Help West Highland Museum bring Bonnie Prince Charlie home

Help West Highland Museum bring Bonnie Prince Charlie home

The West Highland Museum in Fort William is calling on the public to help bring a prestigious collection of paintings of the Royal House of Stuart from Europe to Scotland. 

The West Highland Museum in Fort William celebrates its centenary in 2022.  The museum hopes to stage a three-month exhibition of royal portraiture and has been offered exclusive access to a private collection of paintings owned by the Pininski Foundation, Liechtenstein.  The proposed exhibition will include thirteen paintings of four generations of the Royal House of Stuart, including James VIII (the Old Pretender) and his wife Princess Clementina Sobieska, through to Prince Charles Edward Stuart, better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, and his daughter, Charlotte the Duchess of Albany.  The series of painting ends with Charlotte’s daughter Princess Marie Victorie de Rohan.  These paintings illustrate the actual family which inspired Jacobites to risk so much to pursue this ‘affair of the heart’.

In order to finance this important exhibition, the West Highland Museum team has embarked on an ambitious crowdfunding campaign. The campaign launches on Wednesday 13 October at midday on Art Fund’s Art Happens crowdfunding platform and runs until Monday 15 November.

Museum Director, Chris Robinson said “We need to raise £25,000 to cover the cost of delivering this exciting exhibition to the public in 2022.  We need your help in raising funds to make this happen and bring Bonnie Prince Charlie and the exiled Stuarts back to Scotland.  It will likely be the last time these iconic portraits will be displayed in the United Kingdom as they may soon be on permanent display at a European museum.”

Broadcaster and Historian Paul Murton, from the BBC Scotland’s Grand Tours of Scotland series, is backing the campaign and hosts the campaign video. You can help support the West Highland Museum by visiting their campaign page and donating.  There are fantastic rewards on offer for those who contribute, including tours of the exhibition with Professor Edward Corp and Art Historian Peter Pininski, and jewellery designed especially for campaign that has been inspired by the unique Lochaber landscape.   Other unique incentives on offer include hand-made coasters crafted from wood sourced from Achnacarry estate from the beech trees abandoned by the Gentle Lochiel, head of Clan Cameron, on the eve of the Jacobite Rising.  Lochiel went off to join the Rising, but never returned. The beech trees grew where they had temporarily been planted.  

The paintings have never before been displayed together in the United Kingdom and some have never before been exhibited here.  Others, such as a portrait of an elderly Prince Charles Edward Stuart by Hugh Douglas Hamilton, painted in Rome in 1786 were last displayed in Scotland in Glasgow in 1910.  The planned exhibition will also include the recently rediscovered portrait of a 16-year-old Bonnie Prince Charlie, by renowned Venetian artist Rosalba Carriera.  It is believed to be the only portrait of the Prince that pre-dates the 1745 Jacobite Rising.  The painting was first publicly displayed for a month at the National Museum of Scotland in 2019.  This will be a rare opportunity to see these paintings and to hear the story of the exiled Jacobites.  

The West Highland Museum plans to bring Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Stuarts back home to celebrate its 100th birthday.  Curator Vanessa Martin said “The museum is world famous for its Jacobite exhibitions and has built up an important collection since the museum’s inception in 1922.  In 1925 the museum held its first major public exhibition dedicated to the Jacobites and established itself as a Jacobite Museum. The Jacobite Rising started here in Lochaber with Prince Charles Edward Stuart raising his father’s Standard at Glenfinnan on 19 August to signal the start of the last Jacobite Rising. For our centenary we have been offered this wonderful opportunity by the Pininski Foundation to present a public exhibition of rarely displayed royal portraiture.”  As Chair of Directors, Ian Peter MacDonald explains; ‘An exhibition of this calibre and local relevance will bring pride to our community and inspire enthusiasts from all over to come and visit our town.’

