Scottish Centre for Island Studies

Scottish Island Studies@ University of the West of Scotland

Island Cultural Archives

For further information go to the linked Island Cultural Archives  page. This site is dedicated to the AHRC funded research project on Island Cultural Archives. The principal investigator was Dr Kathryn A Burnett, University of the West of Scotland.

This small scale research project consistsed of a series of workshop events held in the Outer Hebrides and associated field research relating to archival resource synergies emerging in the communities of Benbecula, South Uist, and Eriskay. The workshop themes were Oral Tradition, Deserted Settlement and Visual Legacy. Invitations were extended to local heritage and history professionals and organisations, as well as a small number of academic partners with links to the island communities named. It was hoped that each workshop event would facilitate discussion and knowledge exchange by interested parties specifically serving the archive resources relating to cultural heritage of the communities of Benbecula, South Uist, and Eriskay. This was to be the case.

The workshops took place in August and September 2007 and in each of the three workshop symposia style events, lively and stimulating discussion took place following a series of informal presentations and more interactive hands-on opportunities engaging with museum and archive resources. Details of these events can be found by clicking on the workshop theme pages links above. Further details will be added as the analysis of the events is written up and disseminated here.

A key objective of the project was to undertake informal discussion around a set of thematic concerns relating to island heritage and the specific potential for knowledge exchange and partnership in relation to the documentary and visual archives of the area.  This has been achieved.

The second goal of providing reflections on this discussion, including some edits of the recording of the events, has resulted in several outputs, and has informed current historical archive work (2010-2011) with Ray Burnett,  funded by the British Academy,  on the remote South Atlantic island community of Tristan da Cunha.

The project began in July 2007 and ran for 5 months. Further details can  be obtained from Kathryn A Burnett (

2 thoughts on “Island Cultural Archives

  1. At the centenary celebration of Sorley MacLean – Ainmeil Thar Cheudan – June 18-19 2011, Professor Murdo Macdonald will deliver a keynote lecture entitled “From Carmina Gadelica to Dain do Eimhir: the Visual Tradition”. In 2007 Murdo, Professor of History of Scottish Art, was one of the key academic partners and workshop participants in the AHRC Island Cultural Archives project. An interview in 2007 with Murdo detailing the then first stages of the Uinneag dhan Àird an Iar: Ath-lorg Ealain na Gàidhealtachd/Window to the West: The Rediscovery of Highland Art project can be found here in an interview with Georgina Coburn.

    Murdo’s abstract for his plenary paper to the Ainmeil Thar Cheudan 2011 event is detailed here in full:

    William Crosbie’s images for the first edition of Sorley MacLean’s Dàin do Eimhir match the European vision of the poetry. That outstanding combination of word and image, published by William McLellan in1943, prefigures recent projects such as An Leabhar Mòr / The Great Book of Gaelic. But the first edition of Dàin do Eimhir also built on a sustained exploration of the visual aspects of Gaelic culture of which the first edition of Alexander Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica is a key example. That was published in 1900 and has initial letters and other embellishments of the highest quality drawn by Alexander Carmichael’s wife, Mary. These designs take their inspiration, for the most part, from the illuminated manuscripts of the Gàidhealtachd. Carmina Gadelica is one of the great books both of the Scottish Celtic Revival and of the British Arts and Crafts Movement (although it is rarely considered in either context). In this paper I will explore the visual context of Carmina Gadelica and Dàin doEimhir and address the issue of the neglected visual tradition of the Scottish Gàidhealtchd.

  2. A book chapter co-authored by Kathryn A Burnett and Tony Grace was produced offering reflections on research practice in terms of working on island archives and their relationship to community media and creative practice. Details of the edited collection are detailed here:

    Gordon, Janey (ed.) Notions of Community: A Collection of Community Media Debates and Dilemmas Year of Publication: 2009

    Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2009. 310 pp., 5 ill.
    ISBN 978-3-03911-374-3 pb.

    Contents: Janey Gordon: Introduction – Saba ElGhul-Bebawi: The Relationship between Mainstream and Alternative Media: A Blurring of the Edges? – Lawrie Hallett: The Space Between: Making Room for Community Radio – Janey Gordon: Community Radio, Funding and Ethics: The UK and Australian Models – Kathryn A. Burnett/Tony Grace: Community, Cultural Resource and Media: Reflecting on Research Practice – Katie Moylan: Towards Transnational Radio: Migrant Produced Programming in Dublin – Gavin Stewart: Selling Community: Corporate Media, Marketing and Blogging – Michael Meadows/Susan Forde/Jacqui Ewart/Kerrie Foxwell: A Catalyst for Change? Australian Community Broadcasting Audiences Fight Back – Kitty van Vuuren: The Value and Purpose of Community Broadcasting: The Australian Experience – Pollyanna Ruiz: Manufacturing Dissent: Visual Metaphors in Community Narratives – Janey Gordon: The Mobile Phone and the Public Sphere: Mobile Phone Usage in Three Critical Situations – Jason Wilson/Barry Saunders/Axel Bruns: ‘Preditors’: Making Citizen Journalism Work – Dimitra L. Milioni: Neither ‘Community’ Nor ‘Media’? The Transformation of Community Media on the Internet.

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