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OurStory Scotland

... recording the stories of the LGBT community in Scotland

Archiving Heritage Oral History Storytelling Drama Exhibitions Research
  Archiving : Archiving Index | Our Stories Our Selves

National Museums Scotland

National Museums Scotland

The Scottish Life Archive at National Museums Scotland archives artworks and handwritten episodes from LGBT life stories collected by OurStory Scotland. The Scottish Life Archive is a rich research resource which comprises documentary and illustrative evidence.


OurStory Scotland archives stories, documents and artefacts of the lives of the LGBT community in Scotland. We are building up collections in national museums and libraries, and ensuring that the material is accessible for exhibitions, performance, publication and research.

OurStory Scotland is concerned to rescue the evidence of our lives, and to have our stories recognised as an integral part of a diverse Scotland. Preserving this history will ensure a legacy for generations to come, keeping our stories alive. Contact us if you too can contribute.

Why do we collect?

LGBT people in Scotland have experienced social exclusion and marginalisation, and the images and representations of this community have tended to be stereotyped and discriminatory, and constructed about rather than by and for our community. Our lives have often been maligned or suppressed, hidden or silenced. Where we do appear in public representations and media images, it is often as comic or tragic figures. While our history of struggle and stigmatisation must not be forgotten, the joys, pleasures and triumphs of our lives should also be celebrated. To establish a history from within this community, it is important to hear the stories of people's lives in their own words - our own words.

One of the earliest publications of OurStory Scotland makes this point:
Our Stories Our Selves

What do we collect?

We collect the life stories of LGBT people in Scotland in oral history recordings, along with documents, personal papers, writings, letters, diaries, tapes, postcards, group records, printed material, publications, pamphlets, photographs, posters, badges, banners, T-shirts, items of fashion and uniform, visual symbols of pride, artworks, artefacts and memorabilia. All this constitutes our heritage. We are especially concerned to preserve the stories of people's lives, told by themselves and carefully recorded to build up an oral history of our community.

How do we preserve the stories and materials of our community?

We make professional quality recordings of people's stories, either in one-to-one interviews or in group interviews and reminiscence sessions. These recordings are summarised and indexed, so that they can be carefully stored and accessed in national collections. In conjunction with professional museum curators, we have developed a copyright and confidentiality form, that ensures the anonymity of contributors if that is their wish. We also store written accounts of LGBT lives. In addition to saving our stories, we need to preserve the whole variety of materials that have significance for the LGBT community. We can only save what has survived, what has not been thrown out, so before you clear the attic of all your old LGBT material, contact us!

Where are our archives?

The OurStory Scotland Collection is a dispersed archive, with materials in appropriate national institutions, that draws on the expertise of specialists in different types of material to form a national archive of LGBT Lives. The National Library of Scotland archives our oral history recordings and personal testimonies in its Archives and Manuscript Collections, while our video recordings are located in the Moving Image Archive. Artworks and episodes from LGBT life stories that we have collected are archived in the Scottish Life Archive at National Museums Scotland: this archive has a substantial collection of handwritten episodes brought together by OurStory Scotland from all over the country, along with artworks from our visual storytelling workshops and events. The Mitchell Library in Glasgow, our official address, archives documents pertaining to OurStory Scotland as a Scottish Charity, its background and origins, establishment, organisation, publications and events, along with Scottish LGBT magazines donated to OurStory Scotland. For other LGBT history organisations and collections, see links.

How can our stories reach a wider public?

It is vital that our stories are told by ourselves for ourselves, and also that they contribute to a wider understanding of the history, social conditions and needs of the LGBT community. Our stories should be heard. Our history should not only be accessible in museums and libraries, but also be told through other means: storytelling, drama, exhibitions and research.

National Library of Scotland

National Library of Scotland

Our oral history recordings and personal testimonies are archived in the Archives and Manuscript Collections at the National Library of Scotland, while our video recordings are in the Moving Image Archive.

The Mitchell Library

The Mitchell

OurStory Scotland is based at the Mitchell in Glasgow, where we hold regular meetings. The Mitchell, founded in 1877, is the largest public reference library in Europe.