Hebridean Connections, a pioneering digital archiving project involving comainn eachdraidh (historical societies) and other heritage organisations in the Outer Hebrides, has appointed a training officer for Uist and Barra.
Sue Wilson, who lives in Berneray and has been closely involved with Comunn Eachdraidh Bheàrnaraigh over the past eight years, is the new training officer.
In her new post, Sue will be offering to train comann eachdraidh volunteers in a range of digital skills, including how to add information to the Hebridean Connections website. More generally, she will be responsible for working to build closer links with heritage organisations in Uist and Barra, and also for delivering part of Hebridean Connections’ digital inclusion programme, which provides basic training to community groups and individuals.
“Based on my experience of adding historical information to the Hebridean Connections website on behalf of Comunn Eachdraidh Bheàrnaraigh, I know what a fantastic resource the website is and how it can help to boost local tourism,” said Sue.
“But I also know about the challenges that voluntary organisations face in terms of resourcing projects. My hope is that I can bring this experience to bear during discussions with local heritage organisations, and help to find ways for them to take advantage of our website as a ready-made platform suitable for drawing the attention of the whole world to their archives.”
“Any heritage organisations from Uist and Barra that wish to join Hebridean Connections as full members can make use of our website free of charge,” added Tristan ap Rheinallt, Project Manager at Hebridean Connections.
“This includes having their own pages on the website, advertising their products, and adding as much or as little information as they want to the data set. Sue Wilson can provide all the training they require to help them with this, and again it is free of charge.”
Sue, having been a teacher on the mainland, made her home on Berneray in 2006. Between 2007 and 2009 she was employed to work on the Dileab Bheàrnaraigh project for Comunn Eachdraidh Bheàrnaraigh. Her work involved researching and building up an archive to be held on the island, and then using the collected material as a basis for displays in the local visitor centre. The family history database that she set up now contains information about more than 6,000 people who have links to Berneray. Towards the end of the Dileab Bheàrnaraigh project, Comunn Eachdraidh Bheàrnaraigh began to share some of this information on the Hebridean Connections website. This is a process that Sue has continued on a voluntary basis, and it was also as a volunteer that she managed the society’s more recent emigration project, A’ tilleadh ar n-eachdraidh dhachaigh.
“We see this new post as essential to building closer ties with heritage organisations in Uist and Barra,” commented Donnie Morrison, chairman of Hebridean Connections. “We are delighted to welcome someone with Sue’s inside knowledge of comainn eachdraidh activities to the team.”
The new post was created following the award of a funding package totalling £145,000 to support the Hebridean Connections for a one-year period to the end of March 2016. The funders involved are the Scottish Government’s People and Communities Fund (PCF) (£80,000), the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) (£40,000), Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (CnES) (£20,000), and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) (£5,000).
About Hebridean Connections:
The Hebridean Connections project is a partnership of ten comainn eachdraidh (local historical societies) in the Outer Hebrides. Prior to 2015-16, it was funded over a two-year period by the Scottish Government’s People and Communities Fund (PCF), Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE), and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (CnES).
The project followed on from an earlier initiative that resulted in the development of an innovative website containing tens of thousands of linked historical records. During the period 2013-15, this website (www.hebrideanconnections.com) was completely redeveloped by the University of Aberdeen under the dot.rural programme, and then greatly expanded with the addition of new information. Training of historical society volunteers in technology-related skills was given a particular emphasis during this phase, as were the benefits of volunteering in terms of health and wellbeing.
The Hebridean Connections project is managed by the Islands Book Trust.