24 December 2013
The People's Story of Edinburgh
Can someone please find me a copy of 'McDougall's Cookery Book?' Thanks a mil!
The above photo actually does a decent job disguising the fact that The People's Story Museum in Edinburgh is full of mannequins in period dress. Throughout the whole thing... it's kind of creepy actually, especially in the first floor exhibition room where a policewoman stands guard in the center of everything. When there aren't any other real-life people around, it's sort of startles you over and over again to turn around and see expectant faces that aren't even alive.
But seriously, what is a local or regional history museum without a little weirdness? That's the joy of some of these small museums.. they are strange. And in a super good way. There's so much on display, it would take hours to look through every little thing, and read every little plaque. To my mind, that's not really the idea. Visitors generally pick out the cases they like best, perhaps read the first paragraph of an information board, and move on to the next thing. But it's all there, and if you want to see artifacts of a bygone (sometimes recently bygone) Edinburgh, this is surely a place to get a glimpse of some of the people and things one would have seen everyday in the city. From fishwives to Scotmid horse-drawn milk delivery carts (they were used until 1985!), Women's Suffrage to the 'demon drink,' bits and pieces of the past are on display.
It was a truly windy winter day, though the sky was blue and sun was shining... it was wonderful to step inside this historic building, the Canongate Tolbooth. Edinburgh and Canongate were, several hundred years ago, two separate burghs. 'Burgh' is a Scots word, and means it was an official town, which in the Middle Ages usually had a kirk (church), a castle and/or a city wall, and was a place for trade (denoted by the mercat, or market cross).
Canongate was originally associated with Holyrood Abbey, which sat on the far eastern end of the Royal Mile, the ruins of which are still attached to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Tolbooths were the courthouses, jails and town halls of the burghs, and sometimes they incorporated schools as well, but they hardly exist anymore today, at least in their original form. The Canongate Tolbooth was built in 1591, but the way it looks today is due to a major restoration and remodel undertaken in 1875. The restoration was meant to give the building an appearance more closely related to how it may have looked when it was built, based on this awesome map from 1647 by Gordon of Rothiemay (it's zoomable, and so rad).
So there's your Edinburgh history lesson (and a few Scots words to take with you)! On that note, I'm so grateful to have taken a Scottish architecture course during my studies here because it has made my stay here so much more interesting.
And, hey, it's Christmas Eve! I've got a couple of quiet days ahead with plenty of reading, perhaps a Christmas movie (or two or three) and lots of tea, cookies, and some fresh-out-of-the-oven homemade salmon cakes. I'd rather be with my family, but this holiday could be far worse!
Best holiday wishes to you and yours -- Merry Christmas!!