Culture Heritage Learning

Arbroath Abbey trail launch

2nd July 2018 by Scran | 0 comments

One of the great things about Scran becoming part of Historic Environment Scotland (HES) is that as well as having over 500,000 amazing digitised records to showcase, we also now get to work with over 300 Properties in Care. This is the technical name for the 300+ important historic buildings and monuments that we look after on behalf of the Scottish public. These range from huge enterprises such as Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle, to standing stones such as Machrie Moor and stately houses such as Duff House.

I got the chance to visit one of our properties, Arbroath Abbey in Angus, last week and see the amazing work that had been done by a group of young students from Arbroath Academy. Calling themselves the “1,2 History Crew”, they are a group of eight S1 and S2 pupils who formed a Friday afternoon after-school club. Colleagues from Scotland’s Urban Past (an HES project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund) and HES itself offered the group an opportunity to design a heritage trail around the ruined Abbey for family visitors. The trail highlights aspects of Arbroath’s past such as the harbour, Signal Tower & Bell Rock Lighthouse, Arbroath Abbey, Arbroath FC, the WWII Drill Hall, shipwrecks, Arbroath smokies and the Declaration of Arbroath. The History Crew researched these historical sites, events and objects, and then chose historical characters linked to their area of interest and went out and about in Arbroath for a historical ‘photoshoot’.

Using the information and photos, the group chose to create a geocache-style trail for other young people to learn about Arbroath’s heritage, creating bookmarks and working with a local artist to design ‘seals’ linked to their sites which were turned into stamps. Stamps and bookmarks then became part of the trail, and these were hidden in different locations round Arbroath Abbey to create the Arbroath Abbey Trail.

The group then put together and delivered a presentation for pupils from Hayshead Primary School, inviting them to Arbroath Abbey for the launch of the trail. They planned the launch event and hosted P7 pupils, leading groups around the abbey to test the trail.

Angus Council offered the group an opportunity to produce banners based on what the young people had created, for display on fencing surrounding a new housing development near the abbey and these were unveiled on 22nd June.

The project enabled the young people from the Academy to explore what their local heritage meant to them, take pride in it and to share it with others. They developed in confidence, and in addition to the creative aspects of producing the trail, the experience of planning and carrying out an entire project was really beneficial to them. They all had the opportunity to develop leadership skills during the afternoon with the primary pupils, and this was the first time that most of them had taken on the role of leading a group. As well as the efforts of the pupils, thanks are due to Fiona Davidson, HES Learning Officer, Tracy Morgan, a youth worker at Angus Council, and Fiona Watson of Scotland’s Urban Past.

The trail itself is now available for visiting families and young people to try when visiting Arbroath Abbey on Saturdays.




Images: © Andrew James  

Scran for reminiscence work

12th June 2018 by Scran | 0 comments

We’re always delighted when users get in touch to demonstrate the many and varied ways they use Scran.

One of our users, Jill Reid, a Network Librarian for Mearns Community Library in Laurencekirk, recently shared with us a quiz that she put together for a group of her library clients.

As Jill herself explains, “Mearns Library is a school and public library in the south of Aberdeenshire. Once a month the local Past Times group visit the library. The Past Times group is a social and active group for people with early stage dementia or cognitive impairment. Library activities with the group range from reminiscence packs on topics such as football, 1950s & 60s, school days etc., Pictures to Share books for discussion, and music quizzes. I used Scran to create a quiz called “Where and When” [see below]. Images from the local area were shown, then after a discussion about where and when, the information [that accompanies] the picture was revealed. The group (and volunteers) enjoyed it, and it would be fantastic to use the resource again”.

You can take a look at the quiz Jill created at

Scran images are a great way to stimulate discussion, whether with children, students or the elderly, and we love showcasing examples of good practice. If you’ve done something similar, let us know and we’d love to feature it in Scranalogue.

Image: © Newsquest (Herald & Times)  Licensor





Cairns Aitken 1933-2018

4th April 2018 by Scran | 0 comments


Cairns Aitken Funeral Booklet

We were deeply saddened last month to hear of the death of one of our many contributors at Scran, Prof. Cairns Aitken. Cairns kindly licensed to Scran over 5,000 images from his travels around the world, and we know they were well-used and well-regarded.

Cairns first approached us about seven years ago, having been pointed in our direction by colleagues at National Museums Scotland. An enthusiastic and accomplished photographer, he was keen to find a home for the many images he’d collected throughout his life, the earliest ones dating back to his post-graduate days in South Africa. Most of us keep holiday snaps, but Cairns’ images were in a different class- carefully edited and compiled into “projects” which fitted seamlessly with Scran’s own method of cataloguing material. These “projects” included a trip around Britain following in the footsteps of Bonnie Prince Charlie, a tour of every single Scottish hydro-electric scheme and visits to far-flung destinations including Costa Rica, Morocco, Russia and the Galapagos Islands. His keen eye for wildlife, ornithology and botany greatly enriched our collections and enhanced our offering to education. One of his most interesting “projects”, for us at least, was a portrait of one his sons from birth to the age of 40, one photograph per year, which proved a fascinating document of changing fashions and settings.

