Conference Paper (unpublished)

Traces in the museum store



Ramsay R (2018) Traces in the museum store. Scottish Student Archaeology Society Conference, Glasgow University Union, 27.01.2018-28.01.2018.

While researching the material culture of Gypsy/Travellers in Scottish museums it has been helpful to take an archaeological approach to objects and collections. This has been beneficial in various ways. The material uncovered through this research forms a unique assemblage never brought together before, allowing new analysis of not just individual objects, but also groups of objects across a range of material – expected and unexpected. Most significant for me, however, as a museum professional, it has been helpful in coming to terms with and learning to appreciate the absent material: the uncollected, the misplaced, or the lost material. As a curator the idea of missing items is not an easy one considering the definition of a curator is a keeper or custodian - loss tends to feel like a dereliction of duty. An archaeological sensibility has increased my appreciation for the traces left by missing objects, in catalogue entries, in written ethnographies, and in photographs. Taking the Highland Folk Museum as a focus, this paper will look at how approaching the collections with an archaeological sensibility has moved my research forward. For example, it has allowed me to consider more fully the contribution made by Traveller, Duncan Williamson, who demonstrated basket and wooden flower making at the museum in the 1980s. None of his work was added to the collection, but photographs of him carrying out the demonstrations offer a trace of both Traveller objects and agency within the museum, while his own descriptions of related skills and processes within his own writing add to the understanding.

ConferenceScottish Student Archaeology Society Conference
Conference locationGlasgow University Union

People (1)


Mrs Rhona Ramsay

Mrs Rhona Ramsay

PhD Researcher, History and Politics - Division

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Research themes