Celebrating the Highlanders: Exhibit treat for 'Outlander' fans

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Tim MacLeod performs songs on the bagpipe in the lobby of Museum of the Albemarle during the museum's traveling exhibit, "Artifacts of Outlander," Saturday. The exhibit used the popular Starz TV series "Outlander" as a backdrop to tell the history of the 18th century Scottish Highlanders.


By Chris Day
Multimedia Editor

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Fans of the popular Starz series “Outlander” had a 2-for-1 experience at Museum of the Albemarle on Saturday.

“Artifacts of Outlander,” a traveling exhibit that used “Outlander” as a backdrop, began at 10 a.m. and featured a bagpipe performance and discussion on Scottish Highland history by Tim MacLeod. In the museum lobby, fans took turns taking pictures with a lifesized cardboard cutout of one of the show’s main characters, Jamie MacKenzie Fraser.  

MacLeod’s discussion included the Argyll Colony, a group of Highland Scots who settled in North Carolina in the Upper Cape Fear around 1739, and the American Revolutionary Battle of Moores Creek Bridge, in what is today Pender County.

By 1774 Highland Scots had settled in parts of North Carolina from the Cape Fear River Basin to as far west as Boone, MacLeod said. Many of them still spoke their native Gaelic and there was even a Gaelic language newspaper at the time.  

“It was great. He was very knowledgable,” said Betsy Sherlock, following MacLeod’s discussion.

Sherlock is an Elizabeth City resident who along with her husband watch the “Outlander” series on the pay TV service Starz.

“I’m new to ‘Outlander,’” she said, with a bright smile. “We have just started the second season.”  

The fourth season of “Outlander” debuted last year. At least two additional seasons are planned.

“Outlander” opens with focus on Claire Randall, a former World War II combat nurse who about six months after the war is swept back in time. She and her husband had been on a second honeymoon in the town of Inverness, Scotland, when she slips through time and winds up in 1743 Scotland. She is taken in by clan MacKenzie, who are Jacobites, Scottish highlanders who were staunch supporters of ousted King James II and his descendants, and were at odds with the English army. The highlanders see Claire as a foreigner, hence the title of the show: “Outlander.” 

On display in the museum lobby were Scottish Highland artifacts from the 18th century. Sarah Hill, of Sunbury, said she had a work-related interest in Saturday’s exhibit.

“I work at the Dismal Swamp Welcome Center and of course the Dismal Swamp is featured in the ‘Outlander’ books,” she said.

The show is based on the book series written by American writer Diane Gabaldon.

“I have read all of the books,” said Tara Ferguson, of South Mills. “I am a huge ‘Outlander’ fan.”

Asked why she likes the series so much, she said: “The adventure!”

“It goes from Scotland to North Carolina to our backyard,” said Ferguson, who was accompanied by Lisa Rayman, of Chesapeake, Virginia. Rayman said she’s just getting familiar with “Outlander.”

“I’m a tag-along and I know nothing about ‘Outlander,’” she said, laughing. However, she was curious to learn more about the series. 

“I am interested, just with the little bit she’s told me,” Rayman said, pointing to Ferguson. 

In between his music, MacLeod, of the St. Andrews Legion Pipes and Drums, in Chester, Virginia, wove in a brief history of the songs themselves, plus a history of the evolution of the bagpipe as an instrument. 

He later led the group of nearly 70 guests into the museum’s auditorium, where he continued his discussion. When MacLeod asked if their family lineage includes Scottish ancestors, a majority of the audience raised their hands that theirs does.

Museum of the Albemarle is exhibiting “Artifacts of Outlander” in partnership with Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum in Calvert County, Maryland. The exhibit will remain on display at MoA through March 27.