Twenty Treasures

As part of our 20th anniversary, SCA extended a call to all archives and records management services across Scotland to nominate an item in their collection which is of national or local significance and has an interesting story. From the nominations received, twenty fascinating and intriguing items were chosen. This is not a top twenty list, but rather a chance to delve into just some of the many treasures held in the archives of Scotland.

Click on the button below each entry to read more about the history and story of the item. A podcast about the series will be broadcast earlier in the month. To listen to the series, click here. You can also listen to the individual episodes by clicking on the entries below.

Tasglann nan Eilean

What: Petition presented to the Trustees of the Iolaire Disaster Fund by Mrs Julia M. Fraser, Schoolhouse, Sandwickhill on behalf of the signatories

When: July 1921

The story: This is an 8-page document: the petition itself (page 1) followed by 7 pages of signatures. The petition urges the Iolaire Disaster Fund Trustees to increase payments to the families and dependents of those lost in the disaster and presents the reasons why increases were urgently needed.

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Scottish Jewish Archives Centre

What: Admission card for Dorrith M. Oppenheim (Sim), who came to Scotland on the Kindertransport in 1939.

When: 1939

The story: Dorrith, aged 7, was one of 10,000 unaccompanied children from Nazi Germany and Austria admitted to Britain in 1938-1939 under the Kindertransport scheme.  It is estimated that around 800 of these children came to Scotland, where they were fostered by families around the country or accommodated in refugee hostels.

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Lothian Health Services Archive

What: Cervical Smear Campaign promotional leaflet

When: 1988

The story: Information leaflet ‘What happens after a cervical smear test’, written by the Cervical Smear Campaign, the Lothian Health Education Department, and women living in the area.

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Dunkeld Archives

What: Scottish Horse Regiment Padre’s Notebook

When: October & November 1918

The story: A small notebook from our Scottish Horse regimental collection which led to the identification of the grave of a First World War soldier.

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Aberdeen City Archives

What: Burgh Court Roll

When: 1317

The story: Measuring 160cm x 20cm, this is the sole-surviving example of a burgh court roll for Aberdeen, recording several cases that came before the burgh’s head and baillie courts between August and October 1317. As such, it is the oldest record of local administration in Scotland.

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National Records of Scotland

What: Letters Patent to the Public Records (Scotland) Bill 2011

When: 19 April 2011

The story: The Letters Patent signifies Royal Assent to the Public Records (Scotland) Bill, the first public records legislation in Scotland for over 70 years.

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University of Stirling Archives

What: ‘Scotland 1970’, Promotional brochure for the 1970 Commonwealth Games held in Edinburgh

When: 1970

The story: Full colour brochure for the IXth British Commonwealth Games (held in Edinburgh from 16-25 July 1970) providing information for visitors to the event on the city and the new sports facilities constructed for the Games.

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University of St Andrews

What: Papal bull of foundation of the University of St Andrews, the first University in Scotland, the 3rd in the English-speaking world in St Andrews and the 50th in Europe.

When: 28 August 1413

The story: The sole surviving papal letter out of the original six which were issued in 1413 by Pope Benedict XIII to establish, and allow the granting of degrees by, the University. These were issued in response to a joint request from the King, Parliament and leading Bishop of Scotland.

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Carsphairn Archives

What: Postcard “The Last Spinner, Carsphairn”

When: Between 1902 and 1919

The story: One postcard telling many stories of changing livelihoods, women’s roles and emigration

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Scottish Ornithologists’ Club

What: Schedule for Observations on Birds Completed at Pentland Skerries Lighthouse 1911

When: 25 Sept to 13 Oct 1911

The story: Bird Migration Survey, early 20th Century. Printed forms recording bird species and numbers seen by observers at coastal stations for William Eagle Clarke, Keeper of Natural History at the Royal Museum of Scotland, later acquired by Leonora Rintoul and Evelyn Baxter. This Schedule was from Lighthouse Keeper John Bain.

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Royal Faculty of Procurators

What: Christina of the Isles charter

When: c. 1314

The story: A charter by Christina of the Isles, daughter of Ailean mac Ruaidhrí and widow of Duncan of Mar, granting her lands in Moidart, Arisaig and Morar and the islands of Eigg and Rhum to Artúr Caimbéal.

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Gairloch Museum

What: Letter to the Gairloch Crofters by Dr John Mackenzie

When: 1856

The story: ‘Letter to the Gairloch Crofters’ written by the agricultural reformer Dr John Mackenzie (Factor of the Gairloch Estate) on his leaving Gairloch.

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Historic Environment Scotland

What: Photograph of Charlestown Harbour, Fife in 1882 by Erskine Beveridge

When: 1882

The story: So nearly lost – an image of a lost industry! Charlestown harbour with ships and industrial limekilns photographed by Erskine Beveridge in 1882.  

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National Library of Scotland – Archive & Manuscript Collections

What: Diary of Captain O`Neil

When: c.1746

The story: Diary of Captain Felix O’Neil written at the time of the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 which recounts the battle of Culloden (1746) and the aftermath for the defeated Jacobites. The diary is written on the back of playing cards

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Lloyds Banking Group Archive

What: Earliest surviving Scottish banknote

When: 16 Apr 1716

The story: Banknote for ‘Twelve pounds Scots’ (equivalent to twenty shillings or £1 sterling) issued by Bank of Scotland in 1716.

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Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

What: A photograph on paper coated with silver salts of the original Palm House at current site of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh taken by Dr James Duncan.

When: c.1855

The story: The earliest photograph in the RBGE Collection, this shows the original Palm House that was built on the Inverleith site in 1834. Palms can be seen protruding through the roof of the building and the photograph was successfully used to lobby Parliament for funding for a larger, taller Palm House.

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Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow

What: Smallpox Vaccination Register

When: 1801-1802

The story: The first vaccination register in a series of 15 which comprises a record of the vaccination programme against smallpox carried out in Glasgow by Members and Fellows of the then Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow

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High Life Highland

What: Travellers waiting for the ferry at Kyle

When: 1925/6

The story: Image showing a row of expensive cars carrying tourists on their holidays in contrast with the travelling people and their cart on the jetty at Kyle of Lochalsh, as they all wait to take the ferry over to Skye in 1925/6.

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National Library of Scotland – Moving Image and Sound Collections


When: 1896

The story: The film depicts scenes of Queen Victoria at Balmoral with guests and attendants including the Tzar and Tzarina of Russia, Princess Beatrice and Ena, and HRH Field Marshal Arthur, Duke of Connaught.

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