Volunteer with The Carmichael Watson Project
I have been volunteering in Special Collections and Archives for a few hours each week since June 2011, with my work mainly focussed on the Carmichael Watson project. For those few hours, I usually find myself in the company of lowly crofters and paupers, scraping a living off the land in the more remote areas of mid-late 19th century Scotland. My work centres on researching and creating biographies of the people visited or mentioned by Alexander Carmichael in his many transcription and field notebooks. In these notebooks, Carmichael collected such things as spells, songs, charms, prayers and stories at the heart of the Gaelic culture of the time. Through studying their birth, marriage and death certificates together with census records, I construct a brief biography of the informants’ lives and ensure that significant dates are made ‘machine-readable’ for future researchers, as well as checking any reference made in the notebooks to each person; all these details are gradually being made available on the Carmichael Watson Project website. As well as my enjoyment of being a ‘detective’ in constructing the biographies, it also gives me great satisfaction to think that my work may be of use to those researching in the field of 19th century life in the Highlands and Islands, especially as I lived in the Highlands myself for around 15 years.