Kick off! Engaging with Scotland’s Sporting Heritage

This conference drew together all sorts of organisations with different types of sporting heritage. The shared theme between them all was finding ways to make the heritage accessible to the public and help the sport flourish.

The morning focused on presentations from specific oranisations

Imogen Gibbon, Chief Curator at the Scottish Portrait Gallery, took us for a look around the 753 sport-related items and 420 photos in the collection, including portraits of Keith Falconer , Arabic scholar, missionary and cyclist, and Eric Liddell, painted in 1925 but never sold and or displayed until the Gallery acquired it in the 1990s. She described how the Gallery has used images to stage events around such as curling in the gallery to celebrate Curling at Linlithgow by Charles Lees.

Maureen McGonigle from Scottish Women in Sport talked about the lack of media coverage and money for women’s sport, showing a video of Katherine Schwitzer, the first women to run in the Boston Marathon, which demonstrates the depth of resistance to women participating in sport.

Dr Fiona Skillen from Glasgow Caledonian University gave a brief insight into the Women in Scottish Sport Hall of Fame, to be launched on 4 March. There will be eight women honoured in the first instance: four from today and four from the past. This will be a travelling exhibition, again to try and ensure as many people as possible can see it.

Ian Scott from the National Library of Scotland, talked about the items in the Library’s collections such as 10,000 match programmes. He highlighted two collections, both donated by individuals which have offered them the opportunity to create events that reach out to audiences who might think that the National Library is not for them. One was the ice-skating collection of John Simpson Christie and a collection of roller derby memorabilia.

Richard McBrearty from the Scottish Football Museum talked about the development of the Museum’s work to record and display the story of women’s football, culminating in an exhibition on the origins of women’s football later this year and a major conference in 2019. One of the issues has been the lack of artefacts; one way round that has been to commission artists to create artworks related to players or events or to commission new artefacts such as caps for international appearances.

Clare Button from the Body Language project, working with archives related to dance, gymnastics and physical education, with the aim of cataloguing the materials, conserving them and doing digitisation. Engagement is a key part of the project including promoting them as fields for potential research.

The Cricket Scotland talk, given by Colin Neill and Cammie Munro, focused on how important heritage is to the sport, particularly in revealing what might be surprising stories about who played cricket and where it was popular.

The afternoon sessions focused on research and national approaches.

  • Four PhD students described their areas of research and the archives and records they are using:
  • Wade Cormack – Sport and physical education in northern burghs of Scotland 1600-1800
  • Michael Connolly – Faith, community and football: Brother Wulfrid, founder of Celtic
  • Mason Robbins – the 1914 Christmas Day truce and football match, and the impact of sport in peace-making
  • Karen Grunwell – Women’s football in Scotland since the 1960s

Karyn Williamson from the Archives and Records Association Business section described the start of its pilot project into football clubs’ business records.

Justine Reilly from Sporting Heritage talked about the organisation’s role to demonstrate the power of sporting heritage to enhance health and wellbeing – physical and mental. She urged organisations to:

  • become Sporting heritage members
  • to add their archives to the Collections Database
  • take part in National Sporting Heritage Day on 30 September
  • look into the opportunities offered by the Sporting Heritage’s First World War project support.
  • and go to the 2017 Sporting Heritage Conference, in Liverpool on 14/15 November.

The final focus was on the way that sporting heritage provides a way to enable people to access social, economic and cultural history. Justine and Richard Haynes from the University of Stirling drew attention to growing support for a research programme – bringing together funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, universities and academics, and sports archives to support collaborative doctorates.


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