The School of Scottish Studies was established in 1951 at the University of Edinburgh to collect, archive, research and publish material relating to the cultural life, folklore and traditional arts of Scotland. Over the past sixty years, fieldworkers at the School have made thousands of recordings of songs, instrumental music, tales, verse, customs, beliefs, place-names biographical information and local history. Material in the Sound Archive comes from all over Scotland and its diaspora, and as well as being a rich repository of oral tradition it is invaluable for its range of dialects and accents in Gaelic, Scots and English.
The early collectors visited crofting, farming and fishing communities obtaining information on subjects such as the life of crofters and farm servants, the agricultural year, food gathering and preparation, house construction, the herring industry, traditional medicine, animal husbandry, emigration, whaling, religion, weather lore, lifecycle and seasonal customs. Urban life has also been documented and there are recollections of shipbuilding, factory work, transport, housing and street life, schooling, as well as contemporary fieldwork examining the re-invention of customs and use of ‘heritage’. Recordings from the Scottish Place Name Survey, and the Linguistic Survey of Scotland are also available along with ancillary materials such as maps and field notebooks. There is a substantial number of donated collections in the Sound Archive, including various local history projects, among them the notable Scottish Labour History Project which focused on work and occupations in the central belt during the 20th century.