Volunteering in the Archive
The support of volunteers is vital in enabling Biggar Museum to fulfill its mission of collecting, storing, preserving and recording Biggar and Upper Clydesdale’s rich archaeological, social and historic heritage. In this blog post, Sandy Gilchrist tells us about his experience as a volunteer in the Biggar Museum archive. There are many different ways to support Biggar Museum as a volunteer, including working in the archive. Find out more about volunteering here.
Becoming an Archive Volunteer
Following the establishment of Biggar and Upper Clydesdale Museum I volunteered to help behind the scenes in the archive. One of the tasks I’ve undertaken is cataloguing some of the collections of pamphlets which had accumulated over the years. They included a collection of local almanacs, booklets on the history of local churches and their ministers and many of the social clubs in and around Biggar. The almanacs intrigued me, providing background to the development of Clydesdale over the last hundred years. Each edition contains general material and a section on each town or village. The section on Biggar showed how the town and district has changed and developed over the years. I found it intriguing to find out how the societies, clubs, etc. had fulfilled a need – in some cases over the whole period and others for a few years.
History of Shops and Shop Keepers in Biggar
I’m also interested in the shops and shop keepers who have catered for the community over the years. Grocers’ shops flourished for many years but over the last twenty or thirty years have mostly been replaced by a supermarket. However, Brownlees has prospered. Its key to success appears to have been its adaptability. As well as the traditional food range they also have over seventy different beers and a wide range of whiskies and gins are on sale. It also now houses the Post Office too. When I checked on the age of this establishment, I found it dated back to the eighteenth century. Fortunately for Biggar, Brian Lambie, the former owner of a family hardware store in Biggar, collected objects from many of the shops when they were closing down & its these collections you can see in the museum, known as Gladstone Court, our reconstructed Edwardian Street scene.
Societies in Biggar and Upper Clydesdale
However, it was the societies that really sparked my interest. The material we had on many of them was pretty sparse. This made me wonder how it could be supplemented. The real problem was when they closed down one person, often the secretary, kept the minute books, the cash book and a few other items “for posterity”. As time went by this was tidied up and many items disposed of, thus making the story less interesting. So I put a letter in the Gazette, which has resulted in two boxes of material for different societies. One is for a club in Carnwath. The other one is the records of the Biggar and District Talking Newspaper, for which I was organiser for twenty years. It was sad to have the records forwarded to me but technology has moved on. However, I hope to set them in order so that perhaps someone in the future can use them as an archival resource. One point which is important is that the actual equipment (e.g. tape recorders) has not been passed to me. For many such organisations, a display of the equipment and how they were used is necessary to give a true picture.
Postscript from the Manager/Curator
Sandy Gilchrist was formerly head teacher at Covington primary school.
The archive within Biggar & Upper Clydesdale Museum is a treasure trove of information, photographs, maps and plans and includes much on family history. As I write this, most of the contents are not yet digitised, but we are working on it! You can book an appointment to visit the archive here. Alternatively telephone the museum on 01899 221 050. We look forward to welcoming you!
Date: 1st Oct 2021 Back to Blog