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The Christmas Card Phenomenon

23rd December 2018 by Scran | 0 comments

Festive Greetings06712558

Christmas greetings cards have become a regular feature of the traditional British Christmas with billions changing hands within the UK each year, but where did this tradition begin and why did it continue to thrive?

Humble Beginnings?

The first Christmas card is thought to have been designed by British artist John Calcott Horsley in 1840. With the invention of the telephone still over 30 years away, sending hand-written letters by mail was the primary means of communication. Faced with the tedious task of writing to all his friends and family members with Christmas greetings, a friend of Horsley, civil servant Henry Cole, conceived the idea of a printed card bearing a suitable message which could be signed and sent to one and all. Horsley embraced the idea and produced a design which was published in 1843. Cole had 1000 of the cards printed and placed on sale at the rather princely sum of 1 shilling each. Little did he realise just how popular his idea would become!

National Mania

09230757Times have changed since Henry Cole’s moment of inspired laziness: mail is no longer the mainstay of communication. The telephone network has joined up the remotest corners of the world and the cheap, paperless, instantaneous communication afforded by e-mail has threatened to make ‘snail mail’ altogether obsolete. The Christmas card, however, goes marching on, and in no small way.

We are still crazy enough about Christmas cards to cause enormous disruption to the postal system every December. This year, postboxes will be stuffed with an estimated 2 billion cards and on the busiest day the national mailbag will contain almost double its usual 84 million items. Such is the congestion that Royal Mail recommend posting second class seasonal dispatches 8 days in advance to guarantee arrival in time for the big day.

Conscientious Choice

06712561Two billion cards amounts to a lot of paper and a lot of spending. Many consumers are now looking for more conscientious ways to enjoy the tradition. Each year, around a quarter of shoppers will choose charity cards in the hope that good causes can benefit from their seasonal spending. However, the percentage of proceeds finding their way to good causes varies widely. Research by the Charities Advisory Trust suggests that some charity cards are just not all that charitable after all: the most miserly example they uncovered passed only 0.3% of proceeds to the named good cause. Others will aim for a more ethical celebration by boycotting Christmas cards altogether, feeling that their seasonal goodwill is better expressed by not contributing to the tonnes of paper waste generated from cards each year.

‘Tis the Season to Recycle?

  • 06710368An estimated 1 billion Christmas cards and 83 sq km of wrapping paper will end up in our bins this year
  • We bought around 7.5 million Christmas trees in 2001: at least 1.1 million were recycled
  • 20 – 30% more glass and cans will be collected for recycling over the festive period

Christianity back into Christmas?

Horsley’s original card had its opponents too, but for different reasons. It bore an image of a family raising their glasses to Christmas which incited fury amongst Puritans of the time. In what was still very much a Christian state the uproar was caused by the association of the evils of alcohol with the sanctity of the feast of Christmas. It is interesting to note that, while scenes of the Nativity and other connected imagery went on to become regular features in the design of Christmas cards, the genuine article was quite secular in its design.

Controversy about the presence or absence of Christianity in Christmas traditions rages in Britain to this day with many Christians bemoaning the seeming transformation of the feast from a religious event into an orgy of consumerism. Others would praise the fact that in our modern British society, one characterized by a far more diverse range of religion and cultural traditions than the Victorians would have recognised, the goodwill of Christmas is now often shared across faiths and cultures. The disagreement reaches beyond the UK too. In 2005 the president of the USA received angry feedback about the official White House Christmas card: the secular design of the card horrified some recipients (it featured two of the head of state’s pet dogs frolicking in the snow on the White House Lawn).

Question of Taste

The official White House card illustrates how the sending of Christmas cards has become protocol in the USA. The same is true in Britain: businesses are careful not forget their customers, and refuse collectors all over the country will receive cards from perfect strangers during the season. Is a Christmas card from the paperboy evidence of lasting Christmas spirit or just a hint that a tip might be in order?

