Bennachie Landscapes Project
Archives Group Report 2013
The Archives group has met regularly, under the guidance of Dr Jackson Armstrong of the University’s History faculty. Starting with a basic appraisal of the Bailies Library holdings with respect to the Landscapes Project, work by members of the group has culminated in the discovery of primary documentary evidence concerning the Bennachie Colony, thus building on and extending the valuable groundwork already undertaken by Jennifer Fagen.
Outputs from the group have included:
· Research guides to the Bailies’ Library and Archives.
· Completion of digitisation of the Bailies’ photo archives.
· Research into commonties.
· Transcription of extracts of the diaries of George Sim.
· List of newspaper articles relating to Bennachie.
· Report on castle construction materials (re Druminnor research).
· Colony family history research.
· Botanical research, including digitisation of earlier plant lists.
· Research into the rental of Balquhain Estate re the Colony and nearby tenancies.
· Research into vernacular buildings of the Colony era.
· (Proposed archival research into the historic management of the peat moss on Bennachie had to be postponed due to temporary unavailability of the documents).
In addition, the group is helping to create the exhibition on the Project’s 2013 experiences. Finally, various publications arising from the Landscapes Project’s 2013 programme will include substantial contributions from members of the group. From this it is clear that the work of the Archives Group is not only significant in its own right, but it can furnish significant historical contextual data for the archaeological and other scientific work of the Project.
Plans for further work by group members arising from 2013 include a workshop on interpretation of aerial photographs; the creation of an images database, using the “Portfolio” software; and undertaking the postponed peat-related research noted above. Members have responded supportively to a proposal by Jackson Armstrong that (subject to funding) the core research effort for 2014 and beyond might focus on 15th-16th century documents relating to Bennachie. With public awareness mainly of the Pictish hill fort on the Mither Tap, on the one hand, and the 19th-C Colony on the other, the group looks forward to illuminating, through the archives, something of the centuries in-between.
In addition to Jackson Armstrong’s assistance, the group is grateful to Drs. Marjory Harper, Jo Vergunst and Jeff Oliver of the University for their support; to Thomas Brochard, whose detailed inventories of previously unlisted archival material have been vital; to Aoife Gould, Project administrative officer; to Franziska Lorenz, student intern, for diary transcription and assistance with Bailies’ archives appraisal; and last but not least to Siobhan Convery, Andrew MacGregor and the staff of the University’s Special Collections Centre for hosting workshops and their generous attention to members’ requests for material and information.
Colin Miller, November 2013