Monthly Archives: March 2021

Queering the Archive: An Announcement of a New Initiative

We are excited to announce the work on our new Queering the Archive initiative. This initiative aims to increase representation of LGBT+ records within our collections. 

Queering the Archive will hope to investigate the gaps in our collections and cataloging to improve LGBT+ representation with aims for further development and active archiving in the future. The initiative is a part of our 70th Anniversary plans and will be included in a series of events over the rest of the year. The initiative will allow us to go forward in improving marginalised and underrepresented voices and material. 


An image of progress pride. It Includes the rainbow flag design, with arrows to the left of the trans flag and representation of people of colour in pride and the community.

Progress Pride Flag

There are unfortunately little accounts of LGBT+ histories and recordings in the School of Scottish Studies Archives. 
In particular, there is little representation on queer folklore, folk narratives, or songs in a wider historical and archival setting. LGBT+ histories are sometimes ‘hidden’ histories, either through historical context on discussion of LGBT+ identity and topics, lack of archiving or archival interest, or a lack of appropriate and inclusive search-terms and cataloging that reflects queer identities.


Queering the Archive will begin with an intervention and discussion workshop.


The workshop will provide a starting point to actively work with the community to discuss our collections, representation, as well as crowd-source search-terms for improvement of cataloging developed by and for the LGBT+ community. 

Workshops will allow participants to engage with our records and active intervention through crowd-sourcing and discussion. It is our aim to work with the community, skill-share, and offer meaningful collaboration and discussion as much as possible throughout the initiative. It will introduce you to our collections, queer theory, and investigations into our LGBT+ and related records.

Workshops will be completely free and led remotely via Zoom, and will utilise other platforms.

Dates are to be announced. 



We will also be producing a series of blogs exploring the initiative and application of queer theory to our collections with further discussion. 

The next blog will explore queering the collections through the popular and infamous ‘cross-dressing’ ballads and exploring the queerness and issues of LGBT+ representation in the context of the selected ballads and traditions.

We will also be exploring the work ‘behind the scenes’ of Queering the Archive through our blogs and we will include other exciting material and updates!



If you are interested in taking part in the workshops, researching LGBT+ recordsusing our collections for your work, depositing your work and records, or working with us for Queering the Archive, please contact  


Written by Elliot Holmes. 

Elliot is one of the Archives and Library Assistants at the School of Scottish Studies Archives and uses He/They pronouns. You can also find him on twitter @elliotlholmes  

Follow @EU_SSSA on twitter for updates on the 70th Anniversary, Queering the Archive, and sharing our collections. 

#SSSA70 #QueeringSSSA




The term Queering has been used by many across the Gallery, Library, Archive, and Museum, (GLAM), sector with many launching queering initiatives to expand and represent LGBT+ histories. We will be using the term Queer as a catch-all term, and the term Queering in regards to application of queer theory and approaches. We will also be using the term LGBT+ throughout the initiative. 

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SSSA in 70 Objects: The Barnyards o’ Delgaty

Contributor: Enoch Kent

Fieldworker: Hamish Henderson

Reference: SA1954.33.a6

Link to the song on Tobar an Dualchais:

Response by: Robert Fell

This Bothy ballad – rendered beautifully here by Enoch Kent in 1954 – holds a special place in my heart because it was one of the first examples of the genre I heard from The School of Scottish Studies Archives. At the time, I was working towards my undergraduate degree on the Scottish Studies 1B course ‘Creating Scotland’, where this track was used as an example of the unique repository of knowledge that the archives represent. From that moment on, I knew that my academic interests lay in the exploration of our archive and duly shifted the focus of my degree from English Literature to Scottish Ethnology. My current doctoral project has revealed to me that the diverse range of intangible cultural heritage embodied by the archives is truly breath-taking. This researcher, for one, has merely scratched the surface.

