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Caithness Archives nominated for national award and wants your vote


By David G Scott

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Caithness archivists have been nominated for a prestigious award and urge the public to vote for them before the polls end on Wednesday (July 10).

Nucleus: The Nuclear and Caithness Archives, based near Wick airport, is part of the Highland Archive Service (HAS) which has been nominated for ‘Record Keeping Service of the Year’ in the Archives and Records Association (ARA) Excellence Awards 2024 – the only Scottish service to feature. It is up against the Essex Police Museum and Lancashire Archives and History.

Caithness archivists pictured last year with a charter dating from 1476. From left, Ann Mackay, Valerie Amin, Jennifer Ross and Jamie McCaffrey with the document which is the second oldest in their collection related to Caithness. Picture: DGSPicture: DGS
Caithness archivists pictured last year with a charter dating from 1476. From left, Ann Mackay, Valerie Amin, Jennifer Ross and Jamie McCaffrey with the document which is the second oldest in their collection related to Caithness. Picture: DGSPicture: DGS

Archivist Jamie McCaffrey, based at Nucleus, said: “The Caithness Archive team are very proud to be part of the Highland Archive Service and to have been nominated for the Archives and Records Association 'Record Keeping Service of the Year' award.

“It is both fascinating and rewarding to work as part of the service. Being able to connect with the community and with researchers through our records and outreach activities is a real joy. We are all very passionate about continuing our work to help people engage with the history and heritage of Caithness.”

A spokesperson for High Life Highland (HLH) which oversees the running of HAS said: “It’s the equivalent of the Oscars for the archive sector and High Life Highland is delighted to announce that its very own archive service is in the running for a coveted award – with the public encouraged to vote for them!”

Nucleus archive in Wick has been nominated for an award. Picture: DGS
Nucleus archive in Wick has been nominated for an award. Picture: DGS

Since its establishment in 1990, HAS has played a vital role in preserving and sharing the rich history of the Highlands. There are four sites operating across the region: the Highland Archive Centre in Inverness; Skye and Lochalsh Archive Centre in Portree; Lochaber Archive Centre in Fort William and Nucleus: The Nuclear and Caithness Archives.

Dedicated to collecting, conserving and making accessible records that reflect the history and diversity of the Scottish Highlands and its residents is at the core of what HAS does. People can access collections in person or through digital channels with a great focus on reaching out to school groups, community organisations as well as audiences worldwide.

Valerie Amin looks over an ancient document in the Caithness archives. Picture: DGS
Valerie Amin looks over an ancient document in the Caithness archives. Picture: DGS
Nucleus at night. Picture: DGS
Nucleus at night. Picture: DGS

As well as a highly professional workforce, HAS operates an award-winning trainee archivist programme and has a wealth of volunteers all of whom are working together to ensure the best experience for everyone, whether it is researching family history, conservation of historical documents, accessing old maps, or learning and education.

HLH chief executive Steve Walsh said: “The Highland Archive Service goes beyond just preserving records; they bring history to life. Their work with communities and schools, the hit 'Learn with Lorna' series, and the Am Baile digital heritage website make the Highlands' stories engaging and accessible to everyone. This nomination honours their dedication to making history vibrant and strengthening community ties, proving that the stories of the past are very much alive today.”

This 1476 charter is one of the earliest documents held in the Caithness archives. Picture: DGS
This 1476 charter is one of the earliest documents held in the Caithness archives. Picture: DGS
A wider view of the 1476 document held at the Caithness archives in Wick. Picture: DGS
A wider view of the 1476 document held at the Caithness archives in Wick. Picture: DGS

In 1995 the Caithness Archives was opened in Wick Library and in 2017 Caithness Archives relocated to Nucleus and became part of Nucleus: The Nuclear and Caithness Archives, which also houses the national archive of the British Civil Nuclear Industry. HAS is responsible for the operation of the public search room and supports the community engagement programme there.

Staff across all HAS centres regularly participate in community events including Highland games, clan gatherings and county shows as well as delivering ‘archive open afternoons’, inviting the public to explore historical records on a regular basis.

Caithness Archives regularly delivers reminiscence sessions across Caithness, with monthly visits to care homes. The sessions – delivered on average to 20 residents per session – involve sharing reproductions of photographs and records from the archive collections on a variety of topics with great engagement from the residents.

Nucleus in Wick which houses the Caithness archives. Picture: DGS
Nucleus in Wick which houses the Caithness archives. Picture: DGS

Not all HAS centres have a dedicated exhibition space, but those which do, Skye and Lochalsh and Nucleus; The Nuclear and Caithness Archives, have a well-established programme of exhibitions throughout the year. Here is a recent example:

The Wick Society Exhibition – December 2023 – January 2024 (Nucleus Archives)

The Wick Society Collection exhibition was launched to celebrate the completion of the cataloguing of the collection by the Caithness archive team at the end of 2023. The collection, which dates from 1476 to the start of the twenty-first century, is fascinating in its historical richness and is an eclectic mix of events, people, and places from Wick and the wider Caithness area.

The exhibition was accompanied by a series of well-attended monthly evening talks delivered by the Wick Society across January to April 2024.

Nucleus archive in Wick. Picture: DGS
Nucleus archive in Wick. Picture: DGS

To vote for HAS please visit the Archives and Records Association website ARA Excellence Awards — Archives and Records Association. Voting closes on Wednesday, July 10 with the winners announced at the ARA conference in Birmingham on August 29.

Nucleus is open to the public Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. Archives may be viewed in the public searchroom between 10am and 4pm.


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