This week I began my role as an intern with the Scottish Council on Archives. Beginning this first significant step in my career has commenced in somewhat odd circumstances. With the world in disarray from Covid- 19, my internship, much like everyone else in the country is operating from the comfort of my kitchen table with my favourite mug admirably serving as my stand-in co-worker. Thanks to trusty, yet occasionally temperamental technology, I have gratefully been brought into the small but wonderful SCA team. Stepping [digitally] into a new environment can be a daunting task, however things soon became familiar and adapting to the SCA’s current projects has been an enjoyable and rewarding task so far.
Ancestral tourism was a recognisable concept to me while growing up in Easter Ross as our closest city and source of excitement was Inverness. With a local area so saturated in ageless remnants of history, it was understandably a prime tourist centre. Every summer brought more and more tourists, many of whom were part of the 50 million people who all have Scottish ancestry, making the emotive journey to return home to where their ancestors once lived. This created the appetite for clan trinkets and tartan souvenirs which grew to encompass a large portion of the town. The show of intimate devotion to a time and place seemingly so distant was fascinating to myself, helping to form my interest in the concept of what it means to be Scottish, and what ‘being Scottish’ can look like.
I chose this internship because of my familiarity to tourism, but also because I recognise the large potential tourism has to enrich Scotland financially and culturally, and how this can affect perceptions on a global scale. Including our archives into the conversation is such an obvious yet frustratingly overlooked part of the tourism sector, admittedly even I forgot about its importance. Through acquainting myself with the ancestral tourism industry, and through previous experiences with it at home, I have really come to understand how integral archives are to enhancing the experience of those wishing to seek their roots in Scotland’s enchanting historical landscape. It is through archives and local heritage groups that visitors can unravel the veil obscuring what they know about themselves and where they come from, and this personal process is enlightening to some, and a dream come true for most. The incredible work that local archivists do to preserve the native character of the most unassuming tourist spots needs improved engagement and support so they can continue to create the wonderful memories Scots from around the world will cherish, including many of my own.
For the next week ahead, I will continue on my tasks at hand, developing a contact database that will be useful for archivists wanting to participate in ancestral tourism, and assisting in the planning of an ancestral tourism advocacy short film which I look forward to starting later in the summer.