I increasingly find myself doing PR with an arty angle, mainly through my contacts in the creative sector. I was approached recently by Timespan Museum in Helmsdale recently to help them launch a new Clearances Trail App ahead of the 200th anniversary of the Clearances in 2013.
It's a fascinating subject and one which is now being looked at and studied in depth in Scottish schools.
I went up to Helmsdale with my family recently and Timespan's archive officer Jacquie Aitken, who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Clearances which took place in the Strath of Kildonan, took us all on a guided Clearances tour.
This trail has now been translated into an App for iPhones, iPad and iPod so visitors can do it themselves – actually and virtually. There is an astonishing amount of detail on the App, which will launch during the Festival of Museums weekend in Helmsdale on May 19.
It's a great use of digital technology to illuminate the past and the landscape. So whether you are sitting in Winnipeg, Canada, looking for information about your Scottish forebears, or you are standing on the site of a ruined long house in the Strath of Kildonan, time spent with this App, will enrich your understanding of a troubled and controversial episode in Scotland's history.
CLEARANCES TRAIL APP TO LAUNCH
Cutting edge digital technology is set to bring Scotland’s past to life in the shape of a new App for iPhones and iPads which will allow users to relive one of the most notorious episodes in Scottish history – all for just 69p.
A unique interactive tour guide, Museum Without Walls: Scotland’s Clearances Trail App, is to be launched on Saturday, May 19 in Helmsdale, Sutherland, by Timespan Museum and Arts Centre.
Its launch is timed to coincide with this year’s Festival of Museums, which takes place over the weekend of May 18 - 20 throughout Scotland.
The aim of the App is to give virtual and actual visitors a hands-on and interactive trip around one of the country’s most beautiful and historic areas, the Strath of Kildonan, in the northernmost tip of Scotland.
The App, which will cost 69p to download, has been developed by Timespan and funded to the tune of £22,407 and £45,900 respectively, by Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS) and The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
It will prepare the way for the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of large scale clearances of men, women and children from the Strath of Kildonan in 2013.
All monies raised from sales of the App will go to Timespan and contribute towards the maintenance of the trail.
The epic voyage made by some families cleared from the Strath of Kildonan is widely viewed by historians as one of the most demanding journeys endured by European emigrants to North America.
Around 100 people left the Strath of Kildonan in 1813, to be replaced by thousands of sheep, as they were more profitable than people. A boatload of the displaced residents sailed to Hudson Bay, in northeastern Canada, where they were forced to build their own shelters as the savage Canadian winter closed in.
The following spring, they began an epic 1000 mile journey, many walking in handmade snowshoes, before reaching the Red River Settlement around Lake Winnipeg in Canada where Scottish aristocrat, the Earl of Selkirk, had promised them land.
One of these brave individuals was Catherine McPherson, who nursed the sick after typhoid broke out aboard ship and who survived a severe flood that carried away her log-built home. Catherine’s story comes alive on the App.
The area around the Red River went on to become the city of Winnipeg in Manitoba.
It is hoped the App will reach across the Atlantic to the ancestors of the displaced Sutherland families.
According to Museum Without Walls Project Manager, Jacqueline Aitken, the e-trail has been completed before an expected influx of visitors from overseas return to Helmsdale next year to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Clearances.
Jacqueline explained: “Timespan wanted to mark the 200th anniversary of the Highland Clearances, which changed the lives of the people and the landscape of the area forever, by engaging local communities and visitors world-wide.
“Users can access the trail information in the comfort of their own homes or they can come to Timespan and download it using the free Wi-Fi or hire an iPod touch from the visitor reception desk.
“Visitors will be taken on an audio and visual tour of the locations of the townships and related sites of interest in Kildonan via GPS, and can even ‘collect’ items using QR codes – offering younger visitors a challenge.
“This App from Timespan will bring the landscape and history of the Clearances alive. It will use GPS navigation to guide users along the trail to 10 way marked locations along the Strath of Kildonan where audio and visual information can be accessed.
“The presentations use digital technology and new media to give instant access to stunning images and archival and map information about sites of historic interest in the immediate vicinity and in the surrounding area.
“Trail users will be encouraged to leave their thoughts on the trail, to share stories from the past, present or hopes for the future. The project area on the Timespan website will show what happened to those who left and where they are now which we hope will encourage the diaspora to link through Timespan’s web presence.”
The App can also be used as a valuable educational resource by teachers and pupils as studying the Clearances is now an integral part of Curriculum for Excellence through the Scottish Studies and Studying Scotland elements. The new National 5s for History includes an entire topic called the Sutherland Clearances.
Joanne Orr, CEO of Museums Galleries Scotland, one of the organisations which helped fund Museum without Walls and coordinators of Festival of Museums, said: “We are delighted to support this innovative project which will engage both local communities and worldwide audiences with the history of the Strath of Kildonan.
“We have highlighted Timespan’s forward-thinking use of digital media as an exemplar to inspire the sector in the National Strategy for Scotland’s Museums and Galleries published last week. We welcome the project being launched during our Festival of Museums weekend alongside other events around the country that will celebrate the inspirational experiences our museums have to offer.”
Launch of Museum Without Walls: Scotland’s Clearances Trail App
When: 3pm on Saturday 19 May 2012
Where: Timespan, Dunrobin Street, Helmsdale, Sutherland, KW8 6JX
For further information and hi-res images contact:
|The beautiful Strath of Kildonan in Sutherland|
t: 01431 821327
Notes for Editors:
Founded in 1986, Timespan is a charity which was started as a community-led project to house a collection of artefacts that were relevant to the cultural history of the area. Timespan is now a vibrant Museum and Arts Centre now caring for around 1500 artefacts, over 3000 digital images and hosting every year in its beautiful gallery more than six exhibitions of contemporary art inspired by its rich heritage. Each year, the centre receives approximately 15% of its running costs from The Highland Council. The remaining 85% comes from other sources, including donations.
About Museum Without Walls
Museum Without Walls is a major project from Timespan Museum and Arts Centre in Helmsdale, Sutherland, running from June 2011 - September 2013. Its prime aim is to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Kildonan Clearances in 2013. Around 100 people left their homes in the Strath of Kildonan and emigrated en masse to Red River Settlement, in Canada. The area developed into the city of Winnipeg.
Festival of Museums
This year’s Festival of Museums will be staged over the weekend 18 – 20 May. The Festival coincides with other Europe-wide celebrations of the many eclectic cultural experiences offered to visitors by museums and galleries including Museums at Night.
Timespan has worked with Edinburgh-based digital design specialists, Bluemungus, on developing this interactive Clearances trail as an App for iPhones and tablets. The App includes GPS navigation, historic map layers, 3-D longhouse illustrations, the audio and visual story of the Clearances, locations of all the townships and related sites of interest in Kildonan, as well as a game for young people using QR codes to collect items to put into an emigrant’s kist.