RESP Outreach Intern – End of Internship

Written by: James Rice, RESP Outreach Intern

With the launch event completed, my internship was coming toward its end. After six months, I was surprised at how quickly it had gone by. But for now, I turned my attention to catching up on my remaining responsibilities.

My first week after the event was spent completing the writeups of the blog posts that have already been published on our site, as well as having a go at creating an updated banner for the page. Additionally, I put together and sent out a follow-up email to our event launch, notifying guests that Rebekah’s online exhibition had now been published. Alongside this, with a form put together by Rebekah, I also gave a link asking guests where possible for feedback on the event itself.

After this, I directed my focus to writing out a report reflecting on my experiences with the RESP. In doing so, I was able to also prepare a short presentation for an ‘Allstaff’ meeting where I described my achievements with heritage collections staff at the University of Edinburgh. I was so glad that I had put together a journal entry of my weekly tasks with the RESP, as that made putting together a script for this meeting, as well as the report and these blogs, so much easier!

With these responsibilities out of the way, and my final tutorial video iteration edited and completed, my time with the RESP as an intern was completed.

My internship with the RESP at the CRC over the last six months has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Applying for this role with the intention to gain practical experience working with a collection and learning more about the day-to-day operations within the Heritage Sector, I can confidently say that I achieved these goals. Additionally, I am proud of what I was able to accomplish over this period and how much I developed professionally while balancing my time with my postgraduate education.

Building on my experience already from various voluntary roles across London and Edinburgh, I have no doubt that this internship has made me a valuable candidate for roles in the future once I complete my masters. This role has given me the chance to build my competence across outreach, event management, and working closely with an archive to develop promotional materials to support the launch of an online exhibition.

While I initially felt overwhelmed with the possible routes that I could potentially take with my internship, pitching my ideas to an experienced team in January allowed me to solidify the objectives that I hoped to achieve through my work.

Throughout, I felt welcomed and supported by staff. In particular, I felt confident to ask questions to my supervisors Lesley Bryson and Caroline Milligan at the RESP, and engagement officer Bianca Packham whenever needed; with their feedback and guidance always being appreciated and contributed to a strong sense of learning and personal growth in the field.

Overall, this internship has been a significant step in my professional journey. It has reinforced my passion for working in the heritage sector and given me a clearer vision for the career path I wish to pursue going forward. I feel confident that I have been equipped with the necessary skills to succeed and thrive in this field.

I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity with the RESP. The lessons I can take away from this experience will undoubtedly benefit me as I move forward. I want to thank Lesley, Caroline, and the CRC for this opportunity, and my fellow intern Rebekah for our work together!

Curating and illustrating the ‘Animal Encounters’ online exhibition

Written by: Rebekah Day, RESP Curatorial Intern

From December 2023 to May 2024, I have had the pleasure of working on curating an online exhibition for the Regional Ethnology of Scotland Project (RESP).

View the exhibition:

After successfully interviewing for the Regional Ethnology of Scotland (RESP) curatorial internship, I was given information from the Project team on a whole range of topics and themes that could be used as a basis for the exhibition but was assured that I had the choice to pitch my own idea. After some back and forth discussions about what kind of content and topics I was likely to find in the RESP interviews, I started to listen to some of the recordings available on the website and found myself drawn to the stories people shared that included interactions with animals.

I pitched the idea of my theme being ‘Animal Encounters’ giving the following rationale:

It can be said that the RESP archive, and ethnology more widely, is concerned with studying and recording the everyday stories of people – but ostensibly they also capture the nuances of the universally shared, yet deeply individual, human experience.

A surprising theme that reoccurs throughout the interviews is the significance of animals, which appear in a huge variety of the memories and stories individuals have shared with the RESP archive.

The rural locations where many interviews have been carried out naturally mean that individuals have shared connections to agricultural activity such as farming, so it is no surprise that stories of animals framed by this industry occur – what is interesting though, is just how many spheres of influence animals crop up in throughout a person’s life.

