a bh’ ann dhuinn na cruinneachan aca fhaicinn.

Seonaid comhla ri Cathlin aig Sgoil Eolais na h-Alba

Seonaid comhla ri Cathlin aig Sgoil Eolais na h-Alba

Air an aon t-seachdain, bha seisean againn airson luchd-obrach na Comhairle agus buidhnean poblach air PRSA (Public Records Scotland Act 2011). Tha aig gach buidheann poblach plana a’ sgrìobhadh air mar a tha iad a’ riaghladh na clàran aca. Chuala sinn bho Hugh Hagan agus Robert Fotheringham bhon Clàran Nàiseanta na h-Alba mu na bha a dhìth airson plana agus de an stiùireadh a bha ri fhaighinn airson cuideachadh.

Hugh Hagan and Robert Fotheringham from the NRS speaking at an event in Stornoway

Hugh Hagan and Robert Fotheringham from the NRS speaking at an event in Stornoway

Bha oileanaich Gàidhlig againn cuideachd a’ toirt sùil air na bha againn as an taigh-tasgaidh agus an tasglann. Sheall mi dhaibh na cruinneachan Gàidhlig a th’againn. Seo beagan den cruinneachadh aig Sheòrais Chaluim Sheòrais, dealbhan àlainn a rinn e airson an leabhar aige – Muir is Tìr.

George MacLeod's book Muir is Tir. His original notes and drawings are in the Tasglann

George MacLeod’s book Muir is Tir. His original notes and drawings are in the Tasglann

Last Friday was meant to be my last day at Tasglann nan Eilean but luckily for me, the Scottish Council on Archives have extended my traineeship until December. We have had quite a busy summer which has involved many researchers coming to the archive, tours of the archives, filming, travelling, more training and more cataloguing.

On the 15th August, I received my certificate of completion for the year’s training and gave a presentation on what I have achieved over the last year. It was a great day spending time with my fellow trainees and their mentors and to hear of the great projects and achievements that each of us has completed.

My certificate and print of a Gosta Sandberg photo

My certificate and print of a Gosta Sandberg photo

While we were in Edinburgh , we visited the School of Scottish Studies to find out more about their collections especially those that are from or about the Western Isles. We spent a very pleasant morning delving into the notes, sounds and photos within the archive.

Tapes store in the School of Scottish Studies

Tapes store in the School of Scottish Studies

On the same week we held a surgery for Comhairle staff and other public bodies regarding PRSA (that is the Public Records Scotland Act 2011) Each authority has been asked to prepare a plan on how they manage their records and Hugh Hagan and Robert Fotheringham from the National Records of Scotland told us more about how to do this and what guidance is available for authorities.

Seonaid talking to Comhairle staff about PRSA and permanent records in the archive

Seonaid talking to Comhairle staff about PRSA and permanent records held in the archive

We also had UHI Gaelic students come for a Gaelic visit of the Museum and Tasglann. I was able to show them some of our Gaelic collections including George MacLeod who created beautiful drawings for his book Muir is Tìr.

Na notaichean aig Seorais Chaluim Sheorais air an leabhar aig Muir is Tir

Na notaichean aig Seorais Chaluim Sheorais air an leabhar aige Muir is Tir

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Co-labhairt air Tasglannan Coimhearsnachd / Community Archive Conference by Shona

Tha e doirbh a chreidsinn gu bheil mìos ann mu thràth on a bha an co-labhairt againn aig Tasglann nan Eilean. Tha mi airson taing mhòr a thoirt seachad dhan Chomhairle air Tasglannan na h-Alba (Scottish Council on Archives), Maoin Dualchais a’ Chrannchur (Heritage Lottery Fund), Comann airson Tasglannan is Clàraidhean na h-Alba (Archives and Records Association Scotland), Fuaimean na h-Alba, Comunn Eachdraidh Nis agus Gailearaidhean Nàiseanta na h-Alba airson na rinn iad air an latha. Taing cuideachd dhan an fheadhainn a bha an làthair, eadarainn ‘se latha air leth a bh’ ann. Thog mi dealbhan neo dha air an latha fhèin, cuid dhuibh ri fhaighinn air duilleag Facebook againn agus air Twitter.

John Chambers, Chief Executive, Archives and Records Association UK & Ireland

John Chambers, Chief Executive, Archives and Records Association UK & Ireland

Thàinig còrr is 80 duine chun co-labhairt aig Caisteal Leòdhais – rud nach robh sinn an dùil ach gu math toilichte gun d’ thàinig na h-uiread thugainn. Dhomhsa dheth, tha e duilich innse de na rudan a sheas a-mach dhomhsa, bha a h-uile duine a bha a’ bruidhinn math agus na cuspairean inntinneach agus beothail.