To find out more about the crowdfunding campaign and how to donate visit: 

artfund.org/bonnie-prince-charlie  

#ReturnOfTheStuarts

Climate conversations hope to inspire museums to take the lead in tackling the environmental crisis

Climate conversations hope to inspire museums to take the lead in tackling the environmental crisis

With all eyes on Scotland ahead of COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, people across the world are engaging in discussion on the climate emergency. For our museums and heritage organisations, action on climate change is as urgent as in any other sector as we all adjust and develop plans for the transition to a net zero economy.

Museums and Heritage Highland invite people to join two free online events asking what the route to a low carbon future is for museums and discussing how cultural organisations can inspire radical climate action in their communities.

Nicola Henderson from Museums and Heritage Highland said:

“Museums, heritage and the arts are in a unique position to address important climate issues across Scotland. We are fortunate to have cultural organisations at the heart of many of our local communities across the Highlands and these organisations can inspire and facilitate change.

“However, these events are not just for people involved in heritage in the Highlands, and we invite everyone to come along, join the debate and be inspired to take action.”

The first online event on 26 October will cover stories from the Existances project in Brazil, Taigh Chearsabhagh’s Lines project addressing rising sea levels in our island communities, COP26 Message in a Bottle and Message from Upernavik, Greenland and Fragile Planet, a major exhibition by artists Tony Foster at Royal Cornwall Museum.

On 2 November, the second online event will focus on the route to a low carbon future for small to medium-sized museums by sharing practical advice on energy reduction and implementing sustainability in the cultural sector by connecting people to a sustainable future through culture.

Helen Avenell, Museums and Heritage Highland, who will also moderate the events, added:

“We have invited speakers from all over the world to share their climate projects – projects that look beyond raising awareness of the challenges we face by helping find solutions and promote action. We take a look at the practical steps museums can take to make their businesses more sustainable. 

“At each event, speakers will give a short presentation before a panel discussion, and the audience can ask questions. We hope people will join us at these events and, from the information shared, feel confident to inspire action within their communities.”

These events are made possible by the #COP26Conversations fund developed in partnership with Museums Galleries Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland and Scottish Libraries Information Council.

More information on each event and tickets can be booked at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/pathways-to-action-a-series-of-climate-conversations-tickets-180894659797

(Image at top courtesy of the Existances project, Brazil)

New website and leaflet highlight the rich Pictish Heritage of the Highlands

New website and leaflet highlight the rich Pictish Heritage of the Highlands

The rich Pictish heritage of the Highland Council area is being highlighted this week with the launch of a new website, app and leaflet encouraging local people and visitors to explore 32 Pictish sites along an expanded Highland Pictish Trail.

The Picts dominated north and east Scotland from around 400AD for about 600 years, and the carved stones they left in the landscape, with their mysterious symbols, carvings of animals, and, later, intricately-carved Christian crosses and images of bible scenes, battles and hunting, have been a source of fascination for hundreds of years, along with their network of hill forts.

The original Highland Pictish Trail, which dates back more than 25 years, has now been extended to include 32 of the area’s most impressive and accessible Pictish sites, including carved stones set in superb scenery, museums and visitor centres where you can see impressive and thought-provoking carved stones and Pictish objects, and the mighty hill fort of Craig Phadrig (on the outskirts of Inverness) with its amazing views over the Beauly Firth and towards the Great Glen. 

High Life Highland Chairman Ian Ross said: “This new project offers a great opportunity for residents and visitors to step back in time and discover life as it was 1,000 years ago. For many years, the Highlands were thought to be just an outpost of a Pictish kingdom in the Perthshire and Angus areas, but recent discoveries have shown the north was an important Pictish area in its own right – with major religious and royal centres of power, and strong links with Europe.

“I hope people will enjoy a weekend or during the upcoming school holidays learning about Pictish culture and society, whether through the app or by picking up one of the leaflets soon available from our museums or libraries.”

