SKILLS FOR THE FUTURE
Heritage Trainees 2016
Skills for the Future trainees 2016, Isle of Eigg
Skills for the Future trainee, Anna Mayhew © Copyright HES
© Copyright Lewis Matheson
ANNA MAYHEW email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
INTRODUCTION This is the sixth and final year of our Heritage Lottery funded Skills for the Future project, Building Curatorial and Learning Skills for the Heritage Sector, and we welcomed Niamh Crimmins, Lewis Matheson and Anna Mayhew in May 2016. They will be the last three of 40 trainees to undertake a year’s traineeship in a range of heritage based work with our Collections, Education and Outreach and Survey and Recording Teams at John Sinclair House and Learning Services at Holyrood Park and Longmore House. As you will see, they have already completed exciting work cataloguing and digitising material on a variety of projects with Collections; developing community engagement activities for the community and Primary School on the Isle of Eigg and have travelled the country with the Learning Services teams helping to deliver a range of educational activities.
The organisation has gained considerably from the skills which our trainees bring with them, as well as the work they undertake, and this year will be no exception. I am sure that they will have an incredible year at HES undertaking a broad range of work based activities which should ultimately help them to gain employment in the sector. As Skills for the Future Project Manager for the past six years, it is my hope that this type of unique and valuable experience, the opportunity for trainees to work hand-in-hand with our heritage professionals and experts, will continue to be possible within Historic Environment Scotland as it has proved to be so beneficial for our trainees, our staff and for the organisation as a whole. Jill de Fresnes Skills for the Future Project Manager
Hi, I’m Anna, and I’m originally from Hastings (of 1066 fame). Since digging up my parents’ allotments in search of Roman coins as an inquisitive 5-year-old, I have always been deeply interested in the classical and the ancient, and particularly in the relationship between societies’ views of themselves and how those socio-political attitudes are subsequently reflected in their material culture and architecture. After working for an historical landscaper and an arbo-archaeologist, I pursued this interest to Edinburgh to study Ancient History and Classical Archaeology. During and after University, however, I spent most of my professional time in bar management and hospitality – and whilst I did take care of a lot of old relics in this time, I am very excited to be fully returning to the sector through the HES traineeship! Although my interests mainly focus upon ancient civilisations, I am very keen to explore more modern periods, and to broaden my art history and architectural knowledge.
The Skills for the Future programme is a dream come true in many respects, presenting an opportunity to expand my historic horizons, learn new heritage management skills from some of the country’s best practitioners, and to engage with old, new, and evolving communities, sites and material. I am most looking forward to working within education and outreach, as one of my greatest pleasures is involving others in heritage and getting them as excited about it as I am! Personal highlights thus far have been our work on the Mary Syme Boyd and William Notman archives with Collections, our Community Engagement trip to the Isle of Eigg, and visiting the Isle of Lewis for Learning Services’ Gaelic film premiere. When not buried in the archives or grubbing about on-site, I enjoy swimming and football, playing music, Scrabble and pub quizzes, visiting historical sites, a good documentary, and Asterix comics. Although I am unsure of exactly what role I want to play within the heritage industry in the future, something I am sure of is that HES is the best place I could begin!
Skills for the Future trainees 2016, Arthur’s Seat © Copyright Lewis Matheson
Skills for the Future trainee, Lewis Matheson
Skills for the Future trainee, Niamh Crimmins
© Copyright HES
© Copyright HES
Hello, I’m Lewis. When I first came across the Skills for the Future program I knew it was for me. I was immediately drawn to the prospect of getting to work within such diverse departments such as Collections, Education and Outreach and Learning Services. These individual opportunities were exactly what I wanted to learn about. Although perhaps not always acutely aware of it, I’ve always had an interest in most things historical. I’m Edinburgh born and bred but studied Fine Art at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, University of Dundee, where I spent most of my time working in the darkrooms. My interests in rural Scottish heritage evolved from various modules I took at Duncan of Jordanstone, which discussed aspects of Gaelic heritage, travelling cultures, oral traditions, language and placename history and folklore. Since then my creative practice has largely revolved around these themes, undertaking several projects documenting the landscapes and cultures of mostly rural Scotland. We’re now half way through the traineeship and have learnt and experienced so much. We’ve enjoyed working with Collections cataloguing several large collections.
We’ve completed oral history and community engagement projects on the Isle of Eigg, worked with Learning Services at various sites across the country, and helped organise and contributed to this year’s calendar of Community Heritage Conferences. I’m looking forward to the next six months where we’ll be involved with heritage projects using the results of our trip to Eigg in partnership with Collections, our module at the University of Dundee and much more. Before my time with HES ends I’d be interested in gaining some understanding of the work of the photography department, perhaps gaining experience of a photographic survey, and if the opportunity arises, gain experience of working within a Gaelic heritage setting.