The work of uploading Cairns’ photos is not yet completed; we still have images of Scottish Islands and further images of Morocco still to add to Scran. As we do so, we will remember a great friend of our service. Over time, our relationship with Cairns moved from being purely professional to social; we greatly enjoyed his visits to the office, meeting for coffee or a bite to eat at his beloved New Club, or simply listening to tales from his career in medicine and his active family life.

At his funeral service, a number of speakers commented on how, as a humanist, Cairns did not hold with notions of a physical “afterlife”, but described how people are remembered after death in the hearts and memories of their friends and colleagues. Cairns’ photos are part of his legacy, and we know they will continue to be used, appreciated and enjoyed for many years after his passing.

Images © Cairns AitkenLicensor Scran 


Cairns’ obituary from the Daily Herald:



Photo Finish

30th June 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

Scran, along with some colleagues from Historic Environment Scotland, recently participated in a whole school project with St Mark’s Primary School in Barrhead, East Renfrewshire. Themed around photography, various classes throughout the school participated in a number of cross-curricular events encompassing science, art and design, mathematics and more.  These events included taking digital self-portraits, exploring and photographing the local environment, and playing with perspective in photographs. Most intriguingly, pupils selected a photograph from a selection by renowned photographers including Man Ray, Herbert Bayer, Steve McCurry and Dorothea Lange (pictured),and researched and critiqued the photographs in written essays.

The work that the school did culminated in a day of celebration where many of the photographs the pupils had taken were displayed in the hall, others were framed and offered for sale to visitors, and a public speaking competition took place. In this competition, part of a national initiative called ARTiculation, the best of the critical essays were read out by their authors for a panel of judges from HMI and the Glasgow School of Art. Parents were invited, coffee and biscuits were served, money was raised, and the pupils’ confidence was improved, their skills were enhanced and their literacy and critical skills were developed. Some photographs that came out of the project will appear on Scran in the near future. We greatly enjoyed being a part of the St Mark’s School photography project and look forward to an even bigger and better programme next year!

Image © Victoria & Albert Museum Licensor Scran

From Demob Suits to Chelsea Boots

20th June 2016 by Scran | 0 comments

Post-War Fashions 1940s to 1960s: a community curated exhibition

Fifties Fashion © Scottish Borders Council by kind permission of Woolmark. Licensor

Fabulous Fifties Fashion

One Tuesday in September last year Scran went along to The Open Door in Morningside, Edinburgh to deliver a slideshow to showcase our digital archives.  There is nothing unusual in this.  Scran delivers a wide and varied remit of outreach activities.  However, this session was the start of something quite exciting.

Good Neighbours

We had been invited to meet the Good Neighbours Club, a group of older people who meet regularly at The Open Door.  The Open Door initiative has been supporting older people in Edinburgh for over 30 years, offering day services and a range of activities, from art and poetry to gentle exercise.  The Club, a group made up largely of ladies aged 70 plus, meets every Tuesdays for a day of ‘friendship, fun and laughter’.

The slideshow of images of old Morningside, from the 19th century, through the early years of the 20thcentury, to more recent years provoked a lot of chat and debate.  Of particular interest, old photographs of Morningside Railway Station which was closed in the 1960s; the Open Door is based in a building adjacent to the old station platform.

Scran was able to draw on a wealth of material from a range of contributors, including The Scotsman Publications Ltd and the National Collection of Aerial Photography.  As well as the old station, we covered themes of schooldays, shopping and buses and trams.


Following our visit, Kirsteen Powell, Day Care Service Manager at the Open Door, got back in touch.  She wanted to do more work with us and so we met and an idea formed.  With such striking images causing such a lot of interest and reminiscence activity at the centre, why not put on an exhibition?

The Good Neighbours Club chose a theme with social history at its heart – fashions of the post-war era.  And selected images will be displayed in the centre’s coffee shop, a great space fronting onto Morningside High Street.

The exhibition project kicked off in May of this year, with Scran delivering two more reminiscence workshops: we’ve explored the utility fashions and clothes rationing of the forties, the bouffants, brylcreme and big skirts of the fifties and the miniskirts and the sharp suits of the sixties.  With the group’s permission, each workshop was recorded and a selection of their own personal anecdotes and memories in text form will be used to interpret the photographs selected for the final exhibition.

Reminiscence Tool

The project demonstrates the fantastic range of living memory material held within the digital archives of Scran and its potential as a tool for reminiscence work.

The exhibition opens in mid-July.

Images © Scottish Borders Council by kind permission of Woolmark | Licensor Scran