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30 Nov 2018

We came, we saw, we inventoried!

Written by Sarah Heaton, Project Reveal West Team Manager
Project Reveal Team West outside the Hill House, Helensburgh
Project Reveal Team West outside the Hill House, Helensburgh
As the West team’s involvement in Project Reveal comes to an end, we look back over the last 16 months on a delightful selection of Trust properties with objects as diverse as a weaver's loom to a bed designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

In July 2017 we arrived at our first property, the Hill House, fresh faced and not really knowing what to expect over the coming months. Being the height of summer, the house was bustling with visitors – this presented both opportunities for public engagement and having to be flexible as we navigated our way around the collection. There were many highlights, such as working with the Mackintosh collection and going through the linen cupboards which contained original pieces of upholstery, pictures and other household textiles. But there were some collection challenges too, as sets of china had to be worked through and numerous curtains had to be sorted out.

In September, we moved on to Moirlanich Longhouse, a small bothy in the central Highlands. Although this was a relatively easy property to work on, the biggest challenges here were working in very restricted spaces and the lack of light in the byre. But we have fond memories of watching the mist roll in one evening and hearing the stampede of cows wanting their dinner!

The next property the team worked on was Weaver’s Cottage in Kilbarchan, which has a working 200-year-old loom and over 1,400 tartan samples from the mid-20th century on display. As a small property, the inventory could only be completed during the winter when it was closed to visitors, which presented its own challenges during the darker afternoons. Again, this was a relatively straightforward collection to inventory as lists had been left by the previous property manager and there were few anomalies to deal with. During the cold winter months we took refuge in the back room where it was warm enough for Brian, our photographer, to work in a t-shirt as opposed to the layers worn by Demi and Silvia in the other parts of the property!

In January 2018 we began work at Greenbank House, the West regional office base. The collection there is very small but had been moved around so the biggest challenge was making sure we had up-to-date locations for all the objects. We were also blighted by snow, which hindered progress slightly, but we still managed to finish in time to start the next property.

We arrived at the Tenement House at the end of January and completed the property in April. As this is a very small property, we could only work in the flat during the closed season, with snow hindering progress again in February and March. This property presented unique challenges: multiple small items such as fragments of cloth, buttons and parts of objects that had never been thrown away by Miss Toward were catalogued in groups; the lack of electric light upstairs made working in the dark afternoons difficult, even with the shutters and curtains open; and improvements to the close made access to the upstairs flat interesting at times!

In May, we worked at Holmwood for two weeks. As most of the objects there have been brought in to dress the house, it was a relatively straightforward collection to work on with no real issues. We mostly admired the beautiful architectural features and enjoyed lunches outside in the warmth after a bitter winter!

We began at Pollok House in June, and this proved to be the most complicated collection that we worked on. There was a mixture of Trust collections, loans (including family loans) and display material, as well as the Glasgow Life collection held there. As Glasgow Life had completed their own inventory of their collections, we had to navigate our way through the whole collection to establish ownership and exactly which objects we should inventory. All during the busiest part of the season!

We’re currently working at Wester Kittochside farmhouse, which is part of the National Museum of Rural Life. After the complications of Pollok, this has been a straightforward and much quieter property to work on as we go into the winter months, although the smaller rooms do pose a challenge for the photography. The cats and horses keep us company in the courtyard!

Project Reveal has been a fantastic project to work on and we all have very fond memories. Our favourite properties have been Wester Kittochside, Weaver’s Cottage and Moirlanich Longhouse for their atmosphere, location and general collections. Unanimously, we all loved working on the Tenement House collection as it represented such a comprehensive insight into one person’s life. Our favourite moments have been eating scones at the Hill House, and bacon rolls in front of the fire at Weaver’s Cottage while looking out over a frosty lawn; opening drawers and cupboards at all properties, not knowing what we’ll find; and seeing the early morning sunlight streaming through the glass panels of the closed doors in the Hill House before it opened for the day, just as Charles Rennie Mackintosh had intended.

The West team at the Tenement House
The West team at the Tenement House

Project Reveal is a Trust-wide collections digitisation project. It will result in an updated database with high-quality images and unique object numbers for every item in the National Trust for Scotland’s material culture collections. Six regionally based project teams, supported by experienced project managers, will work across all our properties with collections to complete the inventory in 24 months from July 2017 until July 2019.

Project Reveal

Find out more about this Trust-wide collections digitisation project.

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