Home » Meet the Team – Highland Archive Centre

Meet the Team – Highland Archive Centre

Richard Aitken, Senior Conservator

I began working for the Highland Archive Service in 2009 as Senior Conservator after having previously worked for the West Yorkshire Archive Service where I qualified in 1998. In 2010 I was awarded accreditation status and in 2013 I completed a Masters in Preventive Conservation with Northumbria University. I thoroughly enjoy my job at the Highland Archive Service helping look after an extensive collection covering the whole of the Highland region. The daily job can cover a range of tasks, no two days are the same. The way of life is fabulous up here with clean fresh air. I began kayaking once I moved up here and I now have a 3 star in sea kayaking which I enjoy immensely, visiting coves and uninhabited islands and seeing wildlife such as dolphins and seals. I also enjoy a bit of running and cycling.

Grant Begg, Archive Centre Steward

I joined the Highland Archive Service Team in 2013, after having worked initially for the MOD in recovery work and laterally as a security officer with Mitie Total Security Management. At the Highland Archive Centre my duties include looking after the security of the building, dealing with contractors, helping out with the running of the Learning Centre and liaising with staff in all departments. In my spare time I enjoy hill walking and golf and I watch many forms of sport, especially shinty.

Carrie Farnell, Conservator

I started working as a Trainee Archive Conservator at the Highland Archive Centre in 2014 and I qualified as a Conservator in 2019 on the Archives and Records Association Conservation training scheme. My main responsibilities are helping with the daily running of the Conservation studio and working on external work. This includes the repair and conservation of old documents such as books, maps, parchment and wax seals. Outside of work I really enjoy running on the local trails, training with the Inverness Harriers (the local running club), wild camping, bouldering and scrambling up Munros!

Anne Fraser, Family Historian

I started work with the Highland Archives in 1997 and subsequently gained a postgraduate qualification in Family and Local History from Dundee University. My role as Family Historian, based in Inverness, includes carrying out in-depth family history research for customers and I especially love compiling their family trees.  I think this interest has stemmed from my grandfather who even knew the complete lineage of his sheepdogs and patented his own tartan. I also really enjoy delivering talks, classes, workshops and other outreach events, which promote our marvellous archive collections. These collections helped me achieve the publication of a book in 2014 about the 300 year history of schools on the south side of Loch Ness, where many of my ancestors lived. Out of work, I have just finished a six year stint as the Girls’ Brigade Commissioner for the Highlands; serve on the Clan Chattan Council; love reading and am an active member of my church. I am in the privileged position of having three happily married children, who between them all, have given me eight grand-children, to date!  It’s a joy to spend time with my whole family and especially when we escape to our bolt hole in North Uist.

Jamie Gaukroger, Am Baile Co-ordinator

I joined the Am Baile team in November 2002, having worked previously for the library service in Edinburgh. I started as a Temporary Metadata Creator and was only supposed to be here in Inverness for the six months prior to the site’s launch! I became Content Co-ordinator in May 2005, a post I held until 2011 when the project became a single-manned operation. I was fortunate enough to be that person and have kept developing the site and its content ever since. When not immersed in historical research and information management I love to watch old movies, read, listen to music and explore the beautiful area I live in.

Alison Mason, Highland Archivist

I was appointed Highland Archivist in March 2014, having previously worked as an Archivist and Records Manager for Aberdeen City Council, and then latterly as Records Manager for North Lanarkshire Council (Motherwell). I grew up with a love of history, surrounded by a family of historians and story tellers, and discovered my love for archives while an undergraduate of Scots Law and History at the University of Glasgow, spending lots of my study time in the university library special collections. I love the variety of the job, and particularly introducing new audiences to the archive collections, using the stories found within the records to enhance a sense of place, personal and local identity within the Highlands. Having over 10 years of experience working in archives in other parts of Scotland, I was delighted to be lucky enough to be able to return home to the Highlands and carry on working in the field I love, while also accessing archive collections which relate directly to my own heritage, which is a great privilege. In my spare time I enjoy walking in nature, practicing yoga, reading, baking and spending time with my family.

Fionnag NicChoinnich, Archive Assistant

I started working as an archive assistant in August 2017.  I have always had a keen interest in history and all things from our past, whether I’m looking at letters, records, family history, or absorbing music, culture and traditions.  I love that I can come to work and have access to a treasure trove of interesting and exciting things, you never quite know what the day will bring.  I also really love helping people with questions they have about their own family as I find everyone’s family tree fascinating. I am passionate about Gaelic and in particular Gaelic song. I’m lucky to have been brought up on the Isle of Lewis where we have a rich heritage of Gaelic song and bardachd (poetry) and also a wealth of beautiful beaches and moorland, so I had plenty of opportunities growing up to appreciate the stunning nature and landscape around us here in the Highlands and Islands.

Alasdair MacDonald, Archive Assistant

I began working at the Highland Archive Centre in October 2017 as an Archive Assistant. Originally from the Black Isle, I moved to Edinburgh in 2010 to study Sound Production. While living in the capital, a keen interest in Highland history developed into a fascination with exploring my family tree. That led me to complete a course in family history in early 2017 and I jumped at the opportunity to relocate back to the Highlands and work in such an intriguing environment. Aside from local history, I love live music, supporting Ross County, photography and adventuring around the countryside as much as possible. I try to keep healthy through hill walking, playing football, running and cycling. Training for the Highland Cross has kept me busy over various years and I am always on the lookout for a new challenge to take part in.

