Museums Galleries Scotland grant awarded for new Family History Centre at much-loved local museum
Nairn Museum has secured a grant from Museums Galleries Scotland, the Scottish Government’s National Development Body for museums in Scotland, to create a new Family History Centre.
The award will be used to extend and greatly improve access and facilities for local historians, family history researchers, professional genealogists, visiting academics, and amateur sleuths in Nairn and the surrounding areas.
The changes will enable Nairn Museum to accommodate and safely store a substantial recent donation of material collected by local author and historian, the late Alan Barron, former Director at the museum – including much in-depth research on local people and families, and a large number of family trees.
The refurbishment will:
Relocate the Family History Centre from the first floor to the ground floor of Nairn Museum, greatly improving access for visitors and enabling volunteers to assist with enquiries
Increase and greatly enhance storage facilities for the museum’s extensive collections of census records, accounts of births, marriages and deaths, valuation rolls, parish registers, local newspapers, etc.
Improve kitchen and toilet facilities for visitors and volunteers.
Melissa Davies, manager at Nairn Museum, said: “We are thrilled to receive this award from Museums Galleries Scotland, and can’t wait to get started on the work. The refurbishment will be carried out by local contractors, and will radically improve the experience for people visiting the museum to find out more about their relatives and ancestors. It will also provide excellent opportunities to build on the skills and knowledge of our dedicated team of volunteers – without whose support there would be no Nairn Museum”.
Lucy Casot, CEO of Museums Galleries Scotland said: “We are delighted to support Nairn Museum with a Museums Development Grant to create an accessible family history resource room. This new space will widen the sharing of the family history collection for the community and visitors through increasing the accessibility of this valuable resource.”
Nairn Museum is situated in the historic Viewfield House. It is a fully-accessible, family-friendly museum with a wide range of displays on the town and its local history. There are changing programmes of exhibitions and events, with everything from fine art displays to musical performances, together with special activities for children, families and special-interest groups. The museum is open from April to October each year, but can be visited any time by appointment. Contact Melissa Davies on 01667-456791 (or email: email@example.com) for further information.
Discover the history of the Highlands and Islands through the epic story of Clan Donald, Scotland’s largest and most powerful clan. Six galleries take you through 1500 years of history and culture in the area once known as the Kingdom of the Isles.Children can enjoy dressing up, museum trails and activity sessions. There is also a changing exhibitions programme, and an extensive library where staff can assist with genealogy research (visit website for details). The museum sits within the stunning landscape of Armadale Castle Gardens, the former seat of the Macdonalds of Sleat and now a 5 star visitor attraction.
Here is a short blog from Vanessa Martin at the West Highland Museum in Fort William on a recent exciting acquisition that is now on display in the museum.
‘We were delighted to have the opportunity to purchase a rare hidden portrait Jacobite snuff box at the Lyon and Turnbull auction in Edinburgh in August.
It is a mid-18th century circular box with enamel tartan decoration, the hinged cover opens to reveal a plain interior, however, the hidden double lid opens to reveal a finely enamelled portrait of Prince Charles Edward Stuart in tartan jacket with orders of The Garter and Thistle decorations, white cockade and blue bonnet.
Hidden portrait snuff boxes such as this are amongst the most iconic Jacobite works of art. This example is in particularly good condition and finely enamelled. The portrait is a variant of the famous Robert Strange example which likely date this piece to circa 1750.
The Museum has been established as a “Jacobite Museum” since its inception in 1922. We have many unique and unusual objects already in our collection such as the Secret Portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie and his death mask. This iconic object will be a valuable addition to our Jacobite collection and is now on permanent display.
We would not have been able to acquire this fine object for the collection without the financial support of the National Fund for Acquisitions, the Art Fund and a very generous local donor. We are most grateful to everyone who has contributed to make this purchase possible. The final price for the snuff box at auction was £9,750.’
Groam House Museum is renowned for its display of Pictish carved stones which date from the time when Rosemarkie was a vibrant Christian monastic settlement, around 1200 years ago. It houses the Rosemarkie Stone, an important surviving example of Pictish art in stone, as well as 14 sculpture fragments from the local area.
