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Curriculum for Excellence topics

Image shows volumes of the Register of Deeds on a shelf. Crown Copyright: National Records of Scotland.

The National Records of Scotland

Find out what an archive is and what archivists do in this introduction to the work of the National Records of Scotland. Put your skills to the test in deciphering a range of primary sources drawn from our extensive holdings. Book this workshop now.

Detail of image showing the signature of Mary Queen of Scots. National Records of Scotland reference GD112/40.

Mary, Queen of Scots

In this session younger pupils use archives to investigate the early life of Mary Queen of Scots. They look closely at examples of her handwriting, seal and coins to find out about the young queen.
Recommended for P3-P5 pupils. Book this workshop now.

Detail of image of a witness statement. National Records of Scotland reference JC12/1/31.

Witches on Trial

Until 1736, witchcraft was a criminal offence, punishable by death. Pupils study evidence presented in a number of 16th and 17th century witchcraft trials to understand why they took place and how the accused were dealt with.
Recommended for S1-S6 pupils. Book this workshop now.

Image shows the lion rampant of Scotland, a detail from the illustrative border of the Exemplification of the Act of Union. National Records of Scotland reference SP13/210.

The Thistle and the Lion

Pupils examine replica coins and primary sources to discover the symbols used to represent Scotland. With this knowledge they go on to create their own designs that represent themselves. Book this workshop now.

Image shows tartan bloomers flying from a flagpole, a detail from a humourous postcard. Image reproduced courtesy of SCRAN.

Tartan: a Chequered Tale

Tartan is recognised throughout the world as being Scottish but how did it come to be associated so closely with this country? Using primary sources held in the National Records of Scotland, pupils find out about tartan, from the King's new trousers to the Scottish Register of Tartans. Book this workshop now.

Image shows a detail from a witness statement in the case of John O'Neill, a climbing boy, in 1840. National Records of Scotland reference JC26/1840/286.

The Case of the Climbing Boy

John O'Neill was employed as a climbing boy in Glasgow in 1840. An incident took place while he was at work which resulted in a criminal case. Using contemporary witness statements, pupils gather the evidence presented in court to find out what happened to John and who was responsible. Book this workshop now.

Detail from a 19th century image showing an elderly lady, Grandmama, and a young girl, Daisy Webster. National Records of Scotland reference GD1/1208/1/6.

'Our Glen': a Snapshot in Time

During the summer of 1866, Alexander McCallum Webster built his own camera and took photographs of his family and the servants on his grandmother's estate in Argyll. He put them in an album and called it 'Our Glen'. Pupils research the photographs and other primary sources to build up a picture of the life of the Webster family. Book this workshop now.

Image shows detail from a census record featuring an entry for Charles R Mackintosh. Crown copyright: National Records of Scotland.

What is the census?

The first official Scottish census took place in 1801 and it continues to take place every ten years. Why do we have a census and how useful is the data collected? Pupils learn how to read, interpret and compare statistical data from a selection of 19th to 21st century census records. The next census is due in 2021: what questions should be asked to help plan Scotland's future? Book this workshop now.

Image shows detail of a larger image of Newhaven fishwives. Image courtesy of Edinburgh City Libraries,

Newhaven Families

Pupils research a selection of archives and photographs relating to the fishing village of Newhaven in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Working in groups they use this information to create storyboards illustrating the lives of some of the families who lived there. Book this workshop now.

Image shows a drawing of the Flannan Isles Lighthouse Eilean Mor. Reproduced courtesy of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and the Northern Lighthouse Board.

The Flannan Lighthouse Mystery

Using contemporary evidence gathered by the Northen Lighthouse Board, pupils retell the story of the disappearance of the three lightkeepers from Flannan Lighthouse in December 1900 and draw their own conclusions as to what happened. Book this workshop now.

Cartoon image showing a snail in the bottom of a green glass bottle. Crown copyright 2012: National Records of Scotland.

The Snail in the Bottle

In August 1928 Mrs May Donoghue ordered a ginger beer in a cafe in Paisley - the contents amounted to much more than a fizzy drink! Mrs Donoghue decided to claim compensation for her subsequent illness, which led to a protracted case that changed a legal precedent. Pupils are introduced to the concept of liability and consider the rights and responsibilities of all those involved. Book this workshop now.

Extract from a report by the Northern Lighthouse Board including the following words: At 3.45pm on 21st Jan... single enemy aircraft a... buildings, 2 bombs were... first registered a direct...west gable end of the... dwelling houses, comprising...Principal's, 1st and 2nd... National Records of Scotland reference NLC10/3/63 p.448.

New Light on the Scottish Home Front

Life in a lighthouse is tough enough in peace time, but imagine being exposed to more than storms and high winds. During the war, lighthouses became targets, subject to enemy attack. How did lightkeepers defend themselves and their lights? Using the records of the Northern Lighthouse Board, pupils discover how the Second World War changed their lives and those of their families. Book this workshop now.

Image shows detail of street plan of Greenock, with bomb hits from 6th-7th May 1941 blitz marked in red. National Records of Scotland reference HH50/162 p.6

The Scottish Home Front

Pupils 'meet' some of the people who lived on Baker Street and Ingleston Street in Greenock during the Second World War, build a picture of what life was like and find out how the war affected their lives. Primary sources used include Ministry of Information publications, valuation rolls, photographs and contemporary film. Book this workshop now.