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Tartan Ferret

Scottish Tartans Museum

The Scottish Tartans Museum is a non-profit organisation, governed by a volunteer Board of Trustees, dedicated to the history and traditions of Scottish Highland Dress. 

The museum was founded by The Scottish Tartans Society (STS), which was established in Scotland in 1963 to maintain a worldwide membership and museums in Scotland and abroad, to create and maintain the Register of All Publicly Known Tartans, encourage research into Highland Dress, and to provide a design service for new tartans.

The Scottish Tartans Museum was established in the United States by the STS to be a center for reliable information on Scottish Highland Dress traditions for the large Scottish-American heritage community. Originally established in Highlands, NC, in 1988, the museum was relocated to Franklin, NC, in 1994 where it has since educated about tartan and Highland Dress as well as served as a general Scottish Heritage Center for the region.

The STS no longer exists as an organization, but the Scottish Tartans Museum it established in the USA continues to work hard to promote the cloth that has become so iconic of Scotland's cultural identity. The museum continues to maintain close ties with tartan resources in Scotland, largely through a friendship with the Scottish Tartans Authority.

The Scottish Tartans Museum is open year-round, six days a week (except for major holidays). The gallery is regularly visited by school groups, researchers, families and interested individuals. Volunteers are often available to provide guided tours, and staff is always on hand to answer questions and help with basic tartan research.

The museum gallery features kilts dating back to c. 1800, and tartan specimens to c. 1725. Over 500 tartan samples are on display, including tartans for clans, families, districts, and various organizations. As Scottish Tartans Authority members, the museum has computer access to thousands of unique tartan designs, both historic and modern, included in the International Tartan Index.

Museum staff and volunteers are routinely invited into area schools, from elementary school to the university, to give presentations on Scottish heritage and Highland dress.

Staff and volunteers also attend a number of regional Scottish Festivals and Highland Games throughout the year to provide a tartan information service to festival visitors. So if you are attending a festival in the southeastern US, be on the lookout for the Scottish Tartans Museum tent!

When the museum first opened in Highlands in 1988 it consisted of a small gallery, no gift shop, and relied upon donations and volunteers. When it moved to Franklin in 1994 it had a larger gallery, a small gift shop, and thanks to some financial support from the town, could hire full time staff.

The financial support the museum received from the town was on a decreasing scale (receiving less every year), and within a few years the museum was well on its way to financial independence.

In 1999 the museum moved out of the town building it was housed in (which is now the site of Town Hall) and into its current location, an historic building at 86 E Main St. This location provided a larger museum gallery, and a much larger gift shop area, which the museum has since expanded even further.

The general operating budget for the museum has for some time been generated entirely from gift shop sales. Purchases made in our store and on line allow the museum to continue to function and provide education about the Scottish Highland dress tradition.

However, gift shop revenue does not allow for the funding of special projects, and so for those we must seek after grants and donations. We are currently seeking donations to help underwrite a complete renovation of our museum gallery, which is long overdue. It is a major undertaking.

You can find out more about the STA's plans for a National Tartan Centre in Scotland here 

© Scottish Tartans Authority
Scottish Tartans Authority (Scottish limited company no. 162386), c/o J & H Mitchell, 51 Atholl Road, Pitlochry, PH16 5BU
Scottish Charity Number SCO24310

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