Proposal for Archaeological Research Centre for Uist to be looked at

The Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, managed by the Museums Association, has awarded one of six grants, from a total of 118 applications, to the Comhairle.

Museum nan Eilean and the Archaeology Service received £85,000 to develop research into the Udal archaeological collections and investigate potential for an Archaeological Resource Centre on North Uist.

The grant will enable the Archaeology Service to work with the North Uist Development Company to develop and secure the necessary funding for an innovative research project which will ensure that the Udal Collections are finally thoroughly researched and a final report produced. It will also enable a feasibility study into an Archaeological Resource Centre on the island of North Uist and the social, academic and economic impacts it would yield not only locally but nationally.

The Udal excavations, carried out on the Grenitote machair, for 33 years by Ian Crawford, from Cambridge University are of international significance. The results of the excavations indicate that occupation deposits have survived virtually intact and would seem to reflect an unbroken timeline from the Neolithic to the Post Medieval showing 5000 years of continuous occupation and exploitation. The blown sand resulted in site preservation that is rarely seen outside of the Middle East. These environmental conditions have produced results that are of consequence in a both National and International context.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is managing a post excavation assessment which will be finished by the end of 2013. This has been funded by Historic Scotland and CnES. This project will catalogue all the finds plus all the excavation notes, slides and photographs. This will enable us to ascertain the time and resource implications of completing the analysis and bringing the site to publication. The grant from the Esmee Fairbairn Trust will enable the project to be taken forward to the next stage of developing partnerships in order to carry out the post excavation analysis of the collection and paper archive.Sally Cross, the Museum Association’s collections coordinator said: “Individually, the projects that have been awarded grants speak for themselves in terms of the quality of the collections and the creativity and ambition of the projects.”

Cllr Archie Campbell, Chair of Sustainable Development said: “The local community has been waiting nearly 50 years to learn about what was discovered beneath the sand dunes and to see the finds for themselves. Long before the material was released by Ian Crawford the community made it clear that their wish was for the collections to be returned to the islands on a permanent basis. This grant will go towards achieving that vision by funding a feasibility study into the potential of the Udal collections as the basis for an Archaeological Resource Centre and the impact it would have on the islands economy. This project really shows what can be achieved when the local community and the Comhairle work together.”

Deborah Anderson, Regional Archaeologist with the Comhairle, said: “I am delighted that the Esmee Fairbairn Trust has given us the grant to take forward this amazing project. This is an assemblage which is not just important to the Outer Hebrides but which is essential to help date other collections from the West Coast of Scotland and Ireland. The local community will no doubt be thrilled that we have received this grant, and we are one step closer to understanding what was discovered beneath the sand dunes.”