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The Museum of Islay Life in 2015

The Museum of Islay Life is now closed after a successful season. The Museum had about 10% more visitors than last year, quite likely helped by the indifferent weather that we had to put up with during the so-called summer. As a haven from rain and cold winds, the Museum, with its constant temperature of 18°C (required to maintain our collections in the best possible conditions), was pleased to offer a warm welcome to visitors from not just Islay, Scotland and the rest of Britain, but from many countries abroad as well. It is always a pleasure to help those who come seeking information about their forebears who had left Islay and settled abroad generations earlier. One traveller from Australia was amazed to see a photograph of his grandfather, looking smart in his soldier’s uniform together with members of his family, in our display about World War I. We continue to be grateful to Ilich and others who bring us items for our collections. Continue reading....

We were very sad to lose our secretary and minute secretary, Gina McAuslan, earlier this year. She is much missed. We were touched to be remembered by the late Betsy West in her will, bequeathing us an oil lamp, a milk churn and fine portraits of her grandparents. We are grateful to Deirdre MacLugash for allowing us to make copies of some of Betsy’s photographs to add to the collection.

In August, Bruichladdich Distillery and the Museum hosted a very well-attended talk by Professor Steven Mithen of Reading University about the results of his recent excavations at Rubha Port an t-Seilich south of Port Askaig, which have pushed back the date of the earliest known people on Islay by some 3,000 years, and also of his first look at the Neolithic cairn, ‘The Giant’s Grave’, on the slopes of Beinn Tart a’Mhill. He is planning further work at both sites over the next three years, and is currently seeking the considerable funds required to fulfil what he has termed the Islay Palaeolithic–Mesolithic–Neolithic Prehistory Project; an exciting prospect.

The Museum’s collection of photographs is an invaluable resource of historical value but not easy to display except in very small numbers. Earlier this month we were delighted and grateful when the Dunlossit Foundation awarded us a grant which, with other funds, will enable us to pay our two staff through this coming winter and, hopefully, the next two. Scanning over 3,000 black and white photographs and postcards is one of the tasks they will undertake, as well as reviewing our inventory of objects and the books in our library. We also intend to digitise our collection of some 5,000 items in our archives, including letters, cuttings, reports, pamphlets, etc. The Museum holds its collections of objects, books and photographs on behalf of the people of Islay, and with this extra funding we will ensure that everything is kept in the best possible conditions and as much as possible made available to Ilich and visitors alike.

article written by Malcolm Ogilvie and published with kind permission of the ileach

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