A wide variety of designs have evolved to suit these myriad purposes. Horsley’s original design showed a scene of Christmas cheer. Cards like this are still popular, alongside Nativity scenes and informal cartoons. When the Christmas card was still a relatively new idea the Victorians became very fond of elaborately engineered pop-up and trick cards. Nowadays, hand-making cards is a popular hobby and parents everywhere are still best pleased with the lovingly prepared designs in glitter and glue brought home by their sticky-fingered schoolchildren.

What makes a good Christmas card? Can a piece of stationery really embody the Christmas spirit? Why not try making a Scran card to find out? Search for an image and click Create to make a greetings card in a few easy steps and see if you can make someone’s Christmas!

Images © Scottish Life Archive, The Scotsman Publications Ltd | Licensor Scran

Christmas Traditions

22nd December 2018 by Scran | 0 comments

09510019Christmas (originally meaning the Mass or Birth of Christ) is a holiday which celebrates the birth of Jesus in Christian belief. However, many Christmas traditions are based on other older pre-christian festivals. The Yule log, Christmas Tree, Mistletoe and Holly, for example, all derive from Scandinavian ceremonies associated with the Winter Solstice – December 21.

In mainly Christian countries, Christmas has become a major holiday of the year, but it is also celebrated as a secular holiday in countries with small Christian populations like Japan.

Christmas Today

08120374The modern Christmas, that we have come to know, is based on an exchange of gifts between family and friends; or on gifts being brought by Santa Claus. Local and regional Christmas traditions are still rich and varied. For example, in some countries in Europe, gifts are exchanged on December 6th or Epiphany – 6th January.

Coupled with celebration of the New Year, this whole mid-winter period has become a holiday set piece.

 

Jesus of Nazareth

Jesus of Nazareth is a central figure of Christianity. He is known as Jesus Christ with “Christ” being a title meaning “Anointed”. He is also considered a very important prophet in Islam.

The main sources regarding his life and teachings are four Gospels from the New Testament of the Bible, written some decades after his death. He is depicted as a Jewish Galilean preacher and healer who was at odds with the Jewish religious authorities, and who was crucified outside Jerusalem during the rule of the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate. After his death numerous followers spread his teachings, and within a few decades Christianity emerged as a religion distinct from Judaism.

The Gospels State that:

  • Jesus was the Messiah – prophesied in the Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible)
  • He was the son of God
  • His birth by Mary was virginal
  • after His crucifixion He rose from the dead
  • He ascended into heaven

Many Christians believe that the accounts in the New Testament are historical facts, though others maintain that different parts have different degrees of accuracy.

Jesus is thought to have been born in a stable and was attended by Wise Men and Shepherds who brought gifts. In Christian thought, Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’ birth and the giving of gifts reflects that.

In Islam, Jesus (called Isa) is considered one of God’s most beloved and important prophets, a bringer of divine scripture, and also the messiah; although Muslims attach a different meaning to this term than Christians as they do not share the Christian belief in the divinity of Jesus.

Other religions also have different perspectives on Jesus, but do not place as much importance on his life and teachings.

Santa Claus (also known as Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Santy or simply Santa) is a folk hero in various cultures. He distributes gifts to children, traditionally on Christmas Eve. Santa’s name is a variation of Saint Nicholas.

Father Christmas is a well-loved figure in the United Kingdom and similar in many ways to Santa Claus, though the two have quite different origins.

Boxing Day

In English-speaking countries, the day following Christmas Day is called ‘Boxing Day’. This word comes from the custom, started in the Middle Ages around 800 years ago, whereby churches would open their ‘alms boxe’ (boxes in which people had placed gifts of money) and distribute the contents to poor people in the neighbourhood on the day after Christmas.

Yule & Pagan Festivities

Yule means “feast”. Yule derives from the early Scandinavians and refers to the festival at the Winter Solstice. For ancient Germanic and Celtic people, the impulse to celebrate solstice was a celebration of the cycle of nature and a reaffirmation of the continuation of life. These northern cultures survived a colder, darker winter and thus held a great celebration. This was held at the turning of the year on the shortest day – December 21 – which heralds the return of the sun’s light and warmth.

