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Inveraray Jail Prison Records Go Digital for Education

Records holding details of over 4000 prisoners who served sentences at Inveraray Jail between 1820 and 1890 have become available in a child friendly digital format for use in primary education.

From slate board to ipad!

Ictopus, a free web based information communications technology (ICT) support service for primary education, has prepared a new teaching resource which uses the jail records to educate pupils on the social history of the Victorian period.  The resource became available to educators earlier this month and is designed for young people and children using searchable databases including Microsoft Excel.  The project started following an ictopus group trip to Inveraray Jail in June this year. The consultants were impressed with the huge educational potential available at the museum.

Viewing the Jail records

Records are on display at the Jail and visitors  can search through the fascinating records which hold details on prisoners such as their name, occupation, crime committed, sentences and transportation details.  Inveraray Jail did have an electronic copy of the records, however ictopus spent around six weeks re-working the entire database to make it child friendly.  This included censoring some of the original terms used and devising a glossary for children to interpret the 19th century legal terminology.

Project activities include the use of Google Maps & Google Earth and searching through the database to find stories, patterns, trends and changes that took place across Victorian society.  It also applies activities such as writing a news article based on real life court cases, the re-enactment of court scenes and searching through transportation records which pupils can link to those recorded in Queensland, Australia.

Rhona Dick, a freelance educational consultant and who prepared the records for school use, said: “This project is first and foremost about history. The records are about real people and real events and through their stories, hopefully, children can gain a better understanding of what life might have been like for some of the men, women and children living in a rural part of Victorian Scotland. ICT provides a medium through which knowledge and understanding of past societies can be taught and learnt and historical skills developed.”

She added: “Data handling is important and relevant across the curriculum and children, primary and secondary, are very rarely given access to a large database such as the Inveraray Jail records.  On behalf of ictopus, I would like to thank Inveraray Jail for making these records available to us.”

We are delighted to have worked with ictopus on this educational project. We are really impressed with the activities that Rhona and her team devised which relate perfectly to the jail’s history and stories of the prisoners. Inveraray Jail is a living example of 19th century life so we value the importance of being involved in historic education. This has been a fantastic opportunity for the jail to get involved further in education.


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Inveraray Jail, Argyll, Scotland, PA32 8TX