SWI Heritage Project

War time support Founded in 1917 as the Scottish Women’s Rural Institutes, the Scottish Women’s Institutes (SWI) has been a cornerstone of support and friendship for women across Scotland. Our core values revolve around lifelong learning, friendship, and enjoyment.
 
The SWI’s heritage is deeply intertwined with the fabric of Scottish society, reflecting the changing landscape of rural women's lives over the past century. Our Heritage project aims to protect and preserve our legacy, focusing on themes of education, gender equality, rural resilience, and community strength.
 
From archiving historical artefacts to capturing oral histories from long-standing members, our goal is to ensure that these stories are not lost to time. With nearly 500 groups and 10,000 members across Scotland, the SWI is uniquely positioned to share the rich history of Scottish women's experiences, shedding light on topics often overlooked in traditional archives.
 
 

Volunteering

The SWI has enlisted Rachael Muir, an experienced Archivist, who will commit one day a week starting from March 2024 for six months to the project. Rachael will work closely with member volunteers throughout this period.

With a large membership eager to contribute to the heritage project, our primary goal with Preserving the Past is to involve our members and other willing volunteers in archiving and cataloguing photographs and SWI magazines. Securing support from our members is key for the short, medium, and long-term success of this project.

By outsourcing the digitisation of priority items, such as photographs and magazines, we can then engage our members remotely in the project, overcoming barriers such as age, illness, or geographic location that might otherwise hinder their involvement.

If you are willing to be involved in this exciting project, add your name to the list of volunteers by emailing: hello@theswi.org.uk or sign up here

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Archiving

Opening the heritage project to all members, regardless of age or location, captures valuable insights into the evolving role of the SWI in their lives and communities. This collection, focusing on women, rural, and agricultural lifestyles, records the past, shedding light on challenges and contributions.
 
Essential for understanding societal changes, especially as SWI membership declines, it's a unique resource warranting preservation. Academics researching women's status in the 20th century and traditional skills post-war period will find it invaluable. The project highlights women's governance and educational empowerment, offering a resource for research, education, and community engagement once housed in an accessible location, benefitting SWI members and visitors across Scotland.
 
If you want to be involved in the archiving, add your name to the list of volunteers by emailing: hello@theswi.org.uk or sign up here

Oral History

As part of its wider heritage efforts, the Scottish Women’s Institutes (SWI) is dedicated to capturing oral histories, providing an inclusive opportunity for members unable to engage in other activities due to age, illness, disability, or distance.

With over 1,500 members aged over 80, including Scotland’s oldest woman, and several surpassing 100 years, many have been lifelong participants, witnessing the SWI's evolving role in their lives, communities, and Scotland overall. These members offer valuable insights into topics rarely found in archives, such as women's experiences and rural lifestyles.

Preserving these narratives is crucial, given the lack of coordinated documentation to date. As members age, there's a risk of losing these stories forever. Documenting these changes is vital for understanding social, economic, and cultural shifts.

Volunteers from the membership will conduct audio and video interviews, with support provided for transcription, translation, and technical aspects, ensuring proper documentation within the broader heritage collection.

If you want to be involved in Oral History, add your name to the list of volunteers by emailing: hello@theswi.org.uk or sign up here


SWI Story

The SWI's move to a new office has highlighted the urgent need for a comprehensive historical story of the SWI. 

The SWI lacks the necessary skills, expertise, and focus internally to execute such an extensive project to the required high standard, both for academic and general future use.

Given the extensive research needed across various regional Federations and groups to understand their histories and integrate existing heritage projects, this ambition demands substantial time and resources.

If you want to be involved, add your name to the list of volunteers by emailing: hello@theswi.org.uk or sign up here


Home for our Heritage

During 2022-2023, we have made significant steps in securing a permanent home for our Heritage. We have progressed a strategic partnership with the Crichton Trust in Dumfries, laying the groundwork for this long term ambition. 

Additionally, we formed a new heritage group of members involved at the project's core.

In November 2023, we held a Federation office bearers event at Crichton where 73 office bearers came from across Scotland to look at what Crichton plans were and what opportunties there were for the SWI. You can view a video clip of the members at Crichton here

In December 2023, the Board of Trustees approved to progress with the partnership, affirming plans to safeguard SWI Heritage.

In March 2024, representatives of the Boards of SWI and The Crichton Trust met in Edinburgh to progress their collaborative partnership on a nationally significant project.

You can read the full briefing here 


Funding the Heritage Project

In 2023, we were successful in securing a Records at Risk grant of £3,640 to store SWI Heritage artefacts to Ballast Trust Charity in Glasgow for two years, this centre will be a base for the wider archiving project. 

The SWI has directly funded a Project Archivist for a period of 6 months at a reduced cost for one day a week, but this will not fully resource or cover the scope and potential of the project. Due to the scale of the project we are seeking support from funders to progress with the wider Heritage project of archiving, oral history and the SWI story, however to date we have not yet received any project funding.

If you would like to be involved in this exciting project, please join the Heritage Group or add your name to the list of volunteers by emailing: hello@theswi.org.uk or sign up here