My name is Niamh and I’m originally from Co. Clare on the West Coast of Ireland. Clare is a beautiful county and is famous for its traditional music just as much as it’s beautiful landscape, which boasts the stunning karst region of the Burren, the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher and Father Ted’s House! I moved to Edinburgh just over 5 years ago. I still feel like a tourist in this country and I hope my enthusiasm for Scotland and its heritage will benefit my role at HES. We are just about half way through the traineeship now and we’ve had so many amazing opportunities and experiences. The highlights for me so far have been cataloguing the William Notman Collection and our community engagement trip to the Isle of Eigg.
For me what’s most important about this year is to take advantage of all that’s happening within the organisation, and to absorb as much knowledge and skills that I can. I would like to expand on my knowledge and working experience of my current areas of interest, but to be open minded also, and gain new skills that at this point I know nothing about.
I have always been interested in history and heritage and spent much of my youth travelling around Ireland with my family taking in as much of our national heritage as possible. Unsurprisingly I decided to study Heritage Studies at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and my dissertation was on the history of the Irish kitchen dresser. I became a Warden at the Palace of Holyroodhouse just over 4 years ago and shortly afterwards started a part time MSc. in Architectural Conservation at the University of Edinburgh.
Skills for the Future Trainees, Search Room at John Sinclair House
Skills for the Future trainees with HES Education Officer Jordan Irvine at TOP Fest Stirling
© Copyright Lewis Matheson
© Copyright Lewis Matheson
My undergraduate degree provided me with a sound understanding of a broad range of topics including archaeology, genealogy, tourism and folklore, and my masters focused on themes such as conservation theory, architectural heritage, planning law, World Heritage and conservation of modern architecture. The traineeship appealed to me because it basically combines all of my interests, whilst allowing me to get hands-on experience in fields I have always been interested in. I am particularly looking forward to learning more about Archives and Collections Management. The traineeship allows me to utilise the skills I gained at university, as well as my experience in visitor services to contribute to the role and I look forward to learning from my fellow trainees, who have such interesting and varied backgrounds.
Investigating drawings by William Notman, Search Room at John Sinclair House
A design for a villa by William Notman
© Niamh Crimmins
COLLECTIONS AND ARCHIVES Our first three months of the traineeship were based with the Collections department at John Sinclair House. Over this period we were able to gain practical experience in a number of tasks that the department carry out. We gained first-hand experience in cataloguing, accessioning, re-housing, retrievals and records management through working on a variety of different projects.
Our next major task was to sort the very large collection of drawings belonging to the 19th century Scottish architect, William Notman. We were fortunate to be able to spend a significant amount of time with the substantial collection and as a result we were able to further develop our archival skills, and in particular our problem-solving skills as we discovered the unpredictability of archives!
Our induction into the Collections department began with learning about the collections database system Oracle. Our first project was the collection of the 20th century Scottish sculptor Mary Syme Boyd. It was a fascinating collection right from the start, as it included the artist’s personal letters and diaries, which allowed us to gain an insight into her personal life and how her interests and lifestyle influenced much of her work. We were assigned the task of understanding what was in the collection and then applying some order to it, cataloguing it on Oracle, re-housing it and subsequently writing a biography on the artist – all to be made available to the public on Canmore.
We also spent two weeks with the Digital Archive team in July, which opened our eyes to the world of digital preservation. This was a great experience and we acquired a broader knowledge of the diversity of the collections we hold. This knowledge was expanded further through our time shadowing the Collections team in the Search Room, helping with the daily retrieval of material from the main archive store.
Rehousing rolled drawings in the Conservation Studio © Lewis Matheson
A design for a villa by William Notman © HES
The children of Eigg Primary School examining archaeological artefacts
Group shot of the walkers on our final walk to the Grulin township on the Isle of Eigg
© Lewis Matheson
© Lewis Matheson
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT In September we had an incredible opportunity to be involved with a project on the Isle of Eigg. The trip was organised to give us a chance to gain skills and experience in community engagement. Accompanied by our Project Manager, Jill de Fresnes and HES Archaeologists, Mike Middleton and Adam Welfare, we aimed to lead a 5 day trip packed full of events including primary school workshops, evening talks and guided walks, all archaeology focused using the results of the former RCAHMS survey caried out between 2001 and 2002. For our time in Eigg Primary, we prepared a large-scale timeline of Eigg’s history with various images for the children to interact with, spending time learning about their islands ancient and modern history. Joined by the archaeologists, the class were able to examine artefacts from Archaeology Scotland’s handling boxes and to cap off the morning’s learning, we visited Pictish stones and square cairns. It was highly rewarding to see the children becoming more engaged with each passing activity. With Mike and Adam leading, we staged several days of archaeology walks to the various sites of the former RCAHMS surveys. Due to the cancellation of ferries, our trip was extended by 2 days, allowing us to log more field trips across the island.
