Highland Folk Museum

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The Highland Folk Museum was founded in 1935 by the historian, ethnologist and pioneering collector Dr. Isabel F. Grant (1887-1983). Inspired by folk museums she had seen in Scandinavia, and named Am Fasgadh (Gaelic for ‘The Shelter’), Grant housed the first Highland Folk Museum at the disused former United Free Church on the island of Iona. Its remit was “…to shelter homely ancient Highland things from destruction”, and Grant collected assiduously to that end; by 1938 the collection had outgrown its first home. In 1939 the museum moved to larger premises on the mainland at Laggan: a village in Badenoch in the central Highlands, where Am Fasgadh was sited for the next five years. The outbreak of the Second World War, and resultant restrictions on movement along the west coast and islands of Scotland, meant that Grant was unable to collect during this period, while petrol shortages contributed to a general reduction in the numbers of visitors to the museum. In 1943 she purchased Pitmain Lodge, a large Georgian house, together with three acres of land near to the train station at Kingussie, about twelve miles east of Laggan, and on the 1st of June 1944 the Highland Folk Museum opened once again to the public. The collections at Kingussie were developed “…to show different aspects of the material setting of life in the Highlands in byegone days” and included vast arrays of objects: furniture, tools, farming implements, horse tackle, cooking and dining utensils and vessels, pottery, glass, musical instruments, sporting equipment, weapons, clothing and textiles, jewellery, books, archive papers with accounts of superstitions, stories and songs, and home-crafted items of every shape and description, including basketry, barvas and treen. The site at Kingussie also enabled Grant to develop a suite of replica buildings: including an Inverness-shire cottage, a Lewis blackhouse and a Highland but-and-ben. These buildings and the use of ‘live demonstrations’ to interpret exhibits for visitors sealed the Highland Folk Museum’s popular reputation as the first open-air museum on mainland Britain.

Isabel Grant was awarded for the creation of Am Fasgadh with an honorary from the University of Edinburgh in 1948, and ownership of the Highland Folk Museum and its collections was taken over by a Trust formed by the four Scottish universities (Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow) in 1954 when Grant retired. George ‘Taffy’ Davidson (1893-1976), senior fellow in arts and crafts at the University of Aberdeen, was appointed curator in 1956 and developed the collections in parallel with his own antiquarian interests, including folk music, taking in large numbers of gifts over the next years. By 1974, according to one report, the collections numbered some 25,000 individual items.

The third phase of the Highland Folk Museum’s history began in 1975, when Highland Regional Council took over its running. Ross Noble, formerly of the Scottish Country Life Museums Trust, was appointed curator and a process of modernisation began. Noble introduced open, thematic displays and re-introduced live demonstrations as part of popular ‘Heritage In Action’ days for visitors. The museum thrived. In the early 1980s an eighty acre site was acquired at Newtonmore – about three miles to the south of Kingussie - and work began to lay out four distinct areas: Aultlarie Croft - a 1930s working farm; Balameanach (Gaelic for ‘Middle Village’) - a developing community of relocated buildings; the Pinewoods – an area of forest with interlinking paths; and Baile Gean - the Highland Folk Museum’s reconstruction of an early 1700s Highland township. The Newtonmore site opened to the public in 1987 and operated in tandem with Am Fasgadh until the closure of that site in Kingussie in 2007. In 2011 responsibility for the day-to-day running of the Highland Folk Museum and its collections was handed over to High Life Highland – a charity formed by the Highland Council to develop culture, health and wellbeing, learning, leisure and sports across the region. The new Am Fasgadh, a modern, purpose-built collections storage facility and conference venue, opened in 2014.

The Highland Folk Museum's collections now include a variety of reconstructed buildings, ranging from an 18th-century Highland township, traditional 1930s croft, tin school originally from Knockbain, corrugated church from Culloden, and various trades buildings such as joiners, tailors and clockmakers. Buildings are added on an annual basis to ensure that the traditional Highland culture and heritage is preserved. [1] [2]


Pictures of exhibits[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 57°4′52″N 4°2′33″W / 57.08111°N 4.04250°W / 57.08111; -4.04250

  1. ^ Grant, Isabel Frances. Ed. Grant, Patrick. "The Making of Am Fasgadh: An Account of the Origins of the Highland Folk Museum by its Founder". National Museums Scotland: the European Ethnological Research Centre: Scottish & Celtic Studies: University of Edinburgh. 2007.
  2. ^ Clarke, Amy. "Constructing Architectural History at the Open-Air Museum: The Highland Village Museum of Nova Scotia and the Highland Folk Museum of Scotland". Society of Architectural Historians of Australia and New Zealand (SAHANZ): Open 2013 Conference Proceedings.