Chair of The Highland Council’s Tourism Committee, Councillor Gordon Adam said: ‘The new Highland Pictish Trail website www.highlandpictishtrail.co.uk not only provides information about all the sites on the Trail; it is also a unique guide to the latest expert thinking on Pictish culture and life in the north of Scotland and includes links to a wide range of online and printed sources of information for people who would like to find out more. In addition to the website, a new free app can be downloaded to help people explore Trail sites in a particular area or connected by a specific theme, while the new Highland Pictish Trail leaflet, which will soon be available in a range of local outlets including museums along the Trail, Visitor Information Centres and Highland libraries, is a handy free guide for when you are out and about or planning a Pictish-themed trip. And during the summer months, the Cromarty-Nigg ferry is a handy link between the Black Isle Pictish sites and Easter Ross sites of the Seaboard villages and the Portmahomack peninsula – a great day out!”

Dan Cottam, Chair of Museums and Heritage Highland said: ‘After all the stresses and strains of the last 18 months or so, the Highland Pictish Trail offers local people and visitors the chance to step back into a time when life in the Highlands was very different from today.  You can admire the skill of the Pictish stone carvers, think about what the symbols and images are telling us about life here more than 1,000 years ago, and enjoy beautiful scenery and fresh Highland air. Exploring the Trail – whether for an afternoon, a day, a weekend or a week – is also a chance to explore and enjoy the food, drink, crafts and atmosphere of the distinctive Highland communities along the route. It’s is a real opportunity to slow down, immerse yourself in a different world, and re-charge your batteries. As many of the sites on the Trail are on or close to the NC500 route, we hope that NC500 visitors will also take advantage of the chance to enjoy this fascinating aspect of Highland culture.”

The Highland Pictish Trail project is a partnership of The Highland Council, High Life Highland and Museums and Heritage Highland and has received financial support from the Highland Council, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Museums Galleries Scotland. Museums and Heritage Highland will be maintaining and updating the website and app when the current project ends.

Kickstarting Glencoe Folk Museum

Kickstarting Glencoe Folk Museum

In this month’s blog we have invited Catriona, curator at Glencoe Folk Museum, and Connor, a Kickstart Trainee at the museum, to tell us how the Kickstart scheme has been working for them.

The Kickstart Scheme is perfect for a small museum like ours. At a time when we are beginning to work towards our Redevelopment Project, having another pair of hands to take on ongoing work like covering the front desk, cataloguing our collections and carrying out research has been invaluable. My colleague David and I both made our way into the heritage sector through similar schemes, so we are delighted to be able to give someone else the opportunity to gain the experience needed to start their museum journey!  Connor started with us earlier this year has been a major asset to the organisation. 

Hi! My name is Connor and I am the Kickstart Trainee at the Glencoe Folk Museum. As a Kickstart Trainee, I am working at the Museum for 6-months to get a taste of what it is like to work in a Museum and the Heritage sector. I’m very excited and grateful for this opportunity as I love to study history and I plan on working in museums in the future. 

The Kickstart Scheme is a government-funded programme aimed at 16-24 year olds on Universal Credit who are at risk of long term unemployment.

One of the reasons why I am enjoying this opportunity so much is because I don’t have a set role in the museum. My role can change day to day as I could be greeting visitors one day and cataloguing our collections the next. I’m thoroughly enjoying this as it is allowing me to get a much greater idea of what it is like to work ‘behind the scenes’ of a museum than if I was simply there to greet and direct visitors. 

I hope to find employment in the heritage sector in the future so this opportunity is giving me invaluable experience and a perspective that I wouldn’t have been able to find anywhere else. I still have a long way to go but these 6 months at Glencoe Folk Museum will set the wheels in motion for me.

My favourite aspect of history is that of 19th and 20th Century military history; everything from the uniforms to the kit and weapons. I have a fair amount of knowledge in regards to military equipment and items from that time but what I have the most knowledge in is firearms from that time. That is why I was thoroughly excited to have the opportunity to research and identify old, obsolete firearms from the 1850’s-90’s and a de-activated one from the Second World War that are in our collection. This is one of the best pieces of experience that I have gotten to date as this is the type of history and museum work that I love and would like to work in once I have the necessary qualifications.

