St Kilda Collection

Our collecting area covers the double World Heritage Site of St Kilda, which lies 50 miles west of North Uist and is in the parish of Harris.

We hold archaeological assemblages and personal items from St Kilda which illustrate the way of life, including the tourism industry that grew up there following the visit of George Washington Wilson (1823-1893). Washington Wilson was a commercial photographer from Aberdeen and his work included the famous St Kilda parliament photos that still draws thousands of people to the islands and creates significant interest in St Kilda.

A key object in this collection is a photo album produced by the Daily Mirror in 1912. St Kilda is the most remote and isolated of Britain’s offshore islands.  Communications with the mainland began to improve during the 19th century and it became a popular destination for summer cruises.  Trawlers from Aberdeen and Fleetwood began to fish its surrounding waters.

However, the Atlantic storm systems might cut off the island for months at a time, its small population unable to alert the outside world to any disaster. On May 18th, the Captain of a trawler landed in Aberdeen with news that the St Kildans were on the verge of starvation. Bad weather had prevented communication with the island for over four months and the population’s food reserves were exhausted. The news reached London later that day.  The Daily Mirror pounced on the story and immediately set about organising a relief expedition to be accompanied by a doctor, journalist and photographer. The album gives a fascinating glimpse into St Kildan life twenty years before the island was evacuated, as well as an insight into what the London paper thought the St Kildans needed.

Tasglann nan Eilean also holds archive collections relevant to St Kilda including a school admission register, the St Kilda log book (which has been fully digitised and can be accessed here), and the records of Harris School Board and Harris Parish Council, whose remit included St Kilda. The archive database also includes information about archive collections relating to St Kilda held by other institutions.

Below are samples from our collection.

Click on the images below to scroll through our image gallery:

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