Pictish stones have inspired many people, including artist George Bain who was fascinated by the intricate Celtic patterns they carried, and went on to work out the mathematics of the intricate designs. Bain’s book “Celtic Art – The Methods of Construction” did much to revive interest in Celtic art and is still used by artists and crafts-people world-wide today.
The museum houses a large collection of George Bain’s work, now recognised as a Collection of National Significance.
The museum also houses a collection of photographs and artefacts from the surrounding area, given by local people.
In addition to its exhibitions, the museum actively engages with local communities to involve them in its activities, share new skills, and develop works of art of relevance to the museum’s collections. Despite the small size of the building, the museum offers much for a wide range of audiences, including activities for children and families, and research material for the student or academic.
In 2017 the Highland Museums Forum undertook a project looking to improve the sustainability and resilience of museums across the Highlands in times of ever increasing pressure on funding. This report looked at potential collective solutions and is here for all to download and use to help shape future projects around museum resilience.
Ullapool Museum is housed in a Category A listed building, an architectural gem. Visit us to learn about the social history of Lochbroom through displays on crofting, fishing, the “klondykers”, the ship Hector, Melville pistols, bi-centenary quilt and more. Interpretation of the original Thomas Telford Parliamentary church building. Extensive archive reading area and genealogy records and exciting children’s activity area. Ullapool Museum Trust was formed in 1991 to collect, promote and preserve the history and heritage of Lochbroom.
Through our collections you can explore how people in Lochbroom lived, worked, played and learned through the ages. The museum holds a broad social history collection including objects related to crofting, the sea, education and learning, and objects related to the founding of Ullapool. You can get close to some of the highlights of our collection by visiting the museum in Ullapool. Or explore our whole collection from anywhere in the world using our online catalogue.
We also have an interesting events schedule during our open season with a variety of different activities for all the family.
In October, the team at Ullapool Museum joined the best and brightest museums across the country at the bi-annual Association for Heritage Interpretation Awards. The AHI exists to promote excellence in the practice and provision of interpretation across the United Kingdom and holds an annual conference around which the awards are held. We were delighted to be awarded runners-up in the ‘Volunteer & Community Projects’ category for our redisplay project ‘Future Thinking for Lochbroom’s Past’. The award recognises the outstanding contribution our volunteers made to the project that redisplayed our permanent collections and reinterpreted our unique A-listed building.
Like most Museums & Heritage Highland members, volunteers are the essential lifeblood of the organisation. This award not only recognises their commitment, but also the professionalism and excellence they delivered in creating the new displays. We are so proud to be recognised by this prestigious award, as the Journal says… ‘This is an exceptional example of a community project that creates an enjoyable museum visit’.
Timespan is a cultural institution in Helmsdale, a village in the very north east of the Scottish Highlands, with local, global and planetary ambitions to weaponise culture for social change. Timespan is a place for art, research, heritage, local history, future propositions and action. We believe that cultural institutions are a political and public space which belong to society, and as such, have a responsibility to shape a brighter new world based on principles of equality, emancipation and inclusion. Comprised of a local history museum, contemporary art programme, geology and herb gardens, shop, bakery and cafe, we take a holistic and integrated approach to our programme and organisation so all elements of what we do and are, service our civic and political agendas – to make art and heritage work meaningfully for our constituents and village and as tools for global cultural and social change.
We are committed to diagnosing and responding to urgent contemporary issues, which are rooted in our local context of remote, rural Scotland, and to approach these from a global and multi-disciplinary perspective. We try to do this by assembling communities and individuals involved in art, science, heritage and activism, and deploy this collectively-produced consortium of ideas into action.
This year Glencoe Folk Museum has embarked on its most ambitious redevelopment project since moving into its current premises in 1972. Based in two 18th century heather-thatched crofters’ cottages (Cat B. listed) the museum, founded in 1967, chronicles the rich and exciting history of the Glencoe and North Lorn area between the 17th-21st centuries.
Our collection of c6,000 objects includes unique Jacobite-era artefacts such as a boot belonging to Captain Robert Campbell (the man deemed responsible for Glencoe’s infamous massacre), a chair once belonging to Bonnie Prince Charlie himself and the Clan Donald christening gown. Our social history collection covers local life and work including crofting, domestic life and the Ballachulish slate quarries. Largest of all the objects, and presently in storage, is a rowing boat formerly used by local clans to transport coffins to the burial island Eilean Munde. We are hoping to place the boat on display in 2020 to coincide with the Year of Coasts and Waters and to serve as a pilot display for the redevelopment.
