I spent today at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh, where there was a workshop about intangible cultural heritage.
Now then, UNESCO has a Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, although Britain hasn’t signed up to it. The keynote paper was a talk by Carly Williams, a researcher from the University of Aberdeen. Carly gave us a good introduction to the kind of things that the UNESCO Convention talks about.
We also heard Ewan MacVicar talking about folksong and children singing in the mining communities of Midlothian; Paul Bristow talking about his community development work in Greenock with the Magic Torch group; and Katch Holmes talking about The Droving Project. Margaret Bennett spoke about the “End of the Shift” project in Perthshire; Filomena Sousa told us about Memoriamedia – the eMuseum of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Portugal; and Joanne Orr, the Chief Executive of Museums and Galleries Scotland spoke about developments since a policy document produced in 2008, Intangible Cultural Heritage in Scotland: the Way Forward. A wiki developed for Museums and Galleries Scotland by Napier University currently allows intangible heritage items to be uploaded: however, Living Culture in Scotland turned out to be quite hard to manipulate and navigate, and a new website is under development.
Lastly, Jess Smith spoke passionately and very engagingly about Scotland’s travelling people, and her campaign to preserve The Tinkers’ Heart, a stone caird commemorating those lost in the 1745 uprising, and since embraced by the travelling people for blessing babies, weddings and other purposes.
There is so much intangible heritage! Of course, libraries, archives and museums are full of the tangible variety, and it occurs to me that all the published song and fiddle tune collections that I’ve been studying are actually the physical reminders of intangible heritage…
I love the Storytellng Centre and the wonderful mix of people you meet at courses there – not just academics but also people working in communities, and people developing policies both at a high level, and on the ground. The variety of cultural expressions is also very stimulating – you meet a completely different mix of people to those you’d meet at a gathering of specialists in your own narrow field.
This is the Scottish Storytelling Centre website: http://www.tracscotland.org/
TRAC stands for Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland, which is currently based at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. More context: the Scottish Storytelling Centre is a partnership project between the Scottish Storytelling Forum and the Church of Scotland.