Gems from archives aired for St Andrews Day

A treasure trove of evocative recordings, striking images and rarely seen historic documents are among the highlights of a newly refurbished centre showcasing Scotland’s culture.

Leugh an duilleag seo sa Gàidhlig

Attractions in the University centre include collections which detail, interpret and research aspects of Scottish life and the traditional arts.

These include place names, Gaelic and Scots songs and photographs depicting people, places, crafts and customs.

Visitors to the centre in 29 George Square will be able to explore the results of fieldwork undertaken by University staff and students over the past 60 years.

The School of Scottish Studies Archives are housed in the centre providing greater access for students, researchers and the public.

Remarkable Collection

The archives feature thousands of hours of recordings of songs, music, stories, rhyme and verse, such as a traditional waulking song –sung in Gaelic by women while preparing cloth.

The languages of Scotland – Scots, Gaelic and English – are all represented in the archive as well as many dialects that are now extinct.

Material comes from communities throughout Scotland, including the Maclagan manuscripts, collected in the 19th century to preserve folk tales from rural areas.

It also features more than 120 recordings of songs by Stanley Robertson, a storyteller, singer and piper from a well-known Traveller family in the North East of Scotland.

International reach

Material from other countries is also represented, including the John Levy Collection, an archive of traditional music from Asia and beyond.

The University is immensely proud of the School of Scottish Studies Archives. The development of this dynamic and accessible resource supports the ongoing collection, preservation and dissemination of sound recordings, visual images and written documents relating to the cultural traditions in Scotland, past, present and future. We are delighted to make this important collection more widely accessible to communities in Scotland, from academics, to schools, artists, local groups and beyond.

Rachel HoskerArchives Manager, Library and University Collections

 The archive provides a unique insight into the riches of Scotland's cultures and traditions, and serves as a magnificent legacy of those past generations at this University who had the skill and foresight to collect them. As a living, growing collection, constantly being added to by staff and students alike, the archive not only fuels much of our own teaching and research, but serves communities from well beyond the university -  locally, nationally and indeed across the globe.

Professor Gary WestPersonal Chair in Scottish Ethnology, Director of the European Ethnological Research Centre

A series of events, including open days for specific interest and community groups, is taking place over the next few months to celebrate the collections.

Explore the archives

The School of Scottish Studies Archives are located at 29 George Square, Edinburgh. The Search Room is open 10:00-16:00, Tuesday to Friday.

No appointment is necessary but, if you wish to discuss your requirements in advance, email or telephone 0131 650 3060.

The School of Languages Literatures and Cultures offers a four-year undergraduate degree in Scottish Ethnology – the only programme of its kind in the world.

It provides a fascinating insight into the traditional and popular culture of Scotland, putting folklore and folklife in a Scottish and international context. We also offer a one year MSc by Research degree and a PhD in the area.

The School of Scottish Studies Archives 

Students, past and present, reflect on what the archives mean to them 

Homepage and social media images © Neil Hanna and © Ian MacKenzie

Ian MacKenzie (1958-2009) worked as the Photographer and Photographic Archive Curator at the School of Scottish Studies from 1985 until his untimely death in 2009. As well as accompanying collectors on fieldwork trips to provide a visual record to accompany the audio, he had a particular interest in photographing and filming work practices, crafts and customs.