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Inverkeithing Local History Society – learning together in lockdown

Published 20th April 2020

Fife Historic Buildings Trust staff are delivering the Inverkeithing Heritage Regeneration Project, on behalf of our client, Fife Council. Funded by Historic Environment Scotland, and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the project will enable repairs and upgrades to public and private buildings, and  transform some of the delightful historic town’s many heritage assets. Alongside the building repairs and improvements to the shared spaces in the town, an ambitious programme of heritage engagement activity had just begun when the global COVID-19 pandemic started to impact all aspects of life in the UK. Inverkeithing Local History Society – learning together in lockdown

Happily, the resourceful Fife Historic Buildings Trust’s Training and Development Officer, Emma Griffiths, has been proactive. While postponing some events, Emma has been devising new ways to reach different audiences for heritage in Inverkeithing. Some members of the Inverkeithing Local History Society (ILHS) normally meet on Wednesdays, in the historic Town House. The Society arrange talks and events, and care for a very important archive, which includes contemporary materials, as well as historic papers and documents, some dating from the 17th century.

Emma arranged a pilot and a series of follow up Zoom meetings, for members of the ILHS. The first learning together focused on the Care of Archives for non-archivists, an online resource full of useful information, of great relevance to the organisation. At the third meeting, the group began a shared learning session on palaeography. Palaeography is literally, the decoding of historic handwriting on manuscripts.  Between phonetic and inconsistent spelling,  symbols that would seem more at home in a pure mathematics equation, frequent abbreviation, omissions, calligraphic flourishes, and often decaying materials,  deciphering historic documents can truly be daunting and difficult.

Emma had found a course at Edinburgh University that members of the Society could have attended – pre-lock-down. Undaunted, she researched online alternatives. “The sessions are genuinely rewarding to facilitate, and working on original historic materials is tremendously exciting too. I’m very grateful to the society members for sharing their archives with me in this way” Emma Griffiths, Training and Development Officer, FHBT

Participants have said:

“Really enjoyed the meeting yesterday afternoon”

“really lovely to join the group yesterday”

“Thoroughly enjoyed this afternoon. Good to get the brain in gear again.”

“Looking forward to this afternoon’s meet up”

Learning together, virtually, from home, has enabled a very new mum  – and her month old baby – to join the sessions. The small group size of 5 to 6 people, using the shared document feature of the online meeting software, is ideal for enabling everyone to make valuable contributions. The daunting challenges of palaeography, in the social setting, enables positive social  interaction, and the learning is extremely enjoyable heritage engagement activity, as well as useful for this active Society in guardianship of their archive, and enabling further research of it’s fascinating contents.

For more information about the Inverkeithing project click here

One of the archive documents,  listing figures in Scots pounds, shillings and pence, with an example of very unfamiliar script indicating the three columns.

Fife Historic Buildings Trust - Inverkeithing Local History Society
















Another archive gem, from 1679

Fife Historic Buildings Trust - Inverkeithing Local History Society


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