Amy McDonald, Engagement & Learning Co-ordinator, Connecting Scotland’s Sounds

Amy McDonald, Engagement & Learning Co-ordinator, Connecting Scotland’s Sounds

Bho faighinn a-mach barrachd mu buidhnean a tha comasach cuideachadh a thoirt seachad do tasglannan coimhearsnachd, na pròiseactan far a bheil na coimhearsnachdan ag obair còmhla ri luchd-proifeiseanta agus a’ toirt an stuth am broinn na tasglann dhan mhòr-shluaigh. Bha fiosrachadh ga thoirt seachad air a’ clàradh agallamhan le daoine, ciamar a tha thu a’ dèiligeadh le stuthan digiteach agus an obair a tha Tasglann nan Eilean fhèin a’ dèanamh.

Seonaid McDonald, Tasglannaiche/ Archivist, Tasglann nan Eilean

Seonaid McDonald, Tasglannaiche/ Archivist, Tasglann nan Eilean

Thug Annie NicSuain seachad òraid air leth mu Comann Eachdraidh Nis agus an tasglann a tha acasan an sin. Air an darna latha, ‘s i Annie a thug air cuairt na riochdairean a bh’ aig an co-labhairt mun cuairt Comann Eachdraidh Nis agus sgìre Nis fhèin. As dèidh lòn, fhuair iad cuairt timcheall Leòdhais agus gu fortanach bha an t-side air fhàs nas fhèarr airson na seallaidhean àlainn an eilean fhaicinn.

Ness Historical Society Archive Room visit

Ness Historical Society Archive Room visit

Feumaidh taing mhòr a thoirt seachad dha Lochs Motors, airson am bus, Comunn Eachdraidh Nis airson an deagh bhiadh a thug iad dhuinn, Iain agus Màiri aig na Gearrannan airson fàilte a chur oirnn agus luchd-obrach aig Caisteal Leòdhais airson an cuideachadh a thug iad dhuinn.

Gearrannan visit

Gearrannan visit

Uair sam bith a tha mi air tìr-mòr, bi mi gu math tric ag innse mu na cruinneachan againn aig an tasglann neo a’ bruidhinn air na h-Eileanan air fad agus tha mi a’ smaointinn as dèidh an co-labhairt nach eil mi ag innse breug nuair a chanas mi gur e na h-Eileanan an t-àite as fhèarr air an t-saoghal!

Community Archive Conference

It’s hard to believe that is has already been a month since our Community Archives conference here aig Tasglann nan Eilean. I would really like to thank all those who made it possible, Scottish Council on Archives, Heritage Lottery Fund, ARA Scotland, Scotland’s Sounds, Ness Historical Society, National Portrait Gallery for all they did on the day. I would also like to thank all those who took the time to attend, we didn’t expect to get over 80 people but we are very glad we did as the delegates made it all worthwhile. I took a few photos which can be seen on our Facebook page and also on our Twitter feed.

Professor Gary West, Director of the European Ethnological Research Centre, University of Edinburgh

Professor Gary West, Director of the European Ethnological Research Centre, University of Edinburgh

It’s hard for me to pick out my best bits from the conference, all the speakers had interesting subjects and were very entertaining. We had speakers talk about how they can help community groups with their archives, heard about projects were the communities were at the heart of projects, and also how archives share their skills and their collections with communities through outreach. We also found out about how to undertake oral history interviews and how to tackle digitisation projects as well as hear about the work that Tasglann nan Eilean are doing.

Inside a black house at Gearrannan

Inside a black house at Gearrannan

Annie MacSween gave a great talk about how Ness Historical Society started and about their work and their archive. Annie also showed the delegates round the Comann Eachdraidh and Ness on day two of the conference. After a fabulous lunch there, we headed to Gearranan where we got a demonstration of weaving on a loom and a look round the black houses. Then we ended our tour at Callanish before saying goodbye to everyone at the airport.

The Skills for the future cohort 3  trainees with Audrey Wilson at Callanish

The Skills for the Future cohort 3 trainees with Audrey Wilson at Callanish

I have to thank Lochs Motors for their patience and their bus, to the team at Comann Eachdraidh Nis for their hospitality, to Iain and Mairi for their welcome at Gearrannan and to the staff at Natural Retreats at Lews Castle for all their help.

When I represent the Tasglann on my trips to the mainland, I will always mention our collections and the Western isles in general. I think after the conference, it is safe to say, that people saw for themselves what a great place the Outer Hebrides are and how the islands are the best place on Earth!

