The School of Scottish Studies Archives are at the heart of teaching and research in Celtic and Scottish Studies.
The collections are integral to coursework and staff and students contribute their own fieldwork recordings and projects. Outreach and access to material have been important facets of the work of the School since it was established in 1951. There are many users of the archive, both Scottish and international, and archive material is used in books, journals, sound recordings, websites and other publications. In-house publications include the academic journal, Scottish Studies, which first appeared in 1957and the archives journal Tocher , focusing on transcriptions of songs, tales and tradition from the Sound Archive, which was established in 1971. Tales have been collected in The Green Man of Knowledge and other Scots Traditional Tales (Aberdeen University Press, 1982) by Alan Bruford and in Scottish Traditional Tales (Polygon, 1994) by Alan Bruford and Donald Archie MacDonald
In 1960, three discs were produced by the School: Gaelic and Scots Folk Tales, Gaelic and Scots Folk Songs and Scottish Instrumental Music. These seminal compilations were followed by the Scottish Tradition series of recordings, published first through Tangent Records and now by Greentrax Recordings. Each CD involves extensive contextual research, and includes detailed scholarly notes. The series is now under the general editorship of Dr Katherine Campbell. The latest publication, Songs and Ballads from Perthshire Field Recordings of the 1950s (2011), contains recordings of Travellers made in the berry fields by Maurice Fleming.
The first on-line resource appeared in 1996 through the SHEFC funded PEARL project (Providing Ethnological Archives for Research and Learning) in which audio recordings were linked to transcriptions from Tocher. Recent projects involving archival research, analysis, editing and digitisation, have produced further innovative websites, public performance and broadcasts, as well as CDs, and these are reaching international audiences well beyond academia. This research is contributing significantly to the growing appreciation of cultural heritage and the traditional arts in Scotland within education, government, the creative industries and the general public.
The Calum MacLean Project, undertaken in collaboration with the National Folklore Collection, at University College Dublin was established in order to make a major collection of material central to Scottish Ethnology available in digital form as an accessible and flexible research resource The collection consists of over 13,000 manuscript pages of transcriptions of Gaelic folklore and song from the fieldwork of Calum Iain Maclean (1915-1960) carried out the Hebrides and the west Highlands. The resulting website provides a major resource for folktale research as well as a significant Gaelic language corpus. This research project was rated ‘Excellent’ by the AHRC.
Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o Riches, is a collaboration between the School of Scottish Studies Archives, BBC Alba, the National Trust and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig through which 9,000 hours of fieldwork material from the sound archive has been digitised and a selection of some 20,000 items made available on-line. These comprise songs, tales, customs, beliefs, oral history, rhymes, verse, riddles, sayings, place-names, descriptions of work and community life in the languages of Gaelic, Scots and English. The website is used extensively both here and overseas, and provides a unique portal into the folklore, social history and traditional arts of Scotland.
The archives are extensively used by broadcasters and in 2011 Radio nan Gaidheal produced a series of five programmes entitled Tocher@40 as well as repeating some of the highly successful Sruth an Eòlais series involving 50 programmes celebrating the 50th anniversary of the School of Scottish Studies. The contemporary series Pipeline on Radio Scotland, researched, scripted and presented by Dr Gary West, regularly features archive recordings. As part of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the School of Scottish Studies, BBC 2 (Scotland) commissioned a documentary of the same name which was broadcast on St Andrew’s Night, the same evening as the department’s annual concert featuring staff and traditional artists in residence including Jean Redpath, Patsy Seddon, Margaret Callan and Gary West. The Traditional Artist in Residence scheme enables Scottish musicians to come into the department/ archives to undertake their own research and work with students. In 2011 a special project, Archive Trails, funded by Creative Scotland and the University of Edinburgh (Knowledge Exchange, Development Trust) brought contemporary artist/ musicians Aileen Campbell, Alasdair Roberts, Drew Wright into the archive to undertake research and create new performance works which were then toured round Scotland to great acclaim – Archive Trails was listed among the top five gigs of the year by The List magazine. Other performances during the anniversary year included a sell-out concert at Celtic Connections, Glasgow and a gala concert in the Carrying Stream festival, Edinburgh.
Images from the Photographic Archive feature on the scran website and recent exhibitions which have featured archive material include Objects of Education (Talbot Rice Gallery, 2011) the Ian MacKenzie Memorial Exhibition (Edinburgh Filmhouse, 2010-11) and ‘Am Rande des Ozeans/ Air Iomall a' Chuain’, Eriskay - South Uist a bilingual exhibition featuring the photographs of Werner Kissling and Martin Rosswog (LVR-LandesMuseum, Bonn, 2011-12).
This article was published on Jan 18, 2012