The number of local participants increased with each walk, culminating with an impromptu walk suggested by one of the islanders, to the township of Grulin, which featured 21 walkers representing all age groups. Overall we covered approximately 57km and were thrilled with the level of engagement we were able to achieve. For those unable to join our walks, several evening events we held proved very successful. Featuring presentations on the legends and folklore of the island and its prehistory – as well as reusing our borrowed handling boxes – the events were really well attended, with a great atmosphere and discussions. We learned so much from the locals, who kindly shared their stories of what life used to be like on Eigg. To give the Islanders something tangible to keep, we organised an exhibition of framed images from the HES archive, including aerial photography and survey drawings. The exhibition was unveiled – to much excitement – at one of the evening events, and displayed in the local tea room for the community and visitors to view. For us, it was a priceless experience both professionally and personally, and the response we received from the wonderful community was tremendously encouraging. We couldn’t be more grateful for the enthusiasm and contributions from everyone we met over our week-long stay. The trip’s success has shown that there is a valuable and necessary place within our organisation and the heritage sector for similar projects.
HES Archaeologists Mike Middleton and Adam Welfare lead an archaeology walk on the Isle of Eigg © Lewis Matheson
Interior of the Great Hall at Stirling Castle
The Spectacular Jousting event at Linlithgow Palace
© Niamh Crimmins
© Niamh Crimmins
Through the month of October we were lucky enough to be on placement with the HES Learning Services team, which not only took us here, there, and everywhere around Scotland, but also allowed us to experience the amazing work the learning team does to promote heritage education within different contexts and a wide range of audiences. We took a whistle-stop tour through time, whilst shadowing school workshops and activities at Edinburgh and Stirling castles. We covered a range of eras, objects, and themes as diverse as medieval catapult-building, Jacobean crown-making, and First World War poetry, and observed a fantastically immersive Victorian millworkers experience at Stanley Mills. We also accompanied facilitator, Hannah Ayre, and Learning Officer, Elaine Johnston, on a classroom visit to Dumbarton Primary School, where we helped P7s make WWI propaganda posters using screen printing techniques – messy, but memorable! In addition, we aided Learning Services at a number of public events across Scotland, including Top Fest at Stirling Castle and the Big Draw at Urquhart Castle with Learning Development Officer, Kirsten Wood – the latter providing us with a definite highlight of the placement, Lewis’ (unexpected) turn as Sir Euan the Brave! Throughout the placement we were also given the chance to develop our own educational activities with Learning Development Officers, Fiona Davidson and Sylvie Silk; Lewis and Niamh collaborated with Fiona to create a self-led trail around
Arbroath Abbey, using objects from the Medieval Abbey Life Handling Box, designed as an introduction to abbey life for primary-age students, whilst Anna worked with Sylvie to create a memorycollecting exhibition to accompany the premiere of “An Tac an Teine”, a longrunning Gaelic-language film project about the Arnol blackhouses on the isle of Lewis. Both projects were very interesting and successful, and gave us further insight into the sometimes challenging, but never boring, world of heritage education. The range of activities, contexts and indeed places we experienced during our time with Learning Services made for a packed, but extremely enjoyable, five weeks; the work they do is invaluable for the continued conservation and public enjoyment of some of Scotland’s most important historical sites, and we are very grateful that we were able to be temporarily part of such a team. Arbroath Abbey (SC 1174280) © HES
Over the course of the traineeship we have been fortunate to attend a variety of training sessions and workshops, as well as assist with a number of events. These ranged from seminars on digital engagement and augmented reality to Spectacular Jousting at Linlithgow Palace and oral history sessions with the Holyrood Park Rangers. We also have had the opportunity to assist with three Community Heritage Conferences in Ayr, Oban and Aberdeen. The conferences aim to celebrate public archaeology, showcase community-led projects across Scotland and support people as they explore their connection to the past. We even took part ourselves by delivering a presentation about our trip to the Isle of Eigg at the conference in Aberdeen. We learned a lot from the inspirational talks and it was heartening to see so much positive networking take place – all in the name of heritage.
For the remainder of this traineeship we are looking forward to working with collections in more depth, specifically with our individual and group heritage projects, which we will be developing in the New Year. We will also be commencing our distance learning modules with Dundee University. However, before all of that we will be travelling to London for a networking trip to take a look behind the scenes of some other archives as well as meet with past Skills for the Future trainees. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped make our experience on this traineeship so rewarding and we are looking forward to the opportunities that lie ahead.
Assisting with all of these events and workshops has provided us with invaluable experience in the heritage sector and has inspired us in so many different ways. So far, the Skills for the Future traineeship has given us the opportunity to gain practical skills in collections management as well as considerable experience assisting with and delivering learning resources for a variety of audiences. Trainees Niamh Crimmins and Anna Mayhew, Argyllshire Gathering Halls, Oban © Carol Stobie
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