Online archive can pull up Prince's chair

A makeshift stool linked with Bonnie Prince Charlie is one of the highlights in a new virtual treasure trove of Scottish historical objects.

Stool made from wood purported to have been used by Bonnie Prince Charlie when he was in the Western Isles.

It is one of more than 400 objects included in the illustrated electronic archive created by Edinburgh researchers and archivists.

The archive was compiled by the Centre for Research Collections and Edina, a centre based at the University which develops and delivers online services for UK research and education.

The stool, which is said to have given the Prince brief respite as he fled Government troops in 1746, is part of an online catalogue of artefacts mostly from the Highlands and Islands.

A remarkable collection

The three-legged chair is from South Uist - one of the places where Prince Charles Edward Stuart fled after the Battle of Culloden. The original stool is in the West Highland Museum in Fort William.

The online catalogue features objects from a remarkable collection assembled by the pioneering folklorist Alexander Carmichael between 1860 and 1912.

Carmichael is best known as a collector and editor of traditional lore from Scotland’s Gaelic heartlands but he was also an avid collector of objects.

Spirit of Gaelic culture

Silver ring brooch

He assembled a fascinating array of objects - many of historical importance - which captured something of the spirit of Gaelic culture at a time of great social change.

Other online exhibits include fragments of wood from a 1588 Spanish Armada ship blown up in Tobermory harbour; a medieval carved baptismal font; sea-bean charms associated with childbirth; silver brooches; and ornamental powder horns.

Carmichael also acquired a significant collection of early tartan with designs far removed from the clan tartans that are familiar today. Some of these are held by the West Highland Museum, others by the National Museums of Scotland.

Archivists and researchers have spent the last 18 months cataloguing, indexing, and describing Carmichael’s objects - the majority of which have been in storage since they were donated by the family.

This collection is the foremost of its kind in the country and shows Carmichael’s profound awareness of how material culture and oral culture mutually interact in communities. We are delighted to have the opportunity to make this important collection accessible to the academic and broader community.
Dr Domhnall Uilleam StiùbhartCentre for Research Collections at the University

The project has been funded by the Leverhulme Trust to research what the objects acquired or described by Carmichael might tell us about the environment, the owners, and the collector.

Between 1860 and his death, Alexander Carmichael recorded a vast amount of folklore and local traditions from the Scottish Highlands and Islands.

He also collected objects from people throughout the region particularly in the southern Outer Hebrides where he lived, worked, and brought up his family between 1864 and 1882.

Carmichael is best known today for Carmina Gadelica, a compendium of edited Highland literature and lore published in six volumes between 1900 and 1971. The University was gifted the Carmichael Watson Bequest in May 1948.

Manuscript materials

The collection consists of around 1400 printed volumes and manuscript materials, including Alexander Carmichael's all-important field and transcription notebooks.

In the collection of the National Museum of Scotland are a number of objects originally donated by Alexander Carmichael to the museum's predecessor the National Museum of Antiquities.

The West Highland Museum in Fort William houses a collection of several hundred objects gathered by Alexander Carmichael.