"A twenty first century gateway to the cultural legacy of the Scottish Nation"

Photo of Mairead Macdonald, Tobar an Dualchais/Kist O' Riches' new DirectorThe major national heritage project, 'Tobar an Dualchais/Kist O'Riches' took a major step forward this week with the appointment of the Project's first Director, Mairead Macdonald, a native Gaelic speaker from the Highlands, who was educated at Inverness Royal Academy, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Wales and at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the national centre for the development of Gaelic language and culture, on the Isle of Skye.

Ms Macdonald is currently Director of Stòrlann Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig (National Gaelic Resource Centre), in the Isle of Lewis and has previously held senior posts with Cànan, the SDA and Scottish Enterprise. Ms Macdonald will be based at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the managing partner in this collaborative project involving the University of Edinburgh, The National Trust for Scotland and the BBC.

The project, the largest cultural heritage digitisation project ever undertaken in Scotland, aims to conserve, catalogue, digitise and make accessible 'on-line' up to 18,000 hours of sound recordings of Gaelic and Scots material currently held within the archives of Edinburgh University's School of Scottish Studies, the BBC and the National Trust's Campbell of Canna Collection.

The survival of Scotland's oral and musical heritage, in its present form, is regarded by scholars as remarkable and is unsurpassed in its range and quality in Europe today. This oral tradition constitutes one of the most vital and enduring cultural elements on which Gaelic and Scots identity depends. Tobar an Dualchais/Kist O' Riches will create an educational resource which will lead to an increased awareness of Scottish culture, its nature and its historical depth, and to a greater understanding of the lives of those who have contributed so greatly to it.

These three major collections, unique in their origins, size and range, contain sound material in Gaelic and Scots collected over the past sixty years from all areas of Scotland and the Scottish diaspora.

The £2.9m project funding was secured following an award of £1.39m from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Other key funding partners include the European Regional Development Fund, the Scottish Executive, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Gaelic Media Service, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, The Highland Council and the University of Aberdeen.

The innovative project will create 21.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs over the initial 5 year programme, with many of the jobs based around the Highlands and Islands.

Chairman of the project's Steering Committee, Donnie Munro said today,
"We are delighted to have been able to make this appointment and to have secured someone of Mairead's ability, knowledge and proven track record. This is a project of immense importance to the cultural well-being of the whole of Scotland and, along with our new Director and her project team, we look forward to working to bring this wonderful resource to as wide a community as possible".

The Chairman paid tribute to the work of the Steering Group in bringing the project to this stage of its development, thanking members for their continued commitment to the project over the past seven years. The project has been widely welcomed by many working in education, language, the arts and cultural heritage.

Dr Margaret Mackay, Director of the School of Scottish Studies Archives, gave an enthusiastic welcome to the project.
"This innovative project ensures that the voices of those who have over many years shared their unique lore, in Gaelic and Scots, with esteemed collectors will continue to be heard by all with an interest in the rich cultural heritage of Scotland."

Singer and cultural activist, Sheena Wellington, in welcoming the project said,
"I wholeheartedly support this wonderful plan to put all strands of our great living Scots culture before our children, our people and the world"

The well known Scottish Gaelic singer and educator, Kenna Campbell, said of the project,
"In an era when authenticity is increasingly important, the value of this archive network cannot be overstated. It is a 21st century gateway to the cultural legacy of the Scottish Nation".