Links to the presentations from the conference are now up on

http://www.scottisharchives.org.uk/projects/sff/tasglannancoimhearsnachd

Each title in the programme has a link to the presentation.

Photos and videos are available on out Facebook page and on Twitter, like us, share links, follow and tweet us:

https://www.facebook.com/tasglann/

https://twitter.com/Tasglann or @tasglann on twitter

Others have also blogged about their trip to the conference, please read what Jennifer Marshall wrote about her trip and Jennifer Lightbody through the links below.

Jennifer Marshall

http://www.stirlingarchives.scot/2017/07/11/community-archives-conference-stornoway-jun-2017/

Jennifer Lightbody

http://www.gsaarchives.net/2017/06/jennifer-lightbody-conservation-cataloguing-community-archives/

 

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Trip to Eriskay, Uist and York

As you can probably tell, I’m just catching up on all that has happened recently. We recently took a trip to Eriskay to continue our mapping of archives throughout the Western Isles. Eriskay Historical Society were gearing up for their ‘On the Rocks’ festival and we prepared a small pop up exhibition for them to display during the festival and for a few weeks of the summer.

Booklet about Fr Allan MacDonald written by John Lorne Campbell given to Donald MacDonald, Tolsta, Lewis, found is his collection of personal papers at the Tasglann

Booklet about Fr Allan MacDonald written by John Lorne Campbell given to Donald MacDonald, Tolsta, Lewis, found is his collection of personal papers at the Tasglann

The exhibition included vintage postcards from the Western Isles Library service collection and extracts from the Eriskay Public School logbooks from 1905 when Fr Allan MacDonald died.

Postcard of Haun, Eriskay looking towards South Uist, part of the Western Isles Library postcard collection

Postcard of Haun, Eriskay looking towards South Uist, part of the Western Isles Library postcard collection

Isle of Eriskay

This was my first pop up exhibition and I used digital reproductions of the postcards so the public could see them but it also means the originals are kept safe from light, dirt and handling. It might not be the same as seeing the real thing but the originals are too rare and fragile to have on a display that doesn’t have the right environment controls such as lighting, temperature and humidity.

Beinn mhoir, Helca and Corrodail, South Uist

Beinn mhoir, Helca and Corrodail, South Uist

After setting up the exhibition, I had to travel all the way from Uist to York in England. It was a long trip but well worth it. I arrived during their heatwave and found myself in 27 degree heat which I am not used to. Luckily the weather changed and it got a bit cooler.

Blue skies above Clifford Tower,  York

Blue skies above Clifford Tower, York

The first day of training was Archival Description, all about learning how to catalogue a collection. Some might think that there is no system to cataloguing and that you just list everything you find in a box but it’s not as simple as that. You learn first of all about the fonds, the root of the collections. In most cases the organisation or individual that created the collection. Then you learn to identify the series of records under the fonds and then the records types that fall under that category. The other thing you learn also is to not disturb the order the collection comes to you. There may be a reason why it is in a certain order. Other times it might be a jumble but it is only then that an archivist might try to organise the material so that they can catalogue it.

How to describe archives, taken from the handbook of the training course from The Archive Skills Consultancy

How to describe archives, taken from the handbook of the training course from The Archive Skills Consultancy

Why do we catalogue? This is for the end users, our researchers, whoever turns up on at the archive looking for an answer to a question. Through cataloguing we can help find the answer to that question or at least know the source of where the answer might come from. We are currently dealing with 30 enquiries a month which require a fair amount of research and a good catalogue can limit the time it takes to find the answer. So this training is extremely useful as part of my work at the Tasglann.

After day one, I took a walk around historic York. The city is full of history and an amazing award-winning high street. Below are just some of the sights I saw.

York Minster

York Minster

Tudor buildings in York high street

Tudor buildings in York high street

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second day of training involved the ‘Building Blocks of Records Management’. Records Management is the step before archives. In this day and age, we create so many records of different types and now they are not only paper based but digital too. How do you manage it all so you only keep what is relevant and destroy or delete what isn’t? Learning about this step has been useful in knowing what should come to an archive, especially a local authority archive once the use of the record is finished.

My notes on the life-cycle of a record, what happens when the record dies, is it for the archive or for disposal?

My notes on the life-cycle of a record, what happens when the record dies, is it for the archive or for disposal?

The last 9 months as a trainee has been an amazing opportunity, learning, and training, gaining new skills, knowledge and experience. Time is marching on and I have a only two months left of my traineeship and I hope to continue on my path to become an archivist. The training I have received will definitely help me with that.

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Springtime in the Archive by Shona

It’s been two months since my last blog post so apologies if this ends up being a rather long post. As soon as the days started getting longer, there seemed to be more to do and certainly more travelling to be done.

