ScARF Museums Project – a few months on

Back in July, I posted an introductory blog about the Scottish Archaeological Research Framework (ScARF) project and our work with museums. It’s been a really busy few months since then, spreading the word of archaeological research in museums (a bit of a tongue-twister) as well as spending time working with one of our partner organisations, Orkney Islands Council museum service, on their home turf.

Display case in Orkney Museum
Display case in Orkney Museum

Two weeks spent buried deep in the archaeological collections was fantastic – Orkney Museum rightly have a Recognised Collection, held mostly in Kirkwall. Working with the curatorial staff there allowed me to really see how research is being undertaken with the collections.

It’ll be of no surprise to anyone reading this that Orkney is a dream for any archaeologist – professional or amateur – and the museum really reflects the wealth of sites and finds from across the islands. I was amazed at the levels of interest from researchers in the collection – so much more than I had anticipated – and the amount of work being undertaken. This is excellent news for our project but we also want to look at areas where there hasn’t been so much research attention, so in Orkney this means the Medieval and later collections and especially related to the broad themes of ‘farming’ and ‘fishing’.  We want to try to encourage more varied research in a manner which can contribute to outstanding ScARF research questions as well as be manageable for the museum staff.

Interior at Corrigall Farm museum
Interior at Corrigall Farm museum

 

Storage made from flagstones in Corrigall Farm museum
Storage made from flagstones in Corrigall Farm museum

 

Whilst in Orkney, I also visited the other sites which Orkney Islands Council manage, including Corrigall and Kirbuster farm museums. Both are housed in vernacular buildings and illustrate different time periods from the more recent past. I was really struck by the building methods shown in the interior of each buildings, with flagstones used to create dressers, recessed beds and interior storage. It was all awfully similar to a certain other  Orcadian site, just that Corrigall was built a few thousand years later. Both these farm museums are somewhat off the beaten track but provide a really fascinating glimpse into life in Orkney over the past few centuries.

Recessed, or nook, bed in Kirbuster Farm museum
Recessed, or nook, bed in Kirbuster Farm museum

 

Central peat hearth in Kirbuster Farm museum
Central peat hearth in Kirbuster Farm museum

 

When I wasn’t touring about the sites, I spent a lot of time in Orkney considering the best use of the resources available to us through the ScARF project and how they might be of most benefit. We are currently in the planning stages of some workshops looking to bridge the knowledge gap between archaeologists and museum professionals; sharing best practice and knowledge from both sides. Why not sign up to the monthly ScARF e-newsletter  to find out more details?

Being in Orkney really helped to develop scope for these workshops, but so did a recent visit to our other project partners, Aberdeenshire Council, in Mintlaw. Each museum service is really different in terms of their collections, but share similar challenges. Aberdeenshire has a fantastic modern collection (also holding Recognised status), but no less fascinating is their prehistoric material. On a personal note, it was a visit to Easter Aquhorthies recumbent stone circle in Aberdeenshire many years ago that helped fuel my love of archaeology, so perhaps if I’m lucky I’ll get to revisit it on my next trip.

Living space in Kirbuster Farm museum
Living space in Kirbuster Farm museum

 

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to email and speak to me about the project over the past few months – it is greatly appreciated. It’s fascinating to hear of the sheer breadth of work being undertaken by researchers at all stages in their careers, as well as getting to work behind-the-scenes with some really excellent museums. I’ll be back again in a few months with another update on our work.

Meantime, get in touch: anna@socantscot.org

For more information on ScARF go here: http://www.scottishheritagehub.com/

For more information on the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland see here: http://www.socantscot.org/

This project is being funded by Historic Environment Scotland and Museums Galleries Scotland.

Exterior of Kirbuster Farm museum
Exterior of Kirbuster Farm museum

 

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