Many ancient traditions surrounding Yuletide are concerned with coping with the darkness and evils. In Shetland, there is still an Annual Up Helly Aa Viking style celebration of mid winter where a procession takes place throughout the town ending in a longboat being set alight in the harbour. Holly Evergreens were cherished at this time of year as a natural symbol of rebirth and life amid winter whiteness. But holly is prickly and will see off evil spirits before they could enter and harm a household.

The Julbukk, or Yule goat, from Sweden and Norway, carried the god Thor. Now he carries the Yule elf to deliver presents and receive his offering of porridge. In Iceland the giant Yule Cat eats humans who have not contributed to the community’s work. Other Germanic, Scandinavian, Viking and Celtic traditions include mistletoe and the Evergreen tree – in many places, hung upside down; and there’s the famous Yule Log.

Other Non-Christian Gift Giving Festivals

Although Christmas is celebrated by many non-Christians, there are alternative winter gift-giving holidays instead of or in addition to Christmas.

  • Judaism’s Hanukkah has developed a tradition of gift-giving similar to Christmas.
  • Christmas has some acceptance in the Islamic world, where Jesus is regarded as a prophet. Additionally, the observance of Eid ul-Fitr is sometimes accompanied by greetings similar to traditional Christmas greetings.
  • Diwali is a Festival of Light in India and it is important to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and some Nepalese Buddhists. This involves decoration with lights and giving gifts.
  • Observances of the Kwanzaa festival, which reinforces African American heritage, are also celebrated in December with decorations, feasts, and gift-giving.
  • Many atheists and modern-day pagans celebrate the winter Solstice as an alternative to religious end-of-year holidays.

Eid ul-Fitr

Eid ul-Fitr often abbreviated as simply Eid, is an Islamic holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting. On the day of the celebration, a typical Muslim family gets up very early and attends special prayers held only for the occasion in big mosques. The festivities and merriment start after the prayers with visits to the homes of friends and relatives and thanking the Creator for all blessings. Eid is a time to come together as a community and to renew friendship and family ties. This is a time for peace for all Muslims in the world to devote to prayers and mutual well-being.

Diwali

Diwali is a major Indian and Nepalese festive holiday, and a significant religious festival for Hinduism , Jainism and Sikhism. It is celebrated as the “Festival of Light,” where lights or lamps are displayed to signify the victory of good over the evil. It may have originated as a harvest festival, marking the last harvest of the year before winter. In India, it is a national festival enjoyed by most regardless of faith. Homes are decorated with lights, fireworks are set off and sweets and gifts are given. Prayers are also said to various gods who are associated with the festival. The date, like Easter in Christian Faiths, is calculated and is usually around the end of October, beginning of November.

Hanukkah

Hanukkah or Chanukah is a Jewish holiday, also known as the Festival or Feast of Lights. Hanukkah is a Hebrew word meaning “dedication”. Hanukkah begins on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, and the holiday is celebrated for eight days. The start of Hanukkah usually falls in December but occasionally is in late November. The festival is observed in Jewish homes by the kindling of special Hanukkah lights on each of the festival’s eight nights. A special 8 limbed lamp is used which symbolises the lamp that remained lit for 8 days although only having oil for one.

Images © Edward Martin, Archive Services University of Dundee| Licensor Scran

Hand-me-down

22nd November 2018 by Scran | 0 comments

An adventure in women’s domestic needlecraft

Sewing Class, Glasgow 1953

In 2017, the year of History, Heritage & Archaeology, our small social enterprise, Mrs Magooty led by Sarah Longfield and Katrina Caldwell, embarked on an adventure.

Our mission was to scour the archives for examples of women’s domestic needlecraft in Scotland through the ages. We wanted images of normal women sewing, knitting and stitching.  We also wanted to see examples of their work.  Our intention was to then create a video collage of all these images and film snippets and share them in practical textile art workshops to inspire making and sharing of stories about our personal craft heritages.