Back at the end of April, I travelled to Edinburgh to visit the Royal College of Surgeons archive. This was a completely fascinating archive and our guide, Jacqueline Cahif showed us some of her favourite collections.

Trainees at Royal College of Surgeons Archive

Trainees at Royal College of Surgeons Archive

The collections vary from students who attended the college to the surgeons and lecturers themselves. I had a couple of favourites in amongst what was showcased. Letters sent to a Mr Joseph Bell from the famous Florence Nightingale and also one from Arthur Conan Doyle.

Having researched Public Health recently for our exhibition, I had an interest in learning more about the advances of medicine and in particular how nursing developed through Florence Nightingale. Visiting the archive gave me more background knowledge to how nursing progressed in Scotland.

Letter from Florence Nightingale to Mr Joseph Bell

Letter from Florence Nightingale to Mr Joseph Bell

Florence’s letter to Mr Bell thanking him for all he had done in raising the cause for trained nursing was really interesting and inspired me to find out more about nursing and in particular, district nursing. I shall go into more detail about district nursing more in a later blog post.

The second letter from Arthur Conan Doyle , who was a student of Mr Bell and had been training to be a surgeon but decided it was not for him says he based his character Sherlock Holmes on Mr Bell.

Letter from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to Mr Joseph Bell

Letter from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to Mr Joseph Bell

In his letter, Arthur Conan Doyle says:

“I fear that one effect of your identity being revealed to the readers of the ‘Strand’ will be that you will have ample opportunity for studying lunatics letters.”

The final item of interest from this visit was the original copy of Gray’s anatomy including the edits made by Henry Gray. As you can see from the photo, the edit included taking H.V Carter out of the credits for his drawings but it was Carter’s detailed drawings that really made the book sell. Suffice to say, Carter still remains as a credit in the book.

The original manuscript for Gray's Anatomy by Henry Gray with edits

The original manuscript for Gray’s Anatomy by Henry Gray with edits

Having watched the TV series about Sherlock Holmes and Gray’s Anatomy and hearing about Florence Nightingale, up until now, I never associated these famous names to Scotland. You learn something new every day as they say. To see and hear the stories behind their inspiration really made the visit even more exciting than I thought it would initially. To me this is what makes an archive exciting, finding something that you find a connection with.

In the afternoon of the same day, we visited the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) with Neasa Roughan as our guide. The collections consist of the institutional papers of the RCN, individual papers and objects and badges, medals, photos and diaries of nurses.

Neasa showing us the RCN's medal collection

Neasa showing us the RCN’s medal collection

In every archive there are special items and collections that you won’t get anywhere else and the RCN was no different. Here they have the entire collection of one nurse, Muriel Hibbert, who started writing a diary from the age of 10 years old and wrote every day until she was 75. Her diaries are an amazing insight into her life and work as a nurse. You can find out more about these diaries through Neasa’s blog post here: https://www.rcn.org.uk/news-and-events/blogs/the-diaries-of-nurse-hibbert

The collection of Muriel Hibbert's diaries from the age of 10 -75 yrs

The collection of Muriel Hibbert’s diaries from the age of 10 -75 yrs

You may be wondering what on earth all these visits to other archives in Edinburgh and elsewhere are about and what have they got to do with the Western Isles? It’s a good question and I will do my best to answer it here. As part of my training as a trainee archivist, finding out, visiting, and learning how other archives work is an important part of my training. Meeting other archivists and professionals help me to understand what processes, policies, procedures, and training I need. Knowledge of what collections are held is a vital part of these visits too and is something you can’t get from sitting in an archive trawling the internet.

Through these visits I am creating a network of people, experts in the field of archives who are willing to help out those who are just starting out. Not only that but more often than not, there is a connection to the Western Isles. With the Royal College of Nursing, they have records and information on nurses from all over Scotland including the Western Isles. This is helpful for me to know should we get an enquiry regarding nursing in the Tasglann. The more I know and the more I find out, the more useful that information will be to those who visit the archive.

After my visit to the Royal College of Nursing, I hope to use what I’ve researched so far to write another blog post specifically on District Nursing in the Western Isles. Keep an eye out for it!

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Harris Tweed Authority project update

It’s been a whole month since my last blog post on the Harris Tweed Authority (HTA) cataloguing project! A wee update is definitely overdue.

Following on from my time looking through the many boxes of HTA material, matching up what’s in each box with existing lists, I moved on to thinking about how I’m going to arrange all of this into a sensible catalogue. Archive catalogues have a hierarchical structure: the collection or fonds sits at the top of the hierarchy, and within this there are various series of records. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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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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