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Beyond the Stones, Magic, Medicine and the MacDougalls: Behind-the-scenes.

Our new temporary exhibition has been open to the public for almost two months now and we thought it was about time to publicly acknowledge and celebrate all of the great and varied teamwork which has gone into it's creation this past year. Our Heritage Engagement and Access Officer, Jamie MacGregor, who took on the lead role in this project, has taken the time to write about it:

 

The idea for our latest exhibition was created in 2022, when Catherine Gillies, our former Heritage mentor, posed the idea for a medical themed exhibition at Dunollie. The idea was very well received, and it quickly became apparent that there were many angles that we could focus on within the subject. Subsequent meetings were held, with a structure put in place, and research questions and topics assigned to interested parties. The following topics were decided upon: Charmstones and Superstition; Medicinal Herbs; The O’Connacher physicians of Lorn; Malaria and the MacDougalls, Dunollie's WW1 effort. Throughout the exhibition process our staff team were assisted by volunteers, who played a pivotal role throughout the project.


In January 2023, Alyson McGowan (Robinson) joined us on a three-month museum studies internship from the Instituto Lorenzo de Medici in Florence. Primarily, Alyson’s focus during this period was in researching two of the exhibition topics, Charmstones and Superstition, and The O’Connacher Physicians of Lorn. In addition, Alyson spent time transcribing Henry Lawrence MacDougall’s ‘notes on surgery’ from the late 19th century.


This picture shows Henry Lawrence MacDougall's handwritten notes and might conjure up an idea of how difficult a task transcribing the full book was for Alyson and Alison.


Dunollie’s archive volunteers also showed a keen interest in assisting with our exhibition research. Alison Blackwood stepped in to continue and fully transcribe Henry’s notes on surgery, which is currently on display. An incredible amount of patience was required during this process, and we are very grateful for the time given on this subject. In addition, Fiona Kinkaid, offered her valued insight into the medicinal plants that grow around the grounds today, which helped shape our interpretation.


Thanks to our partnership with Museum Galleries Scotland, who in turn, collaborated with Daydream believers, funding became available to partner up with with the local history group from Oban High School, offering them the chance to go behind the scenes of our exhibition. During workshops with design and interpretation specialists we were able to offer pupils the chance to feed their thoughts and ideas into the overall outcome of the exhibition.



Our partnership with Oban High School continued through our pathways programme, as local artist, Aisling Duncan, dedicated her time to create beautiful watercolours of Self Heal, Burdock, Hemlock and Yarrow. These designs feature as an integral part of the herbal medicine section of our exhibition.

 

Further interest was shown by members of our regular Gaelic conversation group, Andree Hawke and Ewan Kennedy, in researching the O’Connachers, due to the subject’s ties with the local language. Their excellent work helped us better understand the wider context of this topic, which greatly enhanced our interpretation.


This was Shannen Provan-Sloan, Anna Bain and I's first time curating an exhibition and we have learned so much from it. We divided up the topics, conducted further research, before putting pen to paper. The design element followed, working alongside Lynn Vesco, sourcing and scanning images, which brought the interpretation panels to life. Selecting objects followed, which was an exciting, yet labour intensive challenge. Many of the objects had to be carefully cleaned before finding their temporary home in the newly formed exhibition room. There were certainly challenges around every corner, however, the overall experience was such a rewarding one, with an array of new skills developed throughout.




To round things off, I must give a huge thank you to the following people for their support throughout this process; Martin Petrie and Jayne Mulqueen, for their invaluable support and guidance throughout this project; Flora MacLeod Swietlicki for her excellent interpretation writing; Catherine Gillies for setting the wheels in motion and Emma Sutcliffe for her guidance throughout; and finally to my fellow heritage team members, Shannen Provan-Sloan and Anna Bain, without who's incredible support at every stage of the process, this exhibition would not have been possible.


Best wishes,

Jamie


Beyond the stones: Magic, Medicine and the MacDougalls is on display on the first floor of the 1745 House Museum and will remain there for the rest of the 2024 season. Our opening times are Sunday-Friday from 10am-4pm until 1st November 2024.



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