Western Isles Symposium was a great success

Barpa Langass

In the second week of January, Dr Rebecca Rennell of the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute organised Scotland’s Island Research Framework for Archaeology (SIRFA) first research symposium.

The symposium itself was hosted in Lochmaddy, North Uist in the Western Isles with the purpose of bringing together a wide range of stakeholders in order to identify and discuss research gaps, opportunities and priorities for archaeological research across the Western Isles. The event was the first of three annual SIRFA project symposia; Year 2 will focus on Shetland, Year 3 in Orkney.

In its first few months of operation, SIRFA has proved to be very successful with The Western Isles Symposium surpassing all expectations by attracting over 80 delegates , with a further 25 individuals indicating their support and desire to input to the project as it progresses.

The delegates represented a diverse range of stakeholders including professors, lecturers and research staff and post-graduate students from 15 different universities, local community and third sector groups and national heritage organizations (see Figure 1 for breakdown). Key note speakers included Niall Sharples from Cardiff University and Mike Parker Pearson of UCL.

Figure 1: Delegates attending the SIRFA Western Isles Symposium by sector


The four day event was structured around thematic and period-based workshop sessions, public lectures and fieldtrips to Baile Sear, Lioncleit and Barpa Langass. Delegates were asked to live tweet from the event and
if you want to catch up on the events and the discussion you can follow the conversation at #SIRFA2019

“SIRFA involves working with a range of stakeholders to identify gaps in current knowledge and agree where archaeological researchers should focus their attention now and in the future,” stated Dr Rebecca Rennell, “The expectation is that local and national bodies overseeing archaeology, as well as funders of archaeological research, will require that all research across Scotland’s islands reference and respond to the priorities outlined in this framework. It is therefore a significant piece of work and one that will direct and shape the future of archaeological research in the islands.”

The event was funded by Historic Environment Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and CnES.

New Archaeology Research Framework Launched

The University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute is pleased to announce the launch of Scotland’s Island Research Framework for Archaeology (SIRFA).

The four year project is supported by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers Scotland and is funded by Historic Environment Scotland as part of Scotland’s Archaeology Strategy.

The project commences with the First SIRFA Symposium which will be held in the Outer Hebrides from Monday 7th January to Friday 11th January 2019. The conference is open to everyone who works in the archaeological research field including museum professional, commercial archaeologists, academic researchers, archaeology students, community heritage groups, independent researchers and local and national government agencies. 

The focus at the symposium will be:

  • to identify and agree key research gaps
  • to identify and agree areas of research potential
  • to propose a statement of research objectives and development by period and theme

The symposium will form the first in a series of conferences to be held in the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland over the next few years.

The project is co-ordinated by UHI Archaeology Institute lecturer Dr Rebecca Rennell based at Lews castle College UHI, Uist, Outer Hebrides, Scotland.

For more information on SIRFA and the First Western Isles Symposium see  their website or email Dr Rebecca Rennell sirfa@uhi.ac.uk