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Sophy & White: April Update

In January this year, we were finally able to kick off a project that we have been planning for so long now – Sophy & White: The Dunollie Collections Unboxed. This project aims to review our two distinct collections, ensure their security, and maximise their impact by allowing new and wider audiences to engage with them.

Since starting on the project in January, we have been focused on recruiting volunteers and planning the first of our projects: Scottish Women Collectors: a Sharing Stories event.

We hosted a volunteer open day on Wednesday 20th March, and we were thrilled to meet 15 people throughout the day, which far exceeded our expectations. A few were involved with Dunollie already, or had been in the past, though many were new faces who had only visited Dunollie or not been at all. It was wonderful to see so many people keen to learn about and help us care for our collections here. We visited our storerooms, showed off some of our favourite pieces – in the hope they would encourage everyone to commit to volunteering, of course! – and then spent some lovely time on the terrace getting to know each other. At the end of the day, everyone who had visited said they would love to be involved, so it was a resounding success!

We didn’t want to wait too long to get everyone together again, so a fortnight later we invited everyone to come on one of the guided tours here at Dunollie, to learn a little more about the history of the site and the Clan MacDougall. There was a great turnout for this, and it was another lovely afternoon of sharing stories about Dunollie and its gems.

This week, we are getting underway with some object handling training, generously provided by Catriona, the curator at Glencoe Folk Museum. Next week we will move onto textiles, with training delivered by Jayne Mulqueen, Dunollie Trustee, volunteer and textile expert. Once our volunteers feel confident that this training has given them a basic understanding of working with collections, they will begin coming in for two hours per week, and we can’t wait!

We have also started preparations for the first of our projects, inspired by Hope MacDougall’s collection and focusing on other Scottish women collectors and historians. Hope’s social history collection resides here at Dunollie under the care of the MacDougall of Dunollie Preservation Trust, and serves as the inspiration for this event. Hope dedicated her life to her passion, which was documenting the social history of Scotland’s highlands and islands, and she amassed a 5,000+ object strong collection, and significant related archive.

Our hopes for this event, to be hosted on Saturday, September 7th at the Rockfield Centre in Oban, include speakers on a range of topics including traditional textile and craft production, Scottish women collectors and historians, fishing and agriculture communities and more. We have already begun receiving some abstracts for papers – if you would like to submit one, please do so to – the above topics are not exclusive!

We will also be joined by Deborah Gray, an Oban textile artist, who will be facilitating a natural dye demonstration for interested visitors to check out. Deborah has been teaching spinning, natural dyeing and knitting in Scotland for over 30 years, as well as working abroad. Check out her website: Deborah Gray Textile Artist & Tutor | handspinning, knitting, dyeing ( 

This event may see other practitioners joining us too, so watch this space! Tickets for the event – which will be free to enter – will be promoted on Dunollie’s website and social media channels once everything has been finalised, most likely towards the end of the summer.

The first few months of this project have been busy but wonderful, and we can’t wait to see what comes next, now that we have our volunteers involved and are underway with the Scottish Women’s Collectors event. Keep an eye on our social media for updates!

Anna & Shannen 😊



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