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The Material Worlds of a Celtic Collector: Alexander Carmichael (1832–1912)

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 16 Apr 2012
EventMuseum Ethnographers Group Conference - Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 16 Apr 201217 Apr 2012


ConferenceMuseum Ethnographers Group Conference
CountryUnited Kingdom


For the past six years Edinburgh University Library’s Carmichael Watson Project
(carmichaelwatson.lib.ed.ac.uk) has been researching, cataloguing, and digitising the compendious field
notebooks of the Hebridean folklorist Alexander Carmichael (1832–1912). For the present, Leverhulme Trustfunded
phase, the project has turned to Carmichael as material ethnographer. Our principal focus of
investigation are two collections of objects, one preserved at the West Highland Museum, Fort William, and the
other at the National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh. These form an extraordinary diverse array of objects:
domestic artefacts; historical curiosities, especially connected to the 1745 Rising; medieval stone sculpture;
Highland clothing; and miscellanea such as traditional silver brooches and molucca bean childbirth charms. A
major technical and conceptual challenge is the synthesis of the new object database with the existing text
catalogue. In this paper we shall discuss how we intend to present and interpret Carmichael’s material, linking it
with discursive accounts in the notebooks concerning artefacts, objects, landmarks, and sites of interest, as well
as crucial information concerning circumstances of acquisition or donation. Our principal aims are to recreate
online a great Victorian ethnographic collection, and thus to reassess Carmichael as collector and as ‘cultural
broker’ between Hebridean communities and Lowland institutions.

    Research areas

  • Folklore, Ethnography, Material Culture


Museum Ethnographers Group Conference


Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Event: Conference

ID: 2624730