What’s happening

Aye it wis aabody

Of late I’ve been working with Birse Community Trust to help deliver an exciting and, to my mind, important project exploring the links between a small Aberdeenshire school and the transatlantic slave trade.

Here’s a link to an article all about it in the P&J. https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/tag/aye-it-was-aabody/

I’ve been working directly with the early years children to help them think about their school’s history and have put together a resource pack to support the school with projects about the local community over time, starting with the schools founder in the 1600s who we now know owned slaves in Barbados.  I will also be helping a community group to produce some interpretation based on their research.

 

Back to Blantyre

I was out at Rutherglen yesterday leading a text-training session for a team of staff and volunteers from the David Livingstone Birthplace Project. This was with the aim of kick-starting our process to write fresh and engaging content for the new museum.

I will be working in an editorial and interpretion advisory capacity with the team over the next few months. So far I’ve been developing editorial guidelines, reading biographies and getting to grips with the museum plans.

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Here’s a case of just some of the fascinating objects which are likely to feature in the new museum. It includes one of David Livingstone’s field diaries in which he directly observed hundreds of slaves being massacred. His reports back in the UK assisted with the abolition of the East African Slave Trade.  The case featured in ‘A New Light on Livingstone’ – a temporary exhibition that I worked on a few years back while still working for NTS.

The project involves a major refurbishment of the David Livingstone Centre at Blantyre – where the famous explorer spent his early years. It’s an exciting opportunity to re-tell this extraordinary life story to contemporary audiences.

His story touches on various emotive and important global issues such as slavery, colonialism, and cultural imperialism. We will be choosing our words to provoke reflection and explore, rather than to shy away from some of these more controversial topics and hope that visitors will appreciate this approach.

Read about the project  here.

Weaving in the wildlife

Until a few months ago I’d never made it to see the magical and fascinating place that is Kilmartin Glen. Now I’m spending a fair bit of time there, visiting stone circles and view-points, watching beavers at Knapdale, eating locally smoked salmon, and even having my lunch nibbled at by a friendly robin, but mostly in meetings about the museum.  Plans are a afoot for a major refresh of the Kilmartin museum and I’m working with a locally based ecologist, Ross Preston, and with the project team to develop the natural history interpretation that will feature in the displays.

The glen and the collections are incredibly significant for archaeology and the museum itself will be focusing primarily on that. It is clear that the people who shaped this landscape had an incredibly close relationship with nature and in particular with the peat bog and woodlands around them. My challenge is to find ways to weave this in and to showcase the area’s rich biodiversity and what that has meant to us humans past, present and future. Watch this space!18136399_10155326352577502_1861438860_n

Out of office

Walking among giant trees and contemplating majestic mountain views is never a bad way to spend a working day. Last Friday I had my first site visit to Benmore Botanic Garden where I’m working with Tea and Type design on an interpretation and signage refresh project. It’s an inspiring and peaceful garden and it isn’t often you can visit Japan, Bhutan and Chile and still be back in Glasgow in time for tea.

These photos are from a previous visit (courtesy of my talented friend Sarah Zadik). They show how fabulous the garden looks in Autumn, and leave little room for doubt that I am a tree hugger!

We’re in the early stages of the project and are looking at a various small scale interventions that will enhance the visitor experience and make even more of Benmore.

Based at the Bond

Now that I’m starting my new freelance life, I’m delighted to be based at the Whisky Bond, Glasgow. The buiding sits on the Forth and Clyde Canal and I have great views out of my window across to the University Tower and the hills beyond. All sorts of people and businesses are based here – it has a real buzz about it. On any given trip to get a coffee you can run into designers, illustrators, choreographers, watchmakers … It feels very inspiring and I am confident that it will be a happy home for my new business. http://www.thewhiskybond.co.uk/

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A last and first message

I wrote this as a goodbye message to my colleagues at the National Trust for Scotland. It sums up what, to me, makes for a meaningful visitor experience. People talk more and more about creating ‘wow factors’. For me wow factors are very often there already, even if they are sometimes hidden. The trick is to let them sing.

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The real thing … 

Cannot be recreated in plastic, or timber or projected
through 3d glasses.
Is here in this place only, and now with you alone.
Can take you time travelling, or on other imaginative journeys.
Should be honoured yet not stifled.
Loses its shine as soon as it is packaged up and sold.
Is the twinkle in the eye of a specialist caught up in a story that
no-one else could ever care so passionately about.
Is the heart-stopping moment when you find yourself  eye to eye with a roe deer in a woodland.
Is the humbling sense of mortality that comes from thinking about, or unearthing lives long gone.
Is the deeply personal connection that is unlocked by touching a historic object or photograph that
someone just like you once treasured.
Is your jaw literally dropping as the view of the loch unfolds.
Is the quiet joy of watching a true craftsman at work.
Is something a true artist or poet will find ways to reveal
Is reaching the top of the hill. What else could you achieve?
Is taking in beautiful artworks and buildings and feeling all the more beautiful for it.
Is thinking, look at that – maybe I could try that.
Is feeling wide-eyed and childlike as you realise there are always new things to learn.
Is fire in the belly when you do something brave. When you stand up for your principles.
Is a eureka moment when everyone in the room nods … ‘ok. It’s crazy but it could work!’
Is in a happy memory, in a tear, in laughter.
Is the pride in knowing that whatever you made,
was made with love.

December 9th 2016

Welcome!

The new year is a fresh start for me as I set my foot into the wild world of freelancing.

This is a great opportunity to take what I have learned over the years (working at the National Trust for Scotland, Glasgow Museums and more) and to spread my wings. It is very exciting and I look forward to keeping you abreast of things as they develop.

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Innovative Historic House Interpretation

Kensington Palace’s reimagined state apartments by theatre and visual arts collective Coney…offers a fresh approach to Historic house interpretation  http://www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/stories/palacehighlights/liveperformance.

Also keen to see the Untold Stories of Blenheim Palace near Oxford…http://www.blenheimpalace.com/ by Sinclair design and integrated circles.

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