Sewing Sampler, Leadhills 1891

As you might suspect, we had to search hard. Women’s domestic needlecraft is not the priority for documentation in times past.  However, after many enjoyable hours trawling through a wealth of search terms on Scran, we had a long list of 180 images.  Gulp!  We also rambled through the Moving Image Archive on a similar quest for films. The shortlisting process was both enjoyable and painful. Choosing between these examples of people’s exquisite work and between wonderful images capturing everyday life for women through the ages was no easy task, but eventually 7 film clips and 30 images were selected and licences applied for. Hand-Me-Down was ready to roll!

The response to the video we made was fabulous. For some participants it jogged memories of their school days or of granny, for other participants it was a new window into a past that they hadn’t experienced or had little access to discovering. Each individual in the workshops created a small piece of textile art and we gathered all in to mount our first exhibition at the Project Café in Glasgow. It was so popular we extended the exhibition and it ran through all of January and into February 2018.

Each piece was either a reflection on that person’s craft heritage or was inspired by the film. Below are 2 works which were directly inspired by items in Scran.

“Shrigley Sun” by Katrina Caldwell is inspired by “Festival of Britain 1951” a cushion cover by Kathleen Whyte which was part of The Needlework Development Scheme which ran from 1934 – 1961. The scheme began in Scotland and was a collaborative project between art and design education and industry, commissioning some really beautiful pieces to encourage embroidery and good design. The scheme was financed by JP Coates of Paisley the thread manufacturer. This cushion currently resides at the National Museum of Scotland.   Katrina was drawn to this record and inspired to create “Shrigley Sun” because she loves mid-century design and we wanted to acknowledge the Needlework Development Scheme in our project.

“Mauchline Memories” by Sarah Longfield takes its inspiration from a Mauchline ware box for cotton reels which is in the Nithsdale museum. Thread boxes or places to keep those all-important buttons and bits & bobs are an instant attraction to most crafters and Sarah shares this passion for boxes and tins to put things in. Instead of the portraits of Burns on the original box, this piece incorporates little things from Sarah’s past: a crystal from the necklace worn on her wedding day, a button from her first school jumper and other mementos physically demonstrating her own heritage. It is worked in Miyuki seed and bugle beads, incorporating beadwork stitches: dutch spiral and spiral staircase, plus bead embroidery techniques.

You can see all the ‘Hand-me-down’ work on Mrs Magooty’s social media too.

Images © The Herald, Leadhills Reading Society, Dumfries & Galloway Council, National Museums Scotland Licensor Scran 

 

Stained Glass at the Scottish National War Memorial

5th November 2018 by Scran | 0 comments

The Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle houses a rich variety of artwork to honour & remember those who died in World War One.  When it was built, between 1923 & 1927, over 200 professional artists worked with the architect, Robert Lorimer, to create a suitable tribute.

The interior of the memorial expresses the tragic sense of loss felt by Scotland after WW1. Inside the building, there is a feeling of dignity, pride and a sense of peace. The artists and makers used different materials, including bronze, iron, wood, stone, paint as well as stained glassThe result is impressive.

Air Force window design 1924 by Douglas Strachan

The artworks are designed to pay respect to the individual Scots who died, both men and women in all their different roles. Animals are acknowledged too, in the much loved stone sculpture ‘Remember also those Humble Beasts‘ by Phyllis Bone.

 

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Certainly the most colourful element of the SNWM is the is the stained glass with light flooding in from outside. In the main Hall of Honour the windows provide a lot of information, if you look carefully. For example, there is imagery illustrating what life was like on the Home Front, such as the mobilising of troops at Waverley Station (pictured top).

At either end of the hall, there are windows dedicated to different military services; that is the army, the navy and the air force – land, sea & air. Other windows show the four seasons. Some of the windows have roundels illustrating the different jobs people did or technology used in the machinery of war.

