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True North conference, Timespan, Helmsdale

Helmsdale
Helmsdale

The True North conference took place at Timespan in Helmsdale on Friday 6th and Saturday 7th March 2015.  The conference title was a good way of reflecting the eclectic nature of the presentations, from technologists through to sound artists, geo-political visionaries to genealogists and many points in between.  I had a five minute slot into which I managed to cram one or two practical issues which are the real experience of running digital archives, especially at a small scale and I hope I managed to convey something of interest based on actual practice.

The event was attended by artists, poets, writers, musicians academics, archaeologists, historians, technologists, architects, sociologists and generalists like me.

Friday morning was bright and clear, and the wonderful Emigrants memorial was asking to be photographed.

"The Emigrants"
"The Emigrants"

And the views from Timespan situated as it is just downstream of the Telford bridge crossing the Helmsdale river are irresistible

Telford Bridge over the Helmsdale river
Telford Bridge over the Helmsdale river

The usual conference-style presentations were interspersed with round-table discussion by sets of presenters, providing plenty of thinking time.  One of the sessions was presented by one of my Cultural Studies lecturers, Matt Sillars of UHI. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed Matt's presentation style, of laying out a straight forward fact, then layering several conclusions on that foundation in quick succession,in such a way that the audience feels as though they themselves had reached those conclusions. There were also elective sessions which included some walks, which even in Saturday's drizzle was refreshing.

Medieval Hospital search
Medieval Hospital search

The conference ended with a brilliant exposition of the issues associated with documenting cultural expression, by Ross Sinclair.  Ross managed this by pretty much performing his presentation, making a far better impact than a more conventional presentation.

Ross Sinclair
Ross Sinclair

The event was great for making new acquaintances, some of which I hope will develop further and lead to collaboration.

In case this sounds far removed from Real Life (as Ross Sinclair would put it) there was a direct reminder at the B&B at which I stayed of the reality of history, in this case the Kildonan Gold Rush of the 19th century - the B&B owner pans for gold in the river and has been fairly successful, the gold in the picture on the hand that panned it.

Panned gold
Panned gold

Many thanks to all at Timespan for very good organisation, the volunteers for smilingly keeping everyone fed and watered and to all the unseen folk who made it all happen.  As an old techie, I could not help noticing that the time stamp on one of Saturday morning's presentations was just before 2.00am, meaning they had been working at ensuring all was ready into the small hours. This attentiveness was  a hallmark of an excellent conference.