Report for events at Museum of Rural Life, East Kilbride, July 2016

What a great collection they have at this museum! They have the Rintoul-Baxter collection, the best specimens of traditional baskets across Scotland collected by these two intruiging birdwatchers in the 1920s, before people in many places had stopped making them.

And they have baskets from the Museum of Scottish Rural Life – Scottish Lowland farming. They have tattie skulls for gathering the tattie harvest, Covent Garden sieves for apple picking in the Clyde Valley; an assortment of fruit punnets from spale to plastic, for soft fruit; bee skeps; woodies; a vast range of hairst-knots – harvest knots made from straw for decorating horses; and also they have a great variety of thraw-crooks, implements for making straw or hay rope used across Scotland for 1-ply rope. It is just a shame it is so difficult for the public to get to – you need either to get to Motherwell or East Kilbride if you are travelling by public transport.

 What did we do here?

We did a lot of public demonstrations. Julie made two different kinds of tattie skull, one with a handle, one without. And several Covent Garden sieves, another classic basketry measure. Liz specialised in hairst knots and punnets made from card, running drop-in workshops in each type for the public. All these sessions encourage the public to come and talk to us about the histories and memories linked to the use of these baskets.

Who did we meet?

We held a special reminiscence day for the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute, and learned about the old regional baskets and the SWRI’s links with Lindburn house, a centre for working with the Scottish War Blinded. In the past, the SWRI had made visits to Lindburn, not so far away from East Kilbride, and always come home with some of their baskets. The new chair of the local group had the best example of a Southport basket I have ever seen.

We also met a structural engineer who informed us about strengths and weaknesses inherent in the kinds of baskets we were using, very helpful for the design and maths aspect of our project.

What did we learn?

Historically we learned about the significant farming and fruit growing for this area, and different uses of baskets in the past in this work. Most visitors were from the local area, (it is not a museum that the public would travel far to visit), grandparents often came with grandchildren, and so were familiar with the kinds of objects in their collections.

About basketry practice and knowledge we particularly learnt about the strength inherent in the structure of a basket as taught to us by the structural engineer who visited us for half a day. – The weakness in frame baskets without handles; the strengths and weaknesses of different ways of positioning the struts.

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