Some of these stories recount the chores involved raising farm animals, the joy of playing with a beloved family pet, the intensive labour involved in abattoir work, the impact of poaching and cattle theft on communities, or lamenting the loss of fields used for grazing now given over to modern housing estates.

By selecting the specific subject of ‘animals’, this exhibition will provide a window into the RESP archives – encouraging audiences to delve more deeply into the RESP website and other CRC collections for their own research.

This exhibition will also provide a timely and entertaining resource for students and those interested in local history, encouraging discussion about the changing relationship between Scotland’s people and the natural environment.

Given the go ahead, I was then trained in how to use the exhibitions website so I could see what kind of content could be displayed and what layout was possible. I was also guided on what external organisations and volunteers associated with RESP I could approach to ask for visual content such as photographs and videos.

Caroline Milligan also provided me with an extensive list of interviews

that she knew mentioned animals – you can see the whole list here. When first listening to these, I wanted to stop and write down the time stamp for every little anecdote I thought was interesting, but this would have taken forever!

Instead I listened to a couple of them the whole-way through the first time around with my digital drawing tablet set up. I soon found that just doodling away while listening to the interviews clarified that the topics and themes I was clearly drawn to involved animals and nature.


Going back to make notes of relevant stories from some of these interviews and thinking about the kind of illustrations I was producing, and the other visual content RESP had access to, I was able to suggest three ‘categories’ that the content could be placed in, to provide a framework for the exhibition.
The three categories ‘for us,’ ‘with us’, ‘around us,’ are not intended as concrete descriptions, but as loose themes that can frame or challenge your interpretation of the kind of interactions between people and animals that can be found in the exhibition.

I found reference images on the internet to ensure I was getting things like the colours, details and proportions somewhat right for these illustrations. Some interviews discussed populations of pheasants, kites and lapwings which I guessed were birds, but only thanks to a Google search could I confidently replicate what they looked like!
This exercise in itself was eye opening – searching out further details from the fleeting comments made within an interview gave me such a greater appreciation for the topics people were discussing.
For example, discovering that lapwings, also known as ‘peewits’, had adorable pointy head-feathers and nested on the ground, helped me imagine how these creatures would have stood out to a person gazing across the landscape.
I could imagine the parent birds watching over their cute fluffy chicks, but also worrying as farm machinery and road traffic milled by dangerously close to their nests.

I was really inspired by how a previous intern for the Friends Exhibition used their own illustrations throughout the exhibition; her scrapbook-style collages neatly frame the pages and provide a visual connection between collection items that might have otherwise felt disparate. The illustrations in the Friends Exhibition enhance the viewers experience while navigating the website, but do not draw any focus away from the key material on display. This was a method I hoped to replicate by including my own drawings in the Animal Encounters exhibition.
To give the idea that my illustrations were visual components of a larger, multi-media, exhibition, I placed the individual illustrations in a variety of mismatching frames. This created a kind of jigsaw or collage to use on the homepage and in marketing material.

For each sub-page, I then took a smaller group of framed illustrations that felt relevant to the interviews and used these as header images.

Where I included audio clips from the interviews I tried to accompany these with images of the individual speaking or photographs from the location the interviewee came from. Where I could not find a relevant image, I instead took a quote from the interview transcription and placed it in a frame alongside some relevant illustrations.
I felt this helped keep the content engaging and created continuity between different sections.

In the Friends Exhibition, the intern included a short recording of the Curator speaking about an item in the collection which inspired me to include a piece of my own connection to the themes explored in the Animal Encounters exhibition through a short interview with the RESP Project Archivist Lesley Bryson.
I had been eager to include mention of a connection we had discovered over the months since I started this internship. Through chatting about family history we realised that the area of Morningside where Lesley lives today is right by the location of the historic dairy my husband’s great-great-grandparents had lived and worked in the early 1900s.
I was recently sent some of these family photos and showed Lesley, who enjoyed seeing how different the street had looked in the past. She also told me that recent building works at her house had uncovered cow bones, possibly evidence of the historic dairy.

