HTA Archive Project

A project led by the Comhairle’s archive service, Tasglann nan Eilean, has brought together and catalogued the entire archive of the Harris Tweed Authority.

The Harris Tweed Authority Archive Project, funded by the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives and the Harris Tweed Association Educational Trust, enabled the recruitment of a Project Cataloguing Archivist and the transfer of the portion of the Harris Tweed Authority (HTA) archive held by the Highland Archive Centre to Tasglann nan Eilean in Stornoway.

The HTA archive contains a wealth of material covering more than one hundred years of the history of the unique Harris Tweed industry. From photographs to limericks, and advertising to stamping books, the full collection has been opened up to the public for the first time via a new online catalogue.

Meticulous cataloguing and preservation work was carried out by Project Cataloguing Archivist Victoria Woodcock, with contributions from a number of volunteers.

The collection contains intriguing historical records such as notebooks listing weavers in the 1930s and 1950s, the founding document of the Harris Tweed Association from 1909 (predecessor of the current HTA), court records from a case defending Harris Tweed in the 1960s, and adverts from the 1970s onwards. Some of the more unusual items include limericks written for a competition in 1982, school and college projects on the Harris Tweed industry, colourful imitation labels from the 1950s and 60s, and a piece of the Harris Tweed made for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

As part of the project a number of engagement events were held to raise awareness of the archive, involving individuals of all ages from across the community. As well as sharing the records, these events also resulted in useful information being offered about their contents, such as the names of workers in photographs, by people who themselves had been, or are still, involved in the industry.

The HTA collection has huge research potential for historians both near and far, with the newly-catalogued records already being used in local publications and the national media. Researchers in the fields of advertising, trade mark law, and Western Isles history will particularly find the archive of interest.

The full catalogue is available and can be viewed on the UK Archives Hub with the physical records being available to view in the reading room at Tasglann nan Eilean, Lews Castle.

Victoria Woodcock, Project Cataloguing Archivist, said:

‘It has been an honour to work with an archive relating to an industry that is integral to the lives of so many people in the Western Isles. It is my hope that the catalogue produced by this project will be utilised by a wide range of local and national researchers, educators and creatives to discover sources relevant to their interests.’

Lorna MacAulay, Chief Executive, The Harris Tweed Authority said:

'The Harris Tweed Authority is delighted to have had this collection of important documents and archive material professionally catalogued, archived and now in the care of Tasglann nan Eilean. It has been a pleasure to work with the archivists on this projects and we have no doubt there will be interest in viewing its contents. Our industry's history and heritage is key to our success and often the focus of our promotion of the industry.’

Cllr Donald Crichton, Chairman of the Comhairle’s Sustainable Development Committee, said:

‘We are delighted that this important archive is now fully documented as a result of the project, enabling people from near and far to discover the history of the Harris Tweed industry, and how to access source material to help them with their research.’

Postcard showing the drying of dyed crotal wool, from a set of thirteen postcards showing traditional tweed-making process, early 20th cent. All images © Tasglann nan Eilean

Page detail from notebook listing weavers by village, 1930s-1950s. All images © Tasglann nan Eilean

‘Wool and Weaving’ college project extract by Barbara D. Macdonald, illustrating different stages of the tweed-making process. All images © Tasglann nan Eilean

People viewing original archive items at HTA Archive Project Open Day, March 2018. All images © Tasglann nan Eilean