Shetland Museum & Archives Receives Research Grant

A taatit rug made for or by Ursula Mouat from Baltasound, who married James Nisbet of Uyeasound in 1850.
A taatit rug made for or by Ursula Mouat from Baltasound, who married James Nisbet of Uyeasound in 1850.

Shetland Museum and Archives has received a grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund to research its taatit rug collection. The £26,800 grant will enable the Museum to thoroughly record and photograph each of the 40 rugs in its collection, as well as those in Shetland’s community museums.

The grant money will be used to research rug history in the Archives, professionally test coloured yarns for natural dyes, and compare taatit rug design, construction, and use with similar types of rugs in Norway. In addition, Museum curatorial staff will work with the Shetland Family History Society to research ‘marriage’ taatit rugs – those made for a newlywed couple, but which little is known of the family or who the rug makers might have been. The results of the research will form a small permanent display in the Museum galleries and will be published as a book.

Of the 76 applications for this latest round of the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, Shetland Museum and Archives was one of only seven successful applicants. Curator Carol Christiansen was delighted to accept the grant, saying ‘We are very pleased to have been given the grant by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund. It will enable us to dig deep into the history of taatit rugs and learn more about how they were made and used. Taatit rugs don’t seem to exist in other parts of Britain but are similar to household rugs in the Nordic countries.

‘The Norwegians know that their form of pile rug was used by fishermen in open boats as tarpaulins, mattresses, or blankets but we do not know whether taatit rugs were used in the same way. This funding will help us to understand the significance of taatit rugs in Shetland culture and how strong the links were to rug traditions in Norway.”

Dr Christiansen is keen to include as many rugs as possible in this research project, so that comparisons can be made in dating and construction techniques with rugs in the collection. If anyone has information about taatit rugs, or the history of a particular rug, they can contact Dr Christiansen at the Museum in Hay’s Dock, or by calling 01595 695057.

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation aims to improve the quality of life for people and communities throughout the UK both now and in the future. We do this by funding the charitable work of organisations with the ideas and ability to achieve positive change.

The Foundation is one of the largest independent grant-makers in the UK. We make grants of £30 - £35 million annually towards a wide range of work within the arts, education and learning, the environment and social change. We also operate a £26 million Finance Fund which invests in organisations that aim to deliver both a financial return and a social benefit.

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