Author works on tartan thread

Kate Tough
Kate Tough

DELVING into the collection archives of the National Museum of Scotland is a dream come true for history buffs, and Clarkston writer Kate Tough is no exception.

The southsider (39), who runs writing workshops in the area, is one of 26 authors involved in a new project at the gallery, each dedicating their time to one object in the collection and sharing the thoughts and feelings it provokes.

The Scottish 26 Treasures project is the result of successful run at the V&A Museum in London last year, and it launches on Saturday with the writers on hand to share their experiences.

Kate, who has been publishing prose and poems for over six years and gained a masters in creative writing at Glasgow university in 2008, told The Extra: “The curators of the museum selected significant objects and then we as writers were asked to respond to them — not in an intellectual way but emotionally, showing our gut response to the object and what elements of its history caught our imagination.

“They reversed the 26 theme to 62 for the word count, which is nothing at all really — but the constraint then became an amazing springboard for creativity”.

The objects relate to different facets of Scottish history, with the exhibition tying into the Edinburgh museum’s recent refurbishment.

Each writer has also kept a blog detailing their research and work on the object, reflecting on their thoughts and findings throughout.

Paired at random with a Ross tartan suit from 1822, southsider Kate soon began to think about Scottish identity.

She continued: “I don’t think I would have picked a tartan suit but in the end it had that uncanny feeling, as if everybody felt they got the object they were supposed to get.

“I just ended up feeling the weight of tartan on my shoulders – it’s such a controversial fabric.

“It’s our national symbol and although no one comes out saying they really like it, it’s our badge for the rest of the world. We laugh at it but at the same time we promote it everywhere.

“I also discovered through researching the history of it that tartan is a bit of a construct – it didn’t start out belonging to clans, and it wasn’t the universal Scottish dress. It was just something to clothe yourself in, but we’ve reinvented it – so it was a strange one to tackle”.

The writer then began to explore themes of emigration — fitting for a suit which made it to Australia and back — all of which is detailed on www.nms.ac.uk/our_museums/national_museum/exhibitions/26_treasures/the_treasures/suit_in_ross_tartan.

The 26 Treasures exhibition runs until January 25 at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.