Once I have completed my placement at the Museum, my plan is to join the Royal Navy as my main career path. As I have said, I’ve always had an obsession with the military and since I have grown up around boats and a nautical lifestyle, the Navy was the clear choice for me. One of the biggest reasons that I have chosen the Navy as my main career path is due to the education opportunities that are available. When I was in school, I wasn’t a very academic student as I preferred hands on learning to studying for hours on end. This led to me not getting the qualifications that I was hoping for and denied me the ability to enter University straight out of High School. The Navy allows you to study for a degree alongside your military service so I plan to study for a History degree during my service career.

Once I have left the Navy and gained my Degree, I plan to work in military oriented museums such as the Royal Armouries in Leeds, the Imperial War Museum at Duxford and The Tank Museum at Bovington. These particular Museums stand out to me as they often incorporate Re-enactment and Living History events into their displays and this is an aspect of the heritage sector that I think is an incredible idea and is one that I intend to take part in and enjoy.

All in all, I am beyond excited to be working at the Museum and once again I am so grateful to Catriona and David for giving me this opportunity that will give me a taste of, hopefully, what my career will look like in years to come.

Timespan nominated for Museum of the Year 2021

Timespan nominated for Museum of the Year 2021

The Timespan gang are beyond delighted and honoured to be shortlisted for this year’s Artfund Museum of the Year award for their programme and work during lockdown. The second Highland Museum (read about Gairloch Museum’s win here) in two years to make the cut for the biggest prize in the Museum world. 

Cultural institutions across the globe proved that culture is needed in the best, and worst, of times, and the Timespan gang responded with their best spirit and kept their community connected, engaged and active throughout with their online Real Rights exhibition telling the history of the parish within the intersecting framework of climate change and colonialism; YASS! Club @ Home where  village kids tackled big ideas in joyous ways in their Friday home-delivered activity packs, from growing their own veg and cooking for the village to making their own stargazing kits and learning about space commons; TYCI saved local teens from boredom with online workshops including investigative journalism and dj and radio broadcast skills; the People’s Mobile Archive kept our elders active and generated amazing new oral histories (shout out to Christine who initiated their mobile lending library) and their quarantine cooking show Recipes For A Disaster taught us how to prepare and make Billy Cowie’s famed lobster salad from local fish shack C Food & Eat (Don’s La Mirage meringues and Ann’s B&B brekkies are top of the list for the coming season).

Timespan Helmsdale Image © Marc Atkins / Art Fund 2021

The Chair of Timespan’s Board, Jean Sargent, says
“ I am absolutely delighted that Timespan has been shortlisted as a finalist for the Art Fund Museum of the Year. We have a very strong team here with an experienced board, an innovative staff and dedicated volunteers who along with our committed funders have all contributed to get us to this position. When lockdown struck, the team were quick to realise the difficulties this would entail and set about finding ways to overcome the physical closure of our museum. They worked alongside Helmsdale’s resilience group to provide enlightenment, entertainment and solace for everyone, young and old, in our community. Also, by digitising our latest exhibition and our museum offering they were able to entice a whole new global audience. Their hard work and commitment certainly deserves this prestigious accolade”.

We wish them luck for the final!

p.s. You can dry your dishes and decorate your walls with their Heritage Manifesto, which is featured on
beautiful new tea towels and posters.100% profits go to United Friends and Family Campaign (UFFC), a coalition of families and friends affected by deaths in UK custody.

Lost Inverlael: A’ Lorg Baile Bhlàir – getting onsite!

Lost Inverlael: A’ Lorg Baile Bhlàir – getting onsite!

We’re delighted to welcome back Ullapool Museum as guest bloggers to update us on their Lost Inverlael project as they finally get out onsite and surveying.

‘Lost Inverlael: A’ Lorg Baile Bhlàir’ is a two year community archaeology project run by Ullapool Museum to explore the lost Clearance townships of Inverlael and Balblair. Over the last six months we have been waiting with bated breath to get onsite for the first phase of the archaeology work. The lifting of lockdown measures in mid-May meant that we have now been out and about and making some really exciting discoveries! 

