New national gallery aims to address 'low awareness' of Scottish history in Scotland

A new national gallery for Scotland aims to tackle a “low awareness” of Scottish history among Scots.

Macbeth stitched into the Great Tapestry of Scotland. Research found that 43 % of Scots thought the King was a fictional character created by Shakespeare. PIC: Alex Hewitt.
Macbeth stitched into the Great Tapestry of Scotland. Research found that 43 % of Scots thought the King was a fictional character created by Shakespeare. PIC: Alex Hewitt.

The Great Tapestry of Scotland gallery in Galashiels, which is due to open next year, has surveyed a sample of the nation to find out how much they think they know about the country’s past as well as test knowledge of key events through time.

Conducted by YouGov, the research found that 43% of all those surveyed, and 40% of those who said they knew “a lot” about Scottish history, thought that Macbeth, King of Scotland from 1040 to 1057, was a fictional character from a Shakespeare play.

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In addition, 30% of all those surveyed, and 37% of those who said they knew “a lot” about Scottish history, believed Scotland got its own parliament after the 1979 devolution referendum.

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Meanwhile, more than half of adults in Scotland (52%) did not know that members of the same family fought against each other at Culloden and 6% of all those surveyed, and 7% of those who said they knew “a lot” about Scottish history, thought Jamie Fraser, the key character in TV series Outlander, was a real Scottish clan chief.

Sandy Maxwell-Forbes, Centre Director for The Great Tapestry of Scotland added: “Our YouGov research suggests that many people in Scotland are unaware of some significant moments in Scottish history that feature in The Great Tapestry of Scotland.

"It also provides evidence that the Tapestry’s engaging and memorable images could play a key role in helping to address this. Indeed, many of those who have seen The Great Tapestry of Scotland tell us they were incredibly moved by its wonderfully visual account of the people’s story of Scotland."

The research also found that 71% of all those surveyed agree they are more likely to remember an event from history if they have seen an image depicting it.

Ms Maxwell-Forbes added: "Some have said that they learned more about our nation’s history, heritage and culture from the Tapestry than anywhere else.”

Professor Murray Pittock, Bradley Professor and Pro Vice Principal at the University of Glasgow, who is currently writing The Global History of Scotland for Yale said: “ Unfortunately, there is a low awareness of Scottish history in Scotland generally.

"Evidence shows that visual imagery can really help people of all abilities to learn more. Museums and galleries and projects like The Great Tapestry of Scotland, that really take the time to bring history to life through images and engaging displays, can play a central role in addressing this.”

The Great Tapestry of Scotland, hand stitched by a team of 1,000 stitchers led by Dorie Wilkie, tells the visual story of Scotland’s history, heritage and culture from its formation to present day.

It was the vision of author Alexander McCall-Smith and designed by artist Andrew Crummy and teams of stitchers around Scotland from a narrative written by the award-winning writer and historian Alistair Moffat.

It is made up of 300 miles of wool, enough to span the entire length of Scotland from the border with England to the tip of the Shetland.

The new Great Tapestry of Scotland gallery, purpose built to house the tapestry, has received over £6.7 million funding from the Scottish Government.

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