Mrs Rhona Ramsay

PhD Researcher

History and Politics - Division Stirling

Mrs Rhona Ramsay

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About me

I am a PhD student at the University of Stirling, looking at Nacken chaetrie (the material culture of Gypsy/Travellers) in Scottish museums. My background is in museums, where I worked mainly in community engagement and learning. While working the Highland Folk Museum (2004-2008), I was involved in the development and delivery of a series of projects which brought young Travellers together with museum collections related to their cultural heritage. These projects sparked an interest, as well as an awareness of current gaps in museum practice and policy, which has led to this research. My research focuses on what Nacken chaetrie there is in museums, how it is used and valued and what museums can do to make this material more visible in the future.

Event / Presentation

Nawken chaetrie online exhibition
In 2020, all Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month events took place online. This online exhibition featured examples from among the wide range of Nawken chaetrie (Gypsy/Traveller objects) identified during my research. Photographs of objects were featured alongside interpretive text. Nawken Chaetrie [the material culture of Scottish Gypsy/Travellers, or Gypsy Traveller objects] Nawken is a term used by Scottish Gypsy/Travellers to refer to themselves. There is no fixed or settled spelling of Nawken, which reflects its origin in an oral tradition, the Cant, one of the languages of Nawken. Other forms of this word include: Naken, Nacken, Naggen, Naggin, Nagin, Nakkin, Nargen, Noggen and Norken. Translations of these terms from the Cant have been given as ‘myself’ and ‘no home’. This exhibit shows images of various artefacts from museum collections in Scotland, which have connections to Nawken. Nawken lives are rarely made visible in museums, although Nawken chaetrie is often present.

Nacken chaetrie in Scottish Museums (the material culture of Gypsy/Travellers in Scottish museums)
Paper delivered alongside Eric Grant's 'Tinkers and Tinsmiths in Highland' for North of Scotland Archaeology Society (NOSAS). How Gypsy/Traveller material culture is preserved, interpreted and presented in museums.

Cian Bin: Gypsy/Traveller Accommodation

Delivered as part of the Highland Folk Museum's conference - From Crucks to Crinkly Tin: Traditional Structures and Settlements in the Central Highlands. This talk included the launch of Shona Main's film, 'The Tent that Essie built: The tent shall stand when the palace shall fall'. Sutherland Traveller Essie Stewart builds a bough tent from scratch, for the last time. “The tent shall stand when the palace shall fall” is from a Hungarian folk song quoted by Hamish Henderson in Timothy Neat’s film, The Summer Walkers [1976]. The song throughout is Crodh Chailen sung by Essie Stewart and her grandfather Alec Stewart [Allidh Dall or Blind Alexander]. It was recorded in Armadale in July 1957 by Hamish Henderson. We use it with the kind permission of the School of Scottish Studies, University of Edinburgh. This film was commissioned by Historic Environment Scotland, The Engine Shed, The Highland Folk Museum and High Life Highland. A film by Shona Main made with Essie Stewart Rhona Ramsay Fred Conacher Hannes Schnell Liz English Sarah Lawther and all at the Highland Folk Museum. With editing, sound and thoughts by Angelica Kroeger. Thank you Angus Council for helping us source coppiced hazel. © 2018 Shona Main and Essie Stewart

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