Over the last month we been working with volunteers from the local community and students from Ullapool High School to make a walkover survey, logging any identifiable structures or interesting looking features across the site. This involved using GPS to map each feature and then using poles and tapes to measure and record the details. This has been a huge task and the contribution of the volunteers has been really important. The site has never previously been recorded and the full extent of the township of Inverlael is only now being realised. It stretches across an area of more than two miles; from the visible remains on the current Inverlael Farm and into what is now plantation forest managed by Forestry Land Scotland. 

At the top of the glen, beyond the forestry land is the site of the township’s summer ‘shelings’. Sheilings were an important part of ‘transhumance’, a widespread Highland and European cattle herding practice. In the summer months many communities decamped with their domestic animals up to sheltered glens among the hills. This protected the crops growing in the township and the cattle could feed on sweet hill grass. And it was up here that we have made our best discovery to date… an illicit whisky still! We have a site visit planned in July with an expert research team to explore this site further… so watch out for further updates in the coming weeks!

Meanwhile we are continuing our research to find Inverlael descendants and exploring the archives to illuminate the rich history of this now forgotten Highland township.

Discover more about the ‘Lost Inverlael: A’ Lorg Baile Bhlàir’ project on our dedicated Facebook page and also here: 

https://ullapoolmuseum.co.uk/elementor-1498/

Read the first blog on the Lost Inverlael project here.

Podcasting 101!

So you want to make a podcast? XpoNorth did a series of instructional blogs that go through the key skills of recording, editing and distribution. You can access them all here:

Podcast blog 1: Recording – https://xponorth.co.uk/blog/so-you-want-to-make-a-podcast-part-1-recording

Podcast blog 2: Mixing and Post Production – https://xponorth.co.uk/blog/so-you-want-to-make-a-podcast-part-2-mixing-and-post-production

Podcast blog 3: Distribution – https://xponorth.co.uk/blog/so-you-want-to-make-a-podcast-part-3-distribution

Good Governance

Governance is the term used to describe the trustees’ role in:

  • The long term direction of the charity, including its objectives or purposes;
  • Implementing policies and activities to achieve objectives;
  • Complying with legal requirements;
  • Accountability to those with an interest or ‘stake’ in the charity.

‘Good governance should happen throughout a charity. The trustee board is responsible for good governance but they rely on many different people to be able to govern well: staff, volunteers, advisors and stakeholders.’ – NCVO

“Good governance is fundamental to effective museum activity”

Charity trustees are the people who have the general management and control of the administration of a charity. Depending on the individual charity’s constitution, they may be called Board members, directors, management committee members, charity trustees, governors or patrons.

The underlying principles are contained in section 66 of the 2005 Act, which sets out charity trustees’ general duties. The charity trustees must act in the interests of the charity.

Most relevantly they must:

  • Seek to ensure that the charity acts consistently with its purposes
  • Act with care and diligence; charity trustees must manage the affairs of their charity with the same care and diligence that it is reasonable to expect of someone managing the affairs of another person

A board is accountable to:

  • Transparency is an integral part of board behaviour. On an individual basis this applies to trustees who must declare all interests and potential conflicts of interest, there must be no hidden agendas or divided loyalties. Reporting must be open and honest. Rolling internal audits ensure that controls are in place and working effectively;
  • Conflicts of interest need to be managed, this is a legal requirement. Where someone is a member or employee of another organisation then that relationship must be recorded and regularly updated. A trustee cannot represent the interests of another organisation while acting on behalf of the museum. A register of interests must be in place and updated every 12 months, alongside a current policy on conflicts of interest.
  • A board must acknowledge and manage risk. The Board retains overall responsibility for risk management and discusses and decides the level of risk that it is prepared to tolerate. It promotes a culture of prudence with resources but also understands that being over cautious and risk averse is itself a risk.

What Makes a Really Great Board?