Enoch’s ballad belongs to genre of narrative songs associated with the reorganisation of rural Scottish society during the ‘Agrarian Revolution’ of the nineteenth century. ‘Just as the growth of capitalist farming ensured that the farming units were split up into large farms and small crofts’, says David Buchan, ‘it ensured that rural society was divided into a small group of wealthy farmers and a large group of farm labourers’ (1972: 255). These labourers were often peripatetic and sold their labour to farm owners on a six-monthly basis, a procedure known as ‘feeing’. From the 1830s until the late nineteenth century, the feeing procedure was notoriously inequitable and exploitative, in favour of the farm owners, of course. The unmarried labourers would live in Bothan [Scottish Gaelic: ‘hut, cottage’] attached to the farms and pass their leisure time sharing songs.


A black and white image of a tightly packed street, with hundreds of people.

Turriff’s Feein Fair in 1890. Image from Peter Cooke’s Collection at SSSA


Thus, a ‘new-style ballad grew and flourished […] and the literate descendants of the oral-traditional singers created and sang ballads which have traces of the old style, and which, like the old ballads, grew organically out of a certain set of social conditions’ (Buchan 1972: 268). Buchan goes on, noting that ‘instead of escaping from the hard realities of everyday life by singing about another life’, the Bothy ballad singer ‘relieved his feelings by commenting directly and sardonically on the life he led, day in, day out’ (1972: 268). In The Barnyards o’ Delgaty, for instance, we hear about the poor condition of the farm’s horses, them being all ‘skin and bone’; the narrator rails against the perceived social control exerted by the famer, exclaiming ‘I can drink and no be drunk’ and boasting that he can ‘fecht [fight] and no be slain’; and the central importance of the feeing procedure is writ large by its incorporation in the expressive culture of the farm labourers. The promises of the farmer and the bleak actuality of the farm (Buchan 1972: 262) are thereby negotiated in song, giving us an unparalleled insight into the lived experiences of Scotland’s farm labourers during the nineteenth century. Even this terse examination hints at the rich resource the archives represent for casual listener and researcher alike.


Robert Fell is a doctoral researcher in Celtic and Scottish Studies working with the storytelling traditions of Scotland’s Traveller communities.


Work Cited:

Buchan, David. 1972. The Ballad and the Folk (London: Routledge & Keegan Paul). Online access via DiscoverEd



SSSA in 70 Objects : The reflections of the windows in the stairwell of 29 George Square

Response: Louise Scollay, Archive and Library Assistant, SSSA

On a yellow wall there is a shadow from the window of trees in the garden

I have always had a love affair with these windows, or moreso the scene they project on to the wall.

When I studied at the School, when the Celtic and Scottish Studies Department was housed in 27-29 George Square, I would go from the Library into the 29 to pick up a recorder, or get something from the student pigeon holes and I would catch sight of the reflection and shadow play on the wall and be captivated.  A bit like Alice Through The Looking Glass , you almost felt you could step through. (Or had I taken my classes on liminality too literally?)

Circa 2011

When I returned to 29 George Square as Archive & Library Assistant , in 2017, I was captivated once more.

To be honest it takes me ages to climb all the stairs from the ground floor to my office on the third floor, but it takes even longer when the journey looks like this.  My phone is full of these images.


I love how depending on the season, or the time of day, we get a different image painted across the wall.

The different panes of glass are beautiful!

Face to Face services at SSSA have been closed since March 2020 and staff have only had limited access to the building. I have missed a lot of things about the service and the building, but I have really missed watching these shadows and lights grow and shrink on the canvas of the wall over the year.

In the past year the overgrown garden has been cut back, but when I was in recently to do a collections check, I was pleased to see that the shadows and reflections still are something to behold. It almost looks like water, like you could dive in!


Images © Louise Scollay

Is there an ‘object’ related to the School of Scottish Studies that you would like to write about or respond to? It could be a recording, an image, a manuscript or something else!
We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with us at scottish.studie.archives (at)


Meet the Team

It is a pleasure to bring the SSSA blog into the world and given that this is our 70th Anniversary it would seem that introductions are long overdue.

