Well, I think people have, in this archive, have had a very strong sense of responsibility in relation to people they’ve collected from, communities in which they’ve worked and so on. And that would extend, for example, to perhaps restricting access to material collected that an individual would not wish to have in the public domain, maybe references to witchcraft or to other sorts of things that might be best kept within very strict bounds and parameters, and that’s always respected. Over the years we’ve also returned bodies of material when local archives were set up. Material went to Shetland, it went to Ness in Lewis, for example, and to many other places. When an interest locally was expressed in having access, and of course that’s been an underlying principle in the Tobar an Dualchais project, this idea of returning material to where it was collected and where it was valued and so on, as well as making it available for a wide range of people with interests in Scotland. So that’s been an important principle, I would say, and then people in the localities have also been collectors, have been encouraged to make their own collections, either for us here or for local purposes and the encouragement that both our collectors and our academic staff and technical staff have given from the start to local projects and local archives and ... You know, the teaching of techniques and the encouragement to use particular proven approaches and so on has been part of our work. I’ve mentioned the Oral History Group in Scotland and how much it owes to the department. And so I think that sense of collaboration ... I certainly like to think that sense of collaboration is one that’s been recognised and approved of in communities as well. I daresay we could’ve done more of that sort of work if our resources had been greater, but I think that sense of continuity and responsibility has been very much a formative principle. And I think there are very few collections in the world that wouldn’t feel that but perhaps in a country like Scotland with a staff who, in the main, have had quite strong ... not everyone has but many of them have had strong local links. That didn’t of course prevent them, as I said in connection with Calum Maclean, didn’t prevent them from collecting languages that weren’t their first language or in areas that were new to them. And, of course, over time as people have been trained here from other places and other cultures and so on and have themselves taken up roles here, you find the links being of a different nature. But I think we’ve been very privileged in Scotland to be able to maintain that close affinity with communities and individuals and I hope we’ll be able to continue to do that.

  • Margaret Mackay
Thursday 17th June 2010