The windows in the Shrine are different to those in the Hall of Honour. These seven windows tell a another story, they use Bible and Christian messages to describe the experience of the War. Therefore they look more familiar to many, perhaps like traditional church windows at first glance.

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The artist who made all of these stunning windows was Douglas Strachan (1875-1950). Strachan was born in Aberdeen and educated at Robert Gordon’s College. He took evening classes at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen. He worked as an apprentice lithographer, a muralist, a portrait painter and then found a passion for working with stained glass. In 1909 he moved to Edinburgh to set up the crafts department of Edinburgh College of Art. He lived in Midlothian where he died in 1950. He worked on many other memorial windows, including a designs for the Peace Palace in The Hague installed in 1929.

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* To see more of the SNWM stained glass windows visit Scran

Images © Canmore Historic Environment Scotland Licensor Scran 

 

Armistice & the Scottish National War Memorial

1st November 2018 by Scran | 0 comments

SNWM Crown Square

Following World War One the first day of remembrance conducted in Britain and the Commonwealth was held in 1919, it was called Armistice Day. Following World War Two, Armistice Day became known as Remembrance Day to include all those who had died in defence of their countries in the two World Wars. The official time and date of remembrance is 11am on 11 November.

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1927 SNWM Postcard

The Scottish National War Memorial was created to honour the dead of the Great War, and is found in Crown Square within Edinburgh Castle. In 1917 before the War had even ended, the idea for the memorial was suggested by John George Stewart Murray – the 8th Duke of Atholl.

His idea caused a lot discussion and debate, not everyone agreed with his vision. Some people were worried it would focus too much on the military, rather than all Scots involved in the War effort. Also, after the site at Edinburgh Castle had been chosen, others were concerned it would look out of place – because of these challenges, early plans for the memorial were changed.

 

Robert Lorimer

Between 1924-7, the building was designed by the architect Robert Lorimer. He suggested an existing building could be changed and altered to form a remembrance hall. Previously the building had been used as a barracks to house soldiers. The architect worked with over 200 Scottish artists to transform the barracks into the remembrance hall & create a shrine.

 

SNWM Fundraising 1920

The memorial was estimated to cost £250,000. Therefore a lot of money that had to be raised, events like Thistle Day took place and fundraising started – for example commemorative postage stamps were issued. The public donated large sums of money in support. In August 1922 the money needed was finally raised, so construction could begin.

 

SNWM Shrine reconstruction 1924

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Architectural Drawings

Inside the building, the long hall has short wings and a central entrance gives the plan the form of the letter E.

The central shrine holds a large casket, which contains the Rolls of Honour. These are lists of over 150,000 names of those who lost their lives.

Space didn’t allow the names of the dead to be carved in stone, so they were inscribed in books of remembrance. Today visitors can still view these books, listing the names of all Scottish casualties of World War One, World War Two & all conflicts since.

 

It took ten years of determined work, however the Scottish National War Memorial was officially opened by The Prince of Wales, who later became King Edward VIII, on 14th July 1927.

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Images © St.Andrews University Library, Historic Environment Scotland, National Museums of Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, National Library of Scotland – Moving Image Archive Licensor Scran 

Possible discussion questions for school visitors:

  • Why do you think the Duke of Atholl felt it was important for Scotland to have a National Memorial?
  • What impression do you get from the Memorial?
  • How does it make you feel?
  • Why is it important that we remember?

1791 ‘Currie Powder’ Recipe

23rd October 2018 by Scran | 0 comments

07560042We thought we might whet your appetite for National Curry Week!

This page has been taken from recipe books written by Stephana Malcolm & it dates from 1791. This is one of five recipes for curry powder which she included in her recipe books. Ready-mixed curry powder was available in Britain at this period, but either Stephana Malcolm found it hard to get or she simply enjoyed making her own. Several Malcolm family members lived and worked in India and their influence is seen in the many Indian-inspired dishes in the recipe books from Burnfoot.

