Museum of the Highlands is a new