traineeship

Skills Collections Trainee: A Variety of Learning

Name: Gillian Rodger

What do you do?
I am a Heritage Lottery Funded Skills for the Future Collections Trainees at RCAHMS.

How did you get here?
As a creative youngster I’ve had a fascination with visiting and photographing historic places and objects as long as I can remember. Though I grew up near Chester, my family are all Scottish and having enjoyed many childhood summers exploring the Scottish countryside and going to various Historic sites, I’ve long since wanted to move to Scotland, to promote and get involved with maintaining Scottish Heritage.

Working on John Marshall Material at my Desk

Working on John Marshall Material at my Desk

Unsurprisingly then during my Art History undergrad I turned towards researching Medieval Art and objects and on returning to Edinburgh for my masters I became focused particularly on aspects of Global Material Culture and Collection Histories, whilst also collaborating with the NMS and interned on the Carved Stones Project with RCAHMS. Getting to apply and earning the chance to work as a skills trainee at RCAHMS felt like the perfect opportunity to combine my personal and academic interests whilst enabling me to gain greater experience in the Heritage Sector and in Collections.

What are you working on today?
Today, as is usual for skills trainees, I have been involved with a variety of different activities! I have been on the search room desk this morning, answering enquiries, aiding visitors with their research and hearing some brilliant family stories.

In between enquiries I’ve also started researching the sculptor John Marshall (1888-1952) in order to catalogue a fascinating box of his material for public access.

John Marshall box of material

John Marshall box of material

So far within the box I have discovered his sketchbook of sculpture from 1911, a worldwide picture postcard album and many photographs of himself and colleagues dressed for an ECA Revel Party, including Sir Robert Lorimer. This afternoon I have also been finishing organising and re-housing many excellent Threatened Buildings Survey Drawings completed by RCAHMS survey staff .

Favourite part of your job?
I would say the favourite aspect of my job is in fact the variety of activities we do during the placement. For example, so far outwit our varied ongoing collections work programme; I have been on placement at the National Galleries, attended heritage/medieval conferences, visited the outreach trainees on placement, worked with conservation on re-housing collections and done digital accessioning [see pictures]. In the next month I will also be invigilating at the RCAHMS Commonwealth pavilion for the Sightlines film, working with the NCAP team and beginning work with the other trainees on our big showcase project at Stirling Castle!

As such our job gives us the opportunity to learn lots of different skills, figure out my own strengths and interests, meet a variety of fascinating people and contribute to the work of the commission and Heritage in Scotland in various ways! So yes, getting the chance to have constant variety and new challenges in my work is fantastic.

What did university not teach you?
Despite Art History being a visual degree primarily focused on specific objects or artworks, there is a surprising lack of requirement to actually see and handle the tangible material one is researching, and for much of my art historic research I only utilised photographs, drawings or witnessed objects in their museum setting.

When I began to handle historical objects and material collections and research their collection histories for my work here, I was shocked at how little I had previously appreciated the benefit of having a tangible experience with collections. Not only this, but also just how important that form of first-hand experience can be for producing the best personal and academic research. For example, the scale, exceptional detail or even makers marks on collection material are rarely comprehensible from a photograph alone!

After this realisation I have and will certainly continue to be, an advocate for the promotion of access to original collection material and collections histories where possible, and hope I can continue working and promoting such values within Scottish Heritage beyond this traineeship!

To see a vine of my day, click here

Kayleigh Russell and Louise Rogers (RCAHMS) – Clackmannanshire

The Skills for the Future Trainees, RCAHMS

The Skills for the Future Trainees, RCAHMS

Clackmannanshire. ‘Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011’

Clackmannanshire. ‘Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011’

As Collections Trainees we tend not to deal directly with archaeology in the conventional sense. We do, however, get to work with the archives created by archaeological units. We recently worked on the material created by the programme of excavations and buildings recordings for the Upper Forth Crossing in 2006 by Headland Archaeology Ltd. The Upper Forth Crossing is now known as the Clackmannanshire Bridge which links Falkirk to Clackmannanshire.

A typical archaeological archive consists of items such as photographs, slides, drawings, reports and site notes. Before cataloguing the Upper Forth Crossing material deposited at RCAHMS we organised the archive into order by project and area. We then worked our way through the deposited material separating the different types of media and re-housing it.

© RCAHMS

Copyright RCAHMS by K Russell, Collections Trainee.

© RCAHMS

Copyright RCAHMS by L Rogers, Collections Trainee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

While doing this we also read through some of the reports and site notes to get more information on the projects to add to the catalogue entries and to get a better understanding of the excavations for the crossing. We found the investigations into the remains of Garlet House, Kilbagie were particularly interesting.

Garlet House was a 17th century house for a local Laird which had been demolished in 1964. Looking through the photographs in the archive we could see the progress of the excavations. Before the excavation the site looked like an overgrown field, but very quickly the house was uncovered.

© Headland Archaeology Ltd

© Headland Archaeology Ltd (UFC05-GLT001a)

As the dig progressed some of the features of the house became visible again.

Copyright Headland Archaeology Ltd (100_0043)

Copyright Headland Archaeology Ltd (100_0043)

Copyright Headland Archaeology Ltd (100_0043.)

Copyright Headland Archaeology Ltd (100_0043.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

To find out more about the site we looked up the site record for Garlet House on Canmore and we were able to see some of the images of the house prior to demolition and compare them to the photographs taken on the excavation in 2006.

© Headland Archaeology Ltd

Copyright Headland Archaeology Ltd (100_0041.)

Gartlet House in the 1940’s © RCAHMS

Garlet House in the 1940’s Copyright RCAHMS (SC1167941)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Through the archaeological archive and the images and plans held at RCAHMS we were able to get a sense of the development of the site from its original design to alterations through the years, even after its demolition.

If you would like to find out more about the collections held on Canmore or the Skills for the Future programme visit our blog or Twitter @SkillsRCAHMS.

 This is what I’ve chosen for Day of Archaeology, but why not tell us your favourite archaeological sites in Scotland on Twitter using #MyArchaeology.