My favourite aunt, now living in Houston Texas, has been researching our family tree for a number of years, and in September last year I discovered, thanks to her efforts, that my great, great, great, great, great grandfather was the parish minister who christened Robert Burns. There is nothing quite so powerful as finding another piece in that great jigsaw which is the bigger picture of yourself and your place in the world. Which is why I was delighted when I was approached by the Scottish Council on Archives Education Working Group earlier this year and asked if I would help them to develop a National Plan for Learning 2012-2015. The end result is Many Stories, One Scotland, which I hope will provide the SCA with a platform from which to achieve the twin aims of raising awareness of the national archives and bringing together teachers and archivists to make sure the archives have a central role in the formal education system in Scotland. As a former English teacher of many years, and a firm believer in the power of storytelling to transform the learning experience of young people, I wish that I had been more aware of the vast store of fascinating resources which the archives provide, both locally and nationally. Advances in technology have made it possible for us to create and tell stories in so many inventive ways, but it is the raw material of the archives which gives us that rich content to bring the stories alive.
You can download a free copy of the final document by clicking on the title, Many Stories, One Scotland here.
Scotland stands yet again at a critical time in its history, and never has there been more interest in personal or national identity. This is reflected both in the Scottish Government’s commitment to develop the concept of ‘Learning about Scotland’ – including the promotion of the use of Gaelic and Scots languages – in our educational establishments, and in the increasing number of Scottish adults engaged in researching their own family histories. Scotland’s archives have a major role to play in both of these objectives, as The Scottish Council on Archives publication ‘Scotland’s Archives Matter’ describes in some detail, while also putting it more succinctly:
‘Taken together the individual documents found in the archives provide a comprehensive picture of what over the centuries has created the Scottish nation. They give an insight into the nation’s contacts with other peoples and cultures. Archives matter because they tell the story of Scotland, but they also tell my story, your story and the stories of our families and communities.’
It would be wrong, however, to assume that Scotland’s archives are simply about recording history and the past. They are equally important in informing the present and securing the future development and prosperity of the nation and its citizens, helping to meet the Scottish Government’s strategic objectives of a wealthier and fairer, smarter, healthier, safer and stronger, greener Scotland, within which its young people are empowered to become successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.
Many Stories, One Scotland June 2012