Skills for the Future

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

Alison Clark (RCAHMS) – South Ayrshire

South Ayrshire ‘Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011’

South Ayrshire ‘Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011’

I am Alison Clark, a trainee at RCAHMS. The site I have chosen is Craigie House and Park, just outside Ayr. The aerial photograph below looks towards the park, just beyond the tenements, now taken up by the caravan park, playing fields and a sports stadium.

A-listed Craigie House was built c1730 for Sir Thomas Wallace, and sold in 1783 to William Campbell, who had made a fortune in India. It is a fine example of 18th century mansion architecture, now used as a business center. Elements of the wooded estate and formal gardens still survive and are managed by Ayrshire council.

Aerial View, Copyright RCAHMS (SC681912)

Aerial View, Copyright RCAHMS (SC681912)



It is the wooded estate gardens which led me to make my choice. My father is from Ayr and actually met my mother at Craigie teaching college.  As a child the park was a frequent haunt for us as a family and I hope by offering this brief introduction the gardens may become a new stomping ground for a few more families.

RCAHMS has a vast collection of material available to the public through the database Canmore.

For Craigie House, two images available on Canmore show how the House and Estate have developed over the years, with the contrast between the architecture of the original House and the College being particularly obvious.

View of Craigie House, Ayr, From South. Copyright RCAHMS (SC1344901)

View of Craigie House, Ayr, From South. Copyright RCAHMS (SC1344901)

Craigie College of Education, Craigie Estate. Copyright RCAHMS (DP017311)

Craigie College of Education, Craigie Estate. Copyright RCAHMS (DP017311)








There are other relevant documents on Canmore for those wishing to undertake research into the original House and Estate including items such as information relating to the stables and doocot which were demolished to make way for the new college building along with the architectural plans for the college.

As part of our traineeship here, the Collections trainees will be undertaking some training in the process of digitisation of documents to make them available to the public through Canmore.  This involves the copying of photographs and other records by our professional photographers at RCAHMS, and we will be able to gain some experience in the processing of the material to ensure the images can appear on the database.  Those items which have been digitised are then available to view online   Material which has not been digitised will still be available to view in the RCAHMS Search Room, using the references provided.

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.



Nora Edwards RCAHMS Day of Archaeology

I am a member of the Curatorial Group with the Skills for the Future Trainee Team. This is a four year scheme funded by Heritage Lottery Fund to provide 1 year of work experience for 34 individuals who are looking to work in the Heritage Sector. The curatorial skills trainees will undertake a range of tasks and learn about collections, conservation, digitising and access.

My childhood holidays were spent in Scotland and one of the most memorable and interesting places we visited regularly was the Isle of Lewis. There are a number of interesting sites on the island, and while the Standing Stones at Callanish are undoubtedly atmospheric, my most memorable site on the island is the broch at Dun Carloway.  I remember the sheer scale of the building and being amazed that it was so old and yet you could still climb in between the two sets of walls, solidly built to withstand war and weather.

Dun Carloway Broch

The building stands in the centre of a farming township, the remains of blackhouses are dotted around and the fields still show evidence of farming down the centuries. The site is fascinating in the way that it provides evidence of occupation for thousands of years in such a compact area.

If you want to find out more about this years Skills for the Future team, visit our blog or follow us on Twitter @SkillsRCAHMS.