National Museums Scotland Partners with Skye College on Gaelic Content for Major Exhibition
National Museums Scotland has partnered with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig College on Skye, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), on the production of content for the major summer exhibition, Wild and Majestic: Romantic Visions of Scotland.
Wild and Majestic: Romantic Visions of Scotland will examine how Scotland became established in the popular imagination as a land of wilderness, heroism and history, and how tartan, bagpipes and rugged, wild landscapes became enduring, internationally recognised symbols of Scottish identity. It spans the period from the final defeat of the Jacobites at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 to the death of Queen Victoria in 1901.
Gaelic language and culture feature throughout the exhibition, with the main narrative presented in both English and Gaelic. The exhibition explores the efforts made to protect and revive elements of Gaelic culture in the wake of the post-Culloden crisis in Highland society. During this period, Scotland’s relationship with the European Romantic movement transformed external perceptions of the Highlands and was central to the birth of tourism in Scotland. These developments would in turn influence the relationship between the Hanoverian royal family and Scotland, particularly George IV and, later, Queen Victoria.
Dr Stuart Allan, Keeper of Scottish History and Archaeology at National Museums Scotland, said
“We are delighted to be working with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on this exhibition. The expertise of our colleagues there, Dr Domhnall Uilleam Stiùbhart and Professor Uisdean Cheape has brought an invaluable perspective to the story, which we hope will provide visitors to the exhibition with a real insight into a fascinating, turbulent period in our history.”
Dr Domhnall Uilleam Stiùbhart from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig said:
“We at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig warmly welcome our partnership with National Museums Scotland. We value the opportunities involved in enhancing this landmark exhibition by illustrating the influential role played by Gaelic culture in providing essential ingredients to modern Scottish identity, an identity recognised and celebrated worldwide in art, literature, and song.”
Experts from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig have also assisted on the panel texts which will be presented in both English and Gaelic. Each section of the exhibition will include exploration of themes from a Gaelic-cultural perspective, and throughout the exhibition filmed interviews will reflect a range of perspectives, including Gaelic voices, on some contested historical themes about the period.
Over 300 objects will be on display, drawn from the collections of National Museums Scotland and 38 lenders across the UK. They tell a story with a stellar cast, including Queen Victoria and Prince Albert; King George IV; Sir Walter Scott; Robert Burns; JMW Turner; Henry Raeburn; Felix Mendelssohn; William and Dorothy Wordsworth; Ludwig Van Beethoven and Lord Byron, whose 1807 poem Lachin y Gair (Lochnagar) is quoted in the exhibition’s title. Prominent Highlanders who feature include the Ossian author-translator James Macpherson, the soldier-historian David Stewart of Garth, the clan chief Mac Mhic Alasdair (Alasdair Macdonnel of Glengarry), and the folklorists Alasdair Gilleasbaig MacGilleMhìcheil (Alexander Carmichael) and Iain Òg Ìle (John Campbell of Islay).
Lenders to the exhibition, which is sponsored by Baillie Gifford Investment Managers, include numerous Highland and Island institutions such as The Museum of the Isles, Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, The Black Watch Museum, Blair Castle, The Highland Folk Museum, MacDougall of Dunollie Preservation Trust, and An Comunn Gàidhealach. The William Grant Foundation is supporting research into the Highland dress featured in the exhibition.
Sabhal Mòr Ostaig is also lending to the exhibition a copy of the Gaelic version of Queen Victoria’s Highland journal, published in 1878.
The relationship between objects and the history of the Gaelic language will be shown through a rich selection of material, including:
- The Red Book of Clanranald, written in Gaelic by the bards of Clanranald in the 17th and 18th centuries, containing poems and the traditional genealogy and history of the Macdonalds, one of the manuscripts which James McPherson consulted whilst researching Ossian
- A Pipe Banner of the Royal Highland Emigrants, a British Army regiment raised in North America, with Gaelic inscription, c.1776
- A handbill proclamation in Gaelic for the Repeal in 1783 of the Act of Parliament Prohibiting Highland Dress (1747)
- An early Gaelic dictionary dating from 1828 which was commissioned by the Highland Society of London
- The Lovat and Tullibardine Shield, made to the design of a highland targe, and named for two prominent Jacobites, which since 1903 has been the prize for best Gaelic choir at the Royal National Mod.
The University of the Highlands and Islands will also contribute to the events programme, including an event with former Runrig frontman Donnie Munro in conversation with UHI’s Dr David Worthington.