Ancestral Tourism

On behalf of Moray Council Valerie Wardlaw, the new Visitor Development Officer, organised an ancestral tourism training course at Moray College on 9th May to provide guidance to representatives of Moray and Banff Museums and Library Service in this Year of Homecoming. Joan Taylor, Peggie Gordon and Mary Kean were there from the Friends of the Falconer Museum along with fifteen others to hear what Cameron Taylor had to tell us. We spent an interesting and informative day.
The main theme was to discuss what it is that ancestral tourists want to find out and how we can help them in their search, what can be done in our individual museums and where visitors can be directed to find more detailed information than we are able to supply. They have to accept that it is not in our remit to start searching the internet on their behalf to build up a family tree, but that we can provide general website information and addresses to enable them to do that for themselves, and tell them how to find churchyards and cemeteries, for example, which can be a fruitful source of information for people who have some knowledge of where their forebears came from. It was suggested that hotels and B&Bs could be encouraged to provide that kind of information too since they are more readily available than museums with their restricted opening hours.
It gave us plenty of food for thought and before the end of the training some of us were already trying some of the websites on the lecture-room computers to see what kind of things we could find. The information is all there: it just needs time to ferret it out and it is up to us to make as many people as possible aware of the fact.

Mary Kean

Early man and the fossil hunter

Only Tuesday but already a busy week for the Friends.

Joan and Mike hosted a session on Early Man for 13 pupils from Alves Primary. They did the whole session on their own, learning about Early Man over the weekend, setting up the table for handling objects and answering the kids' questions.

On Tuesday myself, Mike and Valerie Wardlaw from the Museum staff travelled to Elgin to go to Bishopmill Primary School. I talked to 46 pupils from P6 on Hugh Falconer - The Fossil Hunter. I started off the afternoon by getting the kids to think how a 22 year old would have got to India in 1830 and how he would have gone from eating mince and tatties to exotic Indian cuisine. After discussing Falconer's life with the kids (they even got into the "punctuated equilibrium" bit) they all watched a copy of the Hugh Falconer DVD shown in the museum. Myself, Mike and Valerie then passed round fossils to the kids and there followed a loud 15 minutes when the kids "discussed" with themselves what the fossils were; a wee quiz and time go home. It was great fun and I was very impressed with the technology available in the classroom - overhead projector and a smart screen. This made showing the DVD easier.

I think after the success of the afternoon that I'll try and develop a "Hugh Falconer" loan box.

The Return (again) ......

Well, back a week then off for two. What a way to get started. Hey Ho, that's life. Anyway back I went to the Friends' Friday meeting where we sat for two hours and discussed what we are going to do with the Friends' for the next wee while.
It was a quite hilarious meeting at times - most of the hilarity seemed to be over lift evacuation training. Well you gotta laugh! Seriously though, it was a worthwhile meeting with lots of points discussed such as volunteers coming in on more than one day, various projects needing attention, getting proper notification of tours and introducing a new tour booking form and also a volunteer information sheet for new volunteers.
We don't want new volunteers bogged down in paperwork and we most certainly want to be a friendly Friends group. We really don't want to get into the modern predilection for endless forms and bureaucracy we just want volunteers. The only stipulation we must make is they be Friends' members so they are covered by our insurance.
Poor Valerie the new Visitor Development Officer had the unenvieable job of taking minutes - it must have been horrendous to do with all the laughter and general fun that ensued.

The Return ...

Well, after a ten week absence I returned to the fold today and found a very cheery and lively group of volunteers have continued to keep the Friday morning volunteering session going.

I arrived to find Senior Museums Officer, Alasdair, perched on top of the office in the workshop area, with Ross half way up a ladder and Mary and Reg folding up cardboard boxes. There were threats to leave Alasdair up there if he didnt behave himself, but he did and safely down he came!

In the office itself Henrietta and Mike were still researching labels for the museum objects. Upstairs in the Museum store Joan, Rose, Peggie and new Museums Officer Liz Trevethick were indexing the contents of the store. Nice to see everyone at work. I was very touched by the warm welcome back they gave me and must admit all I did was look at photos of the opening night of the Burns Exhibition, had a cup of tea and caught ip in all the gossip. A nice gentle start.

I'm looking forward to next week as I can be just one of the volunteers with Liz having the unenviable task of finding us all something to do. Mind you, as most of them said the thought of me not putting in my tuppenceworth is worth thinking about!

It's good to be back and my thanks to everyone for their hard work for the Burns Exhibition and keeping everything going.

Robert Burns - His Life and TImes

As our contribution to "Homecoming" our latest exhibition 'Robert Burns - His Life and Time' was launched on 23rd January with a special preview evening for Friends' members. The exhibition will run until March 6th 2009. Opening hours are Monday - Friday 11:00 to 12:30 and 1:00pm - 3:30pm.

This stunning cake, yes cake, was made by local firm Varis Pipe Dreams and proved so realistic that many of the guests tried to turn the pages - even before they started on the wine!

The exhibition features some of his poems, his Epitaphs, watercolours based on his poetry, timelines, models and drawings of agricultural equipment, recipes and measures of the time period and recorded recitations of some of his best known poems.

Is it that time already?

First volunteer session since the opening of High Street History Exhibition. Patted ourselves on the back then broke the news to the volunteers that we need to start work on our next exhibition. Its going to be based on Robbie (Rabbie), (Robert) Burns. Which is the correct nomenclature? Maybe the exhibition will clear that up. For those of you who are not in the UK, Burns is Scotland's favourite and best known poet. Burns Night is celebrated on 25th January so the exhibition will start around that time - possibly 23rd Jan. There is such a lot I want to cover though.

I thought it would be a good idea to brainstorm ideas but not everyone got the idea and some took all the suggestions too seriously. Oh, its hard work sometimes. Anyway, eventually I dragged out a lot of really very good ideas and these are now blu-tacked up on a wall for everyone to see.

There was the usual instance of women proving they can multi-task better than men - Henrietta wins the prize! I wish I had her energy. A truly valuable addition to the volunteers and I really do appreciate people who speak their minds - it saves so much time hithering and dithering. I was trying (but didnt fully succeed) to get the group to think off the wall a bit and come up with thier own ideas instead of following all of mine. We've all grown leaps and bounds though and confidence is growing all the time. Alasdair (Senior Museums Officer) is very supportive of our ideas for the exhibition and I hope its going to be an exhibition to remember.

Lots of other things in the pipeline - Local Heroes Project, Homecoming Project of Lord Strathcona, Museums Officer wants to do agriculture exhibition and will need a hand, printing applictin forms, mailshots etc etc and labelling......

I was conscious I wasnt fully on form for planning the last one and will try and take more care in watching timescales and allowing for illnesses, middle aged induced memory loss and other curves life throws at you.

Anyway, time for another couple of weeks off for me as my 8 year old nephew is staying with us for a fortnight for his summer holidays - oh I'm going to be so shattered! Its so difficult having to play with lego, build models, play wii games and watch dvds - how will I ever cope??

Kids make it worthwhile

The first of our Tours for Visitors was a great success this afternoon. Going on the premise of never asking people to do things you wouldn't do yourself, I had put myself down for the first tour. As luck would have it, a group of sixteen primary school aged kids appeared with two helpers. Ideal. I find groups of children easier to deal with than adults. Unfortunately I had to split the group in two so one half went round themselves and asked me questions later whilst the other group went round with me. They were so engrossed in it all and asked lots of questions and, as is usual with kids gave out a few family stories! It really was great to see them having fun and showed how successful the rebuild was. I hope Mike has it as easy next week.