  • Good boards must “Review, reflect, learn and develop” – Leading Governance. This is an ongoing process of skills development and learning (see The Learning Board by Bob Garrett), that is used to develop an ethos of improved effectiveness and best practice. The board that doesn’t commit to development risks not having the skills, expertise and diversity to lead its organisation successfully, Bob Garrett puts this very clearly in his book The Fish Rots from the Head –

For organisations to survive and grow, their rate of learning has to be equal to, or greater than, the rate of change in their environment”

  • A balanced, informed contribution from all trustees that leads to a consensus in direction. It’s essential that all voices are heard, that trustees arrive at meetings informed and prepared, and that there is an ability within a board to challenge and debate issues openly;
  • There must be transparency at all times to engender trust from stakeholders in the decision making process;
  • Mutual respect between trustees and between trustees, management and volunteers. There must be clear lines of communication and clarity of roles and responsibilities. To avoid undermining staff and risking reputational damage it is essential that the Chair and the CEO/Director/Senior Volunteer work closely together to ensure that all communications between board and staff goes through them. A common damaging habit is where trustees become involved in day to day operations;
  • A good chairperson is essential. They must have strong leadership skills, provide structured agendas and make sure that accurate and relevant information is available in a timely manner to enable the board to make effective decisions;
  • A proper process for ensuring ongoing board renewal must be in place. 9 years as a trustee is the maximum recommended by the Code of Governance 2010. Diversity should not be considered a ‘tick box’ effort. To really ensure that you fully represent all your stakeholders, and have the skills and experience in place to effectively deliver your organisational goals there must be genuine diversity on a board.

Role of the Board

  • The board should be clear about the museum’s purposes and ensure these are delivered;
  • Develop and leading the organisation’s mission and strategic direction in line with the museum’s purposes and values;
  • Ensure that the museum complies with all legal and regulatory legislation as a minimum requirement, ideally they should demonstrate leadership by continually improving and developing best practice;
  • Really effective planning and control, ensuring that agreed targets are in place and are measurable and achievable;
  • To ensure a high standard of governance, ethics and behaviours throughout the organisation, boards must lead by example and ensure trustees behave accordingly;
  • To select (and where appropriate remunerate) the CEO and ensure effective management;
  • To ensure adequate resources are in place, the board is responsible for ensuring that the organisation has a deliverable and realistic fundraising strategy in place.

Role of the Trustee

  • The trustee must effectively prepare for and contribute to board and committee meetings;
  • To be well informed about the organisation’s purpose, strategies, services and operating environment;
  • To be prepared to challenge the CEO in an open and constructive way, and to support them and their position within the organisation;
  • To advocate for the museum;
  • To maintain balance between strategy and management;
  • To question effectively and share responsibility for decisions;
  • To undertake other roles as required, for example interview panels, disciplinary appeals etc..;
  • To avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, disclose potential conflicts of interest immediately to the Chair.

Role of the Chair

  • To lead the board and ensure its effectively meeting its goals by
    • Making sure resources are used efficiently;
    • Ensuring high standards of governance and leadership at all times from the trustees;
    • Representing the museum;
    • Assessing and auditing the effectiveness of the board/trustees and putting in place processes for the continual development of the board – The Learning Board. Governance development should be a part of any strategic plans.
  • Ensuring the board is efficient and effective by
    • Properly planning meetings and making sure all trustees have relevant information to make decisions;
    • Putting in place process for induction of new trustees;
    • Ensuring energy is focussed on priorities and not on the minutiae of day to day operations, this is the role of management;
    • Securing professional advice where needed;
    • Ensuring the board is kept informed of performance data;

Establishing a good, balanced working relationship with the CEO to enable effective planning, control, support and appraisal.

Useful Links

Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator – www.oscr.org.uk

Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations: Setting up a Charity – Get Started Guide – www.scvo.org.uk/setting-up-a-charity

Voluntary Action Scotland – www.vascotland.org

Volunteers

Volunteering Scotland has an amazing list of resources to help you manage and support volunteers. It includes templates and guides to creating volunteer induction packs, role descriptions, policies, measuring impact and creating an inclusive environment. All these resources can be downloaded here:

https://www.volunteerscotland.net/for-organisations/guidance/all-guidance-and-templates/

Heritage volunteering group is another good site for resources and support – https://heritagevolunteeringgroup.org.uk/links-resources/