Stephana Malcolm clearly had curried dishes often enough that it was worth making powder in bulk. In this recipe she advises storing it in bottles and adding the wet ingredients, such as lemon juice and garlic, just before use. The National Library of Scotland holds a fascinating and valuable series of seven recipe books which survive from the Malcolm family. The earliest was started by Margaret Malcolm in 1782, several were then written by her daughter Stephana and her daughter-in-law Clementina, and the last in the series was written by Margaret’s great granddaughter, Mary Malcolm.

Image © National Library of Scotland | Licensor Scran

5th October 2018
by Scran
0 comments

RMS Aquitania – luxury on the high seas

Four men standing at the bottom on an empty hull, with 12 cranes appearing in the background

The construction of the Aquitania’s hull

Let us take you back to the heydays of shipbuilding at Clydebank, when the engineers and designers at John Brown’s yard built magnificent passenger liners that had the power, speed and comfort to serve the popular transatlantic market.

The talk of the town in the early 1910s was the construction of new luxury liner – the Aquitania.

 

A black and white photo of a four-funnel cruise ship on the Clyde river

The Aquitania on trial

The SS (steam ship) Aquitania, affectionately known as the ‘Ship Beautiful’, was the longest serving Cunard liner in the 20th century. She took three years to build and was launched on 21 April 1913 with accommodation for over 3,000 passengers. This photograph shows the Aquitania on trials in the Clyde.

A souvenir poster of the launch of the Aquitania

 

The launch was a major event, with a number of saloon steamers selling excursions to view the Aquitania. We love this souvenir poster created to mark the occasion. It was collected by James Wotherspoon, who created a pictorial record of shipbuilding and shipping on the Clyde, the West Coast and the Channel. Over 4000 of his meticulously captioned illustrations, photos, plans and newspaper and magazine cuttings are archived at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow.

 

A photo of a four funnel cruise liner on the Clyde with some saloon steamers

The Aquitania sailing down the Clyde

‘SS Aquitania, sailing down the Clyde, Sunday 10 May 1914’. This postcard was sent to Fergus Boyter-St Adrain in Cellardyke, Fife, from Scotstoun, Glasgow 8 days later. On 30 May 2014 the Aquitania set off on its maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York, arriving on 5 June. She went on to become the longest-serving ship this century, retiring after 35 years of service.

 

Long bench-like tables with rows of chairs either side. Very austere ceiling, floor and table settings

The Aquitania’s 3rd class dining room

There were marked differences in accommodation and facilities for first, second and third class. During World War I and World War II she was used for transporting troops. She also served as a hospital ship and, briefly, as a merchant vessel. These possibilities had been considered at the design stage, and the Admiralty had checked over the plans.

 

Two men in suits standing on deck

HG Wells and John Logie Baird on board the Aquitania

Between the wars the Aquitania was refitted as a cruise ship with improved facilities, including a theatre. During his 1931 trip to America John Logie Baird (the first person to demonstrate the television) was fortunate to find himself on board the Aquitania with author H.G.Wells. Baird was inspired by Mr Wells’ science fiction books as a child.

 

Copper bell inscribed with RMS Aquitania and the dates of service

Aquitania’s ship’s bell

At the end of World War II the Aquitania transported war brides to Canada. She was returned to Cunard in 1948 and chartered by the Canadian government to take emigrants from Southampton to Halifax, Nova Scotia, before being withdrawn from service on 9 January 1950.

She was the last liner in service with four funnels and the only major liner to serve in both World Wars. The Aquitania’s ship’s bell, inscribed with its dates of service, is in the care of National Museums Scotland.

 

 

A photo of a large mansion house

Boswall House, Edinburgh

Following her retirement the Aquitania was dismantled for scrap at Faslane in the 1950s, however it seems her story didn’t end there. Boswall House and Wardiebank House in Edinburgh are linked by extraordinary ironwork. The unusual and elaborate wrought-iron railings, which incorporate the letter ‘A’ in several places as well as crossed anchors and a trident, are thought to have come from the Aquitania. (If you take a look at the first class restaurant photo below you’ll see the likely provenance).

