Whisky, jewellery and shoes: the ideal job?

My name is Alice and some people say I have the best job title – I am the Glenmorangie Research Officer at National Museums Scotland. But my job is not to research Glenmorangie or whisky – unless you count what I do in my own time on a Friday night! I’m an archaeologist and I’m part of a small research team working on a project supported by Glenmorangie to gain a better understanding of Early Historic Scotland. This is basically the period after the Romans and before the Vikings arrived – from around AD 300 to 900.

Lots of amazing objects were made at this time and this is part of why I love my job. One day I can be handling a precious silver hoard, the next peeking inside a small Christian relic casket. I get to study beautiful sculpture, exquisite metalwork, and intriguing leather remains. A surprise today was how poignant it felt to be photographing a pair of 1500-year old shoes.

Me looking at a brooch from St Ninian’s Isle, Shetland
Me looking at a brooch from St Ninian’s Isle, Shetland.
Opening the Monymusk Reliquary
Opening the Monymusk Reliquary.

Some of the most interesting things I’ve done to date have involved getting to know contemporary artists so that we can tap their knowledge and skills to help understand our archaeology collections better. Through these partnerships we have brought to life objects that no longer survive, and gained often unexpected insights into how things were made and used. At the moment you can see a pair of reconstructed book satchels – the kind of things monks would have used to carry precious illuminated manuscripts like the Book of Kells across Scotland – these are on display in the National Museum of Scotland, just inside the Tower Entrance.

The satchels on display in the National Museum of Scotland
The satchels on display in the National Museum of Scotland.

You can find out more about the Monymusk reliquary and St Ninian’s Isle treasure here.

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