This interaction is the last story included in the exhibition as I feel that it surmises for me just how pervasive the connections between humans and animals remain across the decades.

View the exhibition:

Royal Reflections from the RESP Archive

10 - Peers of the realm look on during the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in Westminster Abbey

This weekend sees the culmination of celebrations to mark the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth, and marks her 70th anniversary as monarch. This event provides us with an opportunity to explore some of the Royal Family related material that can be found in RESP archive recordings.

The RESP archive includes a number of recordings which contain memories of monarchs and royal celebrations.  The earliest relates to a recording made in 1975 with 100 year old Granny Blacklock.  Recorded by her grandson, Ian Blacklock, and subsequently donated to the RESP, this interview takes us back to Granny’s childhood, in the late 1870s and provides us with some of the earliest recollections we have in the archive. Although not yet available to listen to on the website, there is a published summary on the site and the recording and transcription will be uploaded soon.  As a young woman, Granny worked for a family who were based in Manchester for a while and she was taken along to the opening of the Manchester ship canal, in 1894.  Queen Victoria was there, and Granny could recall the monarch in her ‘wida’s weeds’ as she passed quite close by and waved to the crowd.  When asked by Ian if she’d waved back, she recalled, ‘Aye, Ah waived back, aye’.

We then jump to the green at West Barns, East Lothian, 1935.  Peter Aitchison, who was a small child in 1935, recalled a cedar being planted to celebrate the silver jubilee of Queen Mary and King George V.  In a moving, informative and often funny interview, Peter mentions this occasion and then adds quickly that he’s always keen to tell people that the tree ‘wisnae his fault’, a reference, perhaps, to the impressive, or possibly intrusive, size of the tree today!

Other interviewees recall the coronation celebrations in different parts of Dumfries and Galloway.  These include Tom Allan, who remembers the celebrations, including pipe bands and bonfires, in Lochmaben and Sheila Austin, who remembers the celebrations in the more remote farming parts of the region

My favourite recollection comes to us from Davie Graham, of Sanquhar, who recalls that only a few people in the town had a television in 1953 and so many, himself included, watched the coronation through a shop window!

The Man who Went to the Moon and the Woman who Helped Bring him to Langholm: A Tale of Two Leaps

I’ve now been working with the EERC Regional Ethnology of Scotland Study since 2011 and for the CRC-RESP Archive Project since 2018.  My jobs have allowed me to be involved with all aspects of our work, from training new fieldworkers and providing feedback on first interviews right through to listening to the interviews and preparing them for upload to the RESP archive website.

On any given day, when I sit down to start listening to a RESP recording, I know I’m going to learn something new.  In a world where it can seem we’re all hell-bent on destruction of one kind or another, the RESP recordings demonstrate that people are keeping on keeping on, as they always have done: working hard, enjoying life, doing their best, caring about the small stuff, and the huge stuff.  By way of illustrating something of the diversity of the collection, here are some examples from my listening over the past week or so:

  • From a recording made in 1979, Elizabeth Davidson talks about her early life in Carsluith in the first years of the twentieth century, when money, opportunity and choice were in short supply but life was nonetheless very full. Along with interviewer, David Hannay, she also reflects on the death of family members who, in more recent times would have easily survived their illnesses: scarlet fever, an infected wound, tuberculosis.
  • From a recording made in 2019, David Davies describes his musical life – from his childhood learning to play the piano, then working in a music shop on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, to accompanying Dean Martin as he sang ‘Little Old Wine Drinker’ in an impromptu performance on a ship travelling from New York back to the UK.  It was clearly a fantastic life and one he enjoyed greatly.  At one point he was working at a hotel in New Brighton where his beautiful and ornate concert-organ was on a turntable in the middle of the dancefloor.  As he played, the dais revolved and the dancers circled around him.  Very stylish, no doubt, but not so practical.  Two attendees had to help David off the dais at break-time because he was too dizzy to walk.  And this wasn’t a life without hardship and difficulty.  It’s clear from his testimony that David’s peripatetic lifestyle made establishing a settled home life difficult, with his family having little choice but to uproot and resettle when each job finished and the next opportunity was in a different town or another country.
  • From a 1996 recording, 80 year old retired millworker Duncan Adam, whose father died during World War 1 when Duncan was a toddler, described his understandable reluctance to go to War when it came time for him to be conscripted during World War 2. With a wife and young child at home, Duncan must have feared history repeating itself with his own family.
  • And from an interview made in 2020, sisters Betty and Suzanne recall their childhood in Fisherrow where to venture ‘over the bridge’ into nearby Musselburgh was widely regarded as ‘unnecessary or unwise’ and where their fisherman father regarded his Perth forbearers, who came to Fisherrow in 1800, as recent incomers!