 

An ornate restaurant with tables featuring tablecloths, napkins, lamps and table settings

The Aquitania’s First Class restaurant

We’re proud that Scran can help piece together stories from the past by reaching into the digital records of so many contributing collections. The images in this blog are © National Records of Scotland, Glasgow City Council, the University of Strathclyde, Historic Environment Scotland, and National Museums Scotland.

If you like this story, please share it with friends on Twitter or Facebook.

Got a story that Scran has helped you tell? Let us know at scran@scran.ac.uk.

Scran contributes to Age Scotland celebration

4th October 2018 by Scran | 0 comments

We were delighted to be invited to contribute to Age Scotland‘s 75th anniversary celebrations this week. The organisation, renamed in 2009 when Age Concern and Help The Aged merged, held a wonderful party at the Scottish Parliament at which MSPs Lord George Foulkes and Christine Grahame both spoke.

Campaigning for and supporting older people in society has always been Age Scotland’s role, going back to 1945 when it was known as the Scottish Old People’s Welfare Committee. The emphasis is slightly less on “helping” the aged or on “concern” for the elderly today (though, of course, Age Scotland still supports those in need); today the organisiation’s new motto “Love Later Life” demonstrates its commitment to activity and independent living in retirement years.

As well as providing images (such as this one) for Age Scotland’s celebratory brochure “Speaking Up For Our Age”, Scran plans to host some of the material that has been rediscovered in the AGE Scotland archives, and this should appear on our site in 2019. Watch this space.

Many thanks to Elizabeth Bryan and Emma Bisset at Age Scotland.

 

 

 

 

 

Stanley Mills Young Curators

4th October 2018 by Scran | 0 comments

HES colleagues at Stanley Mills, a former textile mill in Perthshire, recently organized a fantastic opportunity for young people at Stanley Primary School to curate an exhibition at this historic site in a project supported Skills for Life, Learning & Work.. The pupils did a great job, meeting with HES curatorial and educational staff over 8 weeks to choose, document, assess, describe and display their chosen items, which included a gird and cleek, a strap (used to punish slow workers),  a porridge bowl and spoon, and two shillings (the weekly wage at the Mills for children in the 1830s). The pupils displayed great skill, especially in distilling the caption for each of their objects to 25 words or fewer- no mean feat, as any curator will tell you.

The results were unveiled on Monday before a select audience of parents, teachers, teaching assistants, HES staff and the pupils themselves, and as you can see below the results look extremely professional.

See more of Stanley Mills on Scran here.

 

 

6. Extraordinary Estonia | Erakorraline Eesti

26th September 2018 by Scran | 0 comments

This is the sixth, and final, in a series of travelogue posts about an Erasmus+ cultural heritage, study trip undertaken by Jackie Sangster from the Learning & Inclusion Team at Historic Environment Scotland.

Maarika striding towards Vabamu

Day 6 Freedom

It seemed the time was right, that on our last day we would visit the purpose built Vabamu Museum of Occupations & Freedom. This museum is powerful. I was immersed in the stories from the outset. The interpretation for me was second to none. The use of technology was intuitive and successful. The virtual reality experience of decorating a sparse Soviet apartment was enjoyable. The carefully curated objects and archives reinforced the narrative, all about Estonia’s recent history, making us think about the value of our freedom. The various films with real people relating their personal stories and recollections were the highpoint – genuine, heartfelt, matter-of-fact & authentic. Not surprisingly, the museum touched Maarika most intensely.

Contemporary helped to convey the stories

Personally I know a woman, who as a small child fled, from Estonia to escape the Russian invasion of 1940. She has led an astonishing life. Knowing her, and her family well, made this museum & especially the permanent exhibition, ‘Freedom Without Borders’, resonate for me. I was also able to draw some parallels in my own life. Having grown up during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, I am all too familiar how violence & conflict impacts on life. In fact, afterwards another group member & I were wondering why Belfast did not have such a museum. It saddens me to say, I don’t believe the peace process has reached maturity yet.