THE REDVELOPMENT – TIME FOR CHANGE
The museum celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017 and has not been substantially altered for a number of years. Some of our displays are now showing their age, particularly the outside lean-to display of agricultural objects which will soon be threatening to dismantle itself without external intervention. A redevelopment gives us exciting opportunities to reinterpret the museum’s stories to modern standards for the first time, expand the exhibition space and allow more of the collection to be displayed in a stable environment.
SUSTAINABILITY We have enjoyed increasing visitor numbers over the last five years, with 7,000 visiting in 2019 including a significant proportion of international visitors. Retail revenue has also seen a dramatic increase thanks to improvements made to the museum’s shop. However, as is so often the case in the heritage sector, the museum remains financially unsustainable and survives in part through investments made from the estate of its founder, Barbara Fairweather M.B.E. A key objective of the redevelopment will be to address the museum’s long-term sustainability, increasing revenue and reducing costs to ensure the museum continues to educate and entertain visitors from around the world for the next fifty years and beyond.
A redevelopment manager was appointed in June 2019 to develop the project and secure funding. The project is presently in its early stages, our current major development points being:
-To remove existing non-listed structures from the outdoor display area and replace with a new visitor reception and exhibition building, leading into the 18th century cottages.
-Improve visitor accessibility and facilities with a new entrance, levelled floors, raised/widened doorways and installation of toilets.
-Create a larger, purpose-built shop to encourage increased visitor spend and contributing towards the museum’s sustainability.
-Renew exhibitions throughout the museum, produced by exhibition specialists with greater language options and interactive features. In particular we hope to improve interpretation of the cottages themselves and represent a contemporary dwelling on the night of the 1692 massacre.
-Convert byre outbuilding into Community Exhibition Gallery – creating flexible space for local groups to produce displays and allowing a programme of changing exhibitions to encourage repeat visits.
-Commission new STEAM curriculum linked schools programme, cementing the museum’s place in local education.
-Develop a nearby field owned by the museum into a collections store and curator’s accommodation, replacing the current unsuitable store/accommodation in Ballachulish village.
CONSULTATIONS We are very keen that the museum’s ultimate users have a say in its continuing development and one of the first tasks of the project has been to consult a range of stakeholders, visitors and the local community, staff, volunteers and the museum’s board of trustees.
TALKING TO THE COMMUNITY
Local engagement has included interviews with B&B and café owners, care homes, drama groups, colleges as well as focus groups with local community and parish councils. This has been a fascinating exercise in assessing awareness of the museum’s existence and activities, the extent to which individuals and groups have interacted with the museum in the past, including barriers to engagement, and ask what people think the museum’s role in the community should be. This will be an ongoing process of consultation and feedback throughout the project.
TALKING TO VISITORS
Our ongoing visitor has produced useful results concerning what visitors like about the museum as it is and what improvements could be made. The results overwhelmingly indicate that visitors like the quirky charm of the museum and its historic buildings, wanted to learn more about the Jacobite era, the massacre of Glencoe and daily life in the area, and there is considerable demand for toilets! The findings from the visitor surveys are being fed into exhibition design briefs and architects’ plans.
The hardest part of any project isn’t deciding what to do, it’s working out how to pay for it. As well as committing substantial amounts of the museum’s reserves we have been invited to submit a Development Phase application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and are simultaneously developing bids to the Garfield Weston and Wolfson foundations. We are also working on how to attract sponsorship for the project and for the 2020 season hope to roll out a package of sponsorship offers and rewards to suit all pockets, from opportunities to sponsor display cases and entire exhibitions to a new ‘adopt an object’ scheme aimed at the quirky gift market.
As will be obvious this is a large project which is only beginning to take shape. At the time of writing we are in the midst of drafting funding applications, liaising with architects for outline building plans, making initial enquiries for planning permission and listed building consent as well as compiling an exhibition design brief for circulating to potential museum designers. Exciting times!
There’ll be more news of our developments soon; watch this space…