Sarah Ralph, Archive Assistant

I began working for the Highland Archive Service in January 2019. Prior to this I worked at Inverness Library for nine years, where I developed an interest in the special collections and family history resources held in the reference department.  My previous occupations have included software tester, charity shop manager, reviewer for a music ‘fanzine’ and Gaelic tutor. Originally from Edinburgh, I moved to the Highlands in 2002 to get away from the rat-race and the traffic!  I had studied German and Dutch at the University of Hull, and so, being a language geek, the move north piqued my interest in learning Gaelic. I also joined a Gaelic choir and competed at the Mòd.  I have been a keen runner for a long time, and last year I ran my first marathon. I enjoy reading sci-fi , and I am a huge music fan, listening to anything from reggae to progressive rock.

Fiona MacLeod, Senior Archivist

I started work with the Highland Archive Service in October 1992 when there were just two members of staff – myself and the Regional Archivist.  Over the years I have seen the Service grow and prosper and was closely involved in setting up the three Area Archive Centres in Wick, Fort William and Portree.  I became Senior Archivist in 2008 and am responsible for the collections and delivery of the public service at the Highland Archive Centre. I feel very privileged to do the job I do which is made even more special by the personal connection I have to some of the records we hold.  In my spare time I enjoy photography and reading.

Peter Mennie, Assistant Archivist

Having joined Highland Archives in 2009 and worked at its previous location in Inverness Library, I have seen how the advent of the Highland Archive Centre has transformed the provision of the public archive service. As a member of the archive team I work with our historic collections and the public with the aim of bringing the two together in the pursuit of information and knowledge. I have a long-standing interest in Scottish history and enjoy the privilege of being able to use and learn from original source material in the promotion of the value of archives to society.

Trevor Nicol, Records Manager

I began working at the Highland Archive Centre as a Trainee Records Officer in May 2010. I received my Master’s degree in Archives and Records Management through the University of Dundee in 2014 and have been the Records Manager since July 2014. My favourite part of records management is the fact that I get to deal with people at different levels from every Council service. Out of the work environment I am a keen amateur actor and director and have been involved in many diverse productions over the years including Pygmalion, Jesus Christ Superstar and The Diary of Anne Frank. To keep fit I run four times a week, play golf and walk my beloved Labrador, Daisy.

Lorna Steele-McGinn, Community Engagement Officer

I started working as an Archive Assistant at the Highland Archive Centre, Inverness, in October 2014 and was appointed Community Engagement Officer in July 2017. My work background prior to this was in retail and hospitality, but working at the Highland Archive Centre allows me to indulge my love of language and history on a daily basis, and regularly draws on knowledge I gained while doing my English Language MA (Hons) at the University of Edinburgh.  I love working with historic documents, deciphering handwriting, uncovering stories and connecting people to the Highlands’ past.  Outside work I enjoy reading, travelling and collecting all sorts of things! Our series of short films about the collections, Learn with Lorna, can be viewed on the High Life Highland YouTube channel.

Jennifer Johnstone, Archivist

I joined the Highland Archive Centre as Archivist at the end of April 2018. Previously I have been Assistant Archivist at the University of Dundee, Project Cataloguer at Tate and most recently Archivist at the Royal Opera House. It was at Dundee that I studied and initially began as a volunteer in the University Archives, Records Management and Museum Services whilst an undergraduate. After a fun few years in London I was keen to return to Scotland and I am looking forward to working with a diverse collection of records and learning all about the history of the Highlands. When I’m not at work I love reading, hill walking and catching up with friends and family.

Rachel McLean, Trainee Records Officer

I started working at the Highland Archive Centre in February
2022 as a Records Assistant, and then became the Trainee Records Officer later
that year. I will be studying for a qualification in Archives and Records
Management and am excited to learn all that I can about my role, and to develop
professionally within the sector. Outside of work I enjoy cooking, reading, and
learning about the history and heritage of the Highlands. I also like going for
walks, nature spotting, and enjoying the beautiful landscape that I live in.

Laura MacCalman, Trainee Digital Archivist

I started working as a Trainee Digital Archivist at Highland Archive Centre in February 2022 and will be working towards a postgraduate qualification in Archives and Records Management over the next few years. I have real passion for history and heritage and have worked in the cultural heritage sector for several years. I began my career as a field archaeologist before moving into museums where I worked as a curator caring for social and industrial history, decorative arts, and military collections in Clydebank and Inverness-shire. Archives have always played an important role in my previous work so the opportunity to join Highland Archives Services and develop my knowledge and skills in this area was appealing. I’m looking forward to discovering what mysteries the archives hold as well as contributing to the preservation of records in our ever-increasing digital world.  Out of work, I enjoy walking in the stunning local countryside with my dog, doing arts and crafts, and visiting friends and family in Inverness and Glasgow.

Paul Ellison, Archives Assistant (Records)

I began working at the Highland Archive Centre in March 2024 as Archive Assistant (Records), having previously worked in Archives and Records Management at the University of the Highlands and Islands. As a history and politics graduate, I love working with archives and maintaining access to the vital records for the Highland Council region. Another love of mine is the Highlands, so the opportunity to travel to the various satellite Archive Office locations throughout the Highlands is a definite bonus and positive to my role. Outside of work, I adore playing with my grandson, and I also love getting out into the outdoors with my wife and our border collie dog, Archer, exploring the many wonderful beaches, forests, glens and hills in our area. I also follow the downs and very occasional ups of my hometown football team, Bolton Wanderers, and enjoy music, films and books (when I have the time!).

Alex MacPhail, Archive Assistant (Records)

I joined the Highland Archive Centre as a Records Assistant at the beginning of March 2024. Prior to this I was an undergraduate student at the University of Edinburgh where I was studying History. Whilst in Edinburgh, I began volunteering at a local library and it was there I became enthralled with records management, archives, libraries, and information science – I am now working towards completing my History degree with the Open University! I am thrilled to be a part of this team, and am delighted to be given the opportunity to work with such lovely people. When not managing records I love painting, reading, and a spot of rewilding the Highlands.