It’s such an amazing privilege to be able to spend my working day listening to these recordings and preparing the files and supporting documentation so that the recordings can be shared on our Project website.  It’s all very well to collect these valuable recordings, which tell us so much about our shared cultural lives, but it’s also imperative that we can than share this material with a wider audience both to respect the time and energy given by our volunteer fieldworkers and interviewees and also to try to ensure these recordings are widely available and accessed.  This ethos is at the heart of everything we do at the RESP and a central part of my job as RESP Archives Assistant.

Another central part of the RESP work is to train local volunteer fieldworkers to make fieldwork recordings in their local area and it’s rare for me to do any local fieldwork.  However, I have been fortunate enough to be the interviewer on a small number of recordings made in Dumfries and Galloway and a significant local anniversary prompted this blog, about an interview I carried out in 2013, in Langholm, with Grace Brown.  Also present that day, as cameraman, technician and fellow interviewer, was my colleague, Mark Mulhern, Senior Research Fellow at the EERC.

In 1969, just a short time after Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, Grace Brown and her colleagues on the Langholm town council – in a huge leap of faith and audacity – voted unanimously to write to Neil inviting him to become a Freeman of Langholm.  As Grace explained to me, Langholm is the ancient homeland of the Armstrong clan and the town had been extremely excited and diligent in following Neil’s progress in the time leading up to the moon landing.  A letter was duly despatched, through a Langholm exile living in Houston, Texas, and, although they had to wait some time to hear back, Neil did accept that invitation and when he visited Scotland in 1972, to deliver the Mountbatten Lecture at the University of Edinburgh, he also travelled to Langholm to become the first man to receive the honour of Freeman of Langholm.

For months before the visit, the town council were in a state of high alert and Grace remembers this event as the highlight of her career.  As Neil was to be the very first Freeman of Langholm, a Burgess Ticket was commissioned, along with a ceremonial box to contain this.  The box, made by a Kirkcudbright artist, was an exact representation of Hollows Tower. The whole community were excited about the upcoming visit and Langholm became a destination for press and public alike.  Grace recalls the Chicago Tribune printed a map of the British Isles with only 2 places marked on it, London and Langholm!  She also describes in detail the itinerary for the time that Neil and his wife, Jan, were in Langholm.  One of the many gifts presented to the couple during the visit was a mohair shawl made from Lunar Tartan.  This tartan, which reflected the colours of lunar rock brought back from Neil’s voyage, had been designed and produced by cloth designer, Ian Maxwell, and partner Alasdair Irvine to celebrate the moon landing and the mohair stole was woven at their Esk Valley mill.

I’m not going to say any more about the interview and hope I’ve done enough to tempt you to listen to the interview in full, which you can do by following this link

In her presence, back in 2013, Grace bubbled with excitement and pride as she talked about the visit.  It was such a pleasure and privilege to speak to her.  At one point I said to her that Mark and I had been excited to meet her, a woman who had shaken hands with the first man to walk on the moon.  ‘That’s right’, she replied ‘…ah didn’t wash ma hand for a week!’

Caroline Milligan, RESP Archives Assistant