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Illegible, Erratic and Entertaining - Cataloguing Carmichael's Notebooks

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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 23 Jun 2011
EventAlexander Carmichael: Collecting, Controversy, and Contexts Alasdair MacGilleMhìcheil: Cruinneachadh, Connspaid, agus Co-theacsaichean - Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 23 Jun 201124 Jun 2011


ConferenceAlexander Carmichael: Collecting, Controversy, and Contexts Alasdair MacGilleMhìcheil: Cruinneachadh, Connspaid, agus Co-theacsaichean
Abbreviated titleCarmichael Watson Project Conference
CountryUnited Kingdom
OtherA major interdisciplinary conference focusing on the life, career, and legacy of the great Hebridean folklorist, collector and author Alexander Carmichael (1832–1912) to celebrate the completion of the most recent phase of the Carmichael Watson Project at the Centre for Research Collections.

Among the themes considered at the conference were the Carmichael family; Alexander Carmichael's circle; Carmichael as collector of texts and objects; Carmichael and the environment; as well as folklore in the digital age.

The conference showcased the important work being done by younger scholars and independent scholars alike in shedding further light on Carmichael's achievements, on the controversies surrounding his work, and on the people, the history, the environment, and the culture of the nineteenth-century Hebrides.

The conference included the launch of the new Carmichael Watson Project website, giving access for the first time to fully indexed transcriptions of all of Alexander Carmichael's field notebooks, the 'holy grail' for Carmichael researchers for several decades. There was also a small exhibition of objects and images connected with Carmichael to accompany the conference.

Keynote Speakers included Professor William Gillies, Celtic and Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh and Peter Burnhill Director of EDINA.

To close the conference a concert was held at St Cecilia's Hall featuring performances from acclaimed Gaelic singer Kathleen MacInnes and local choir Còisir Dhùn Èideann.


In this paper I shall give an overview and demonstration of the methods employed to create the online resource for Alexander Carmichael’s twenty three field notebooks and five transcription notebooks, some of which were drawn upon by Carmichael in his magnum opus Carmina Gadelica (1900) and have been identified, investigated, transcribed, catalogued and indexed. These notebooks, in total nearly half a million words comprising over three thousand items recorded from over 400 named informants, were compiled during half a century’s collecting throughout the western Highlands, especially in the Outer Hebrides where Carmichael spent nearly twenty years working for the excise between 1864 and 1882. The project’s primary aim is to make these previously under-used but internationally important folkloric and ethnographic materials available to a wider audience, both in academia and among the general public. The paper will explore the internationally recognised standards employed by the project for transcribing (TEI – Text Encoding Initiative) and cataloguing (EAD – Encoded Archival Description), as well as for creating biographical records for significant individuals (EAC – Encoded Archival Context). The handling of bilingual material and the indexing of item level descriptions for all notebook entries, including the identification of individuals and geo-referencing of places to create a more flexible research tool, will also be discussed.

    Research areas

  • archives, cataloguing, folklore, Gaelic, indexing, geo-referencing

ID: 1557440