Clan Donald Magazine No13 (1995) Online
Update on the Clan Donald Visitor Centre
Library and Study Centre by Margaret Macdonald, Archivist
What makes a family deliberately miss a
ferry booking in order to visit the croft their ancestors had left
150 years previously, or a grown man wipe away a tear? These are two
of the reactions we have had to a successful search for family
history at the Study Centre.
Now in its fifth year of operation the
Study centre is an established part of the Centre's attractions. Our
genealogy data of censuses and parish records encompasses the old
administrative counties of Argyll and Inverness-shire, including the
islands as well as the west coast parishes of Ross-shire. We now
cover all the old territory of the Lords of the Isles and the
branches of Clan Donald, except for Lewis which we plan to be the
next addition to our data.
Not everyone reacts in the way described
above, but even the most understated response leaves us satisfied as
to a job well done. However it is not always possible to help every
searcher. Sometimes they do not have enough information with which
to start searching; in other cases their family left, as did so
many, before the written sources begin.
Genealogy is only part of our function.
We have probably the best historical reference library in the
northwest, and it continues to expand, helped by generous gifts and
grants. The variety of subjects we cover is popular with our
visitors while the average time spent visiting the Reading Room
tends to increase in wet weather.
The library is used as an information
resource by the scholars at our three local secondary schools,
Portree, Plockton and Mallaig, who are otherwise restricted in their
sources of available reference material. It is also used by students
at the nearby Gaelic Medium College, the Sabhal Mor Ostaig.
Our primary sources continue to grow,
though much more slowly than the library stock. The main element of
our archive is the collection of papers from the Macdonald Estates
in the islands of Skye and North Uist. This is an important source
for Highland history generally as well as being of great local
interest, and it has been used by a number of academics who have
made the long journey to Skye. Although catalogued in detail, the
collection still has to be indexed.
We also put on exhibitions. The two
small galleries on the ground floor of the Study Centre enable us to
stage temporary exhibitions for which there is no space in the main
museum building. Over the past five years we have had exhibitions of
paintings, ceramics, sculpture and tapestry by local artists as well
as displays from our own collections such as Jacobite maps, or on
the transport services in Skye over the last 200 years. 1995 marks
the big one - an exhibition on the role of Clan Donald in the '45
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