A balancing act

Whilst at Vabamu, I read that one of the aims was to create a museum that touches people from all around the world, not just Estonians. It is safe to say I was touched by this place. Later in 2018, I will be attending the Museums Association conference in Belfast. The theme is Dissent: inspiring hope, embracing change – having the courage to challenge traditional thinking to transform museums and society. I think Vabamu has set the standard. #Vabamu

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Tallinna Teletorn

A leisurely lunch & to our final stop Tallinna Teletorn the TV Tower & some matches. After a tour providing the context of the tower’s history. Construction began in 1975 and it was completed for the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics and Tallinn was the host city for the sailing events. The 170-metre-high observation platform and landmark opened for the occasion. Today TV Tower is one of the most important symbols of the restoration of Estonian independence. In August 1991 radio operators risked their lives to protect the free flow media and declaration of independence. We enjoyed the interpretation of these events in a humorous almost slapstick film, nonetheless enjoyable as an overseas visitor.

‘No Bananas Today’ Soviet Daily Life

After taking in the 360 degree vistas of the city & surrounds from the viewing platform we descended again to see the temporary exhibition called “No Bananas Today” – Time Travel to Soviet Daily Life. This was another take on the interpretation of Estonia’s recent pasta and a peek behind the Iron Curtain.

In 1992 I was lucky enough to spend the summer travelling in Russia, so seeing this exhibition brought many memories back through the little details, especially the reconstructed sets of shops, cafes & homes under Communisim. I devoured each interpretation panel as they were loaded with anecdotes about how people endured the Soviet regime by scrimping, saving, stealing or swindling the system. Life was hard and relentless but this exhibition explored what can be now be considered as absurd.

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Finally, back to our hotel in the district of Nõmme & for our farewell dinner with Maarika and joined again by Riin at Mimosa to indulge in some contemporary Estonian cuisine.

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Glehni Castle or Jälgimäe Manor

Spontaneously after dinner, our super hosts decided we needed an unscripted, late-night adventure to see the whimsical Glehni Castle or Jälgimäe Manor. So off we went in the dark to find this medieval castle-style building. Created by Baltic-German owner Nikolai von Glehn in 1886. It has a number of curious features, including an organically formed palm house. Nearby are his statues of Estonia’s epic hero Kalevipoeg, known as the ‘devil statue’ and another of a dragon which looks more like a crocodile.

Tallinn’s district of Nõmme was founded by Nikolai von Glehn in 1878 as a summerhouse district, now it’s referred to as the forest city suburb. The development started around the railway station. In 1926 it was granted town rights, but in the beginning of the Soviet occupation in 1940, it was unified to Tallinn and remains as one of the eight districts of Tallinn today.

Kalevipoeg by night

As if the day couldn’t get any better Riin also invited us into her Nõmme home, this was such a privilege. It was a Soviet house build in a street for artists. Therefore the design incorporated extra studio space and more windows to allow light to flood in. Riin had bought her home form the original owner-occupiers, both of whom had spent their lives working there. They were elderly when they left and Riin acquired a vast hoard of artwork with the house. Some of which was contributed to The Art Museum of Estonia collections. The studio still contains much of their collection & there are sculptures all over the garden. From what I could see in the dark, the fabric of the house for me was exquisite in its simplistic design and built to last surrounded by the forest, idyllic.

It was time for bed.

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Day 7 Departure Day

Hüvasti Eesti

Homeward bound & time to leave Estonia. This study trip exceeded expectations with a great group of heritage sector colleagues, I believe we learned more about Estonian cultural heritage than any of us ever expected to. Hopefully this report encapsulates just some of the joy had on this learning journey. As for our host Maarika, Eesti oli imeline – head aega ja tänan teid väga.

 

 

 

 

 

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This is a report on a course developed by ARCH, hosted by Maarika Naagel from Viitong Heritage Tours and funded through the Erasmus+ programme.

Archive Images ©  & Historic Environment Scotland Licensor Scran