Family papers of the Cummings of Altyre: curating the family and family history

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


This presentation will consider the fascinating family papers of the Gordon Cummings of Altyre, Moray, a Scottish landed gentry family that entertained claims to represent one of the most well-known medieval Scottish dynasties and rivals of Robert the Bruce, the Comyns. An extensive collection of papers is held on deposit at the National Library of Scotland, much of it rescued from near-terminal neglect in the 1970s. The deposit includes the typical collections of title deeds and sasines, estate books and rentals, as well as more personal items – diaries, letters and autobiographical writing. The papers have provided rich material for historians, ranging from the history of agricultural development in the county (Hay, 2005), to studies of manners and hypocrisy in social, personal and class relationships during the 19th century (Faderman, 1983; Scott, 2017; Singh, 2020). The archive encompasses both ‘patriarchive’ and ‘matriarchive’, chronicling the political ambitions, grand tours and lion hunting travels of patresfamilias, but also documenting the scientific, historical and literary interests of women of the family. At a crucial moment during Georgian and Regency times, the family sought validation of its position and social enhancement, utilising their collected papers as an enduring tool in constructing familial identity, symbolic of their aspired status.
Period27 Jun 2023
Event titleFamily Archives and their Afterlives, 1400-present
Event typeConference
LocationBirmingham, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • archives
  • family archives
  • family history
  • cultural history
  • patriarchive
  • matriarchive

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History