Fran Baseby, CRC Services Manager

I am responsible for services that provide access to collections at the School of Scottish Studies Archive & Library, and the Centre for Research Collections. This includes our online enquiries, collections-based teaching, and virtual and physical access to collections. I love that my job enables people to access the collections and experience the immense heritage that they include. Listening to a sound recording or sitting in front of a manuscript creates a unique connection between us as individuals and our collective histories.


Colin Gateley, Audio Visual Resources Technician. Digital Library

I started here in 2006 digitising audio for the Tobar an Dualchais project and now I mostly work on the archive’s photo collection. I like the variety of work – digitising photographs, image processing, video editing, and other AV work. And the collection is such a treasure trove – a sometimes surprising record of former lives and culture.


Elliot Holmes, Archive & Library Assistant

Elliot sits in the library. There are shelves of books behind him

II am one of the Archives and Library Assistants with the SSSA and have been with the team since early 2020. I have particular interest in Welsh and Scottish folklore and I have written about folklore and the field for my undergraduate as well as my MSc in Information Management and Preservation. For the 70th Anniversary, I will be focusing on LGBT+ collections and developing representation and LGBT+ voices in the archive. One of the things I love about our archive and collections is the sheer amount of oral history and invaluable accounts from a wide range of voices, of which I hope to take even further this year.


Cathlin Macaulay, Curator 

I have been working at the School of Scottish Studies for the past twenty years or so, mainly in the Sound Archive, though more recently I have had the opportunity to become more familiar with the Photographic Archive. As Curator I help to care for the archives, to enable people to find material, to make connections and to contextualise the collections.The Archives are full of voices, each with a different story to tell, a different song, a different tune. With its rich variety of knowledge and artistry, the SSSA is a place of continual exploration.


Stuart Robinson, Audio-Visual Digitisation Technician 

Stuart sits to the right of a reel to reel machine. He is holding a booklet open and looking at it

II am an Audio-Visual Digitisation Technician for the School. I have been digitising the collections here for over 10 years, I also manage our digital file storage and contribute to our databases and technical systems. I came from a background working in community radio and commercial recording after studying Electrical Engineering.I enjoy working with and maintaining the fragile legacy audio and video carriers and the various devices that allow us to play them and transfer them to new (and hopefully) future-proof formats to ensure they can be accessed safely for many years to come. As a musician I also particularly enjoy hearing performances of traditional music and songs.


Louise Scollay, Archive & Library Assistant

Louise is standing in side profile in a card index. She is showing a card to the camera

I’ve been Archive & Library Assistant since SSSA opened the public service in 2017, but my history with the School goes back further as I studied there for my Scottish Ethnology degree and graduated in 2011.

It is an absolute joy working at the front-facing services of SSSA; I love seeing people connect and engage with our collections, particularly our sound archive, it’s like watching someone open a treasure chest! It’s hard to choose favourites amongst the collection, but I have a deep connection to our material from Shetland.


Kirsty Stewart, Archivist

I am Kirsty Stewart (Ciorstag ‘sa Ghàidhlig) and I’ve been the archivist for the School of Scottish Studies Archives, one day a week, since we re-opened in 2017. I have a degree in Gaelic Studies from Aberdeen University and did my postgraduate in Archival Studies in University College Dublin, next door to our old friends at the Irish Folklore Archive.

Initially my role was to re-establish the search room service and since then have focussed on managing the needs of our library/special collections and the manuscripts, in particular our administrative records, which tell the story of our 70 year history. One of my favourite things about SSSA is hearing different accents through recordings or their transcripts, these diverse voices that tell the story of our nation.


This year is our 70th Anniversary and we look forward to sharing events and content with you. If you would like to be kept up to date with our posts then please subscribe to get new posts straight to your inbox. You can find the subscribe box at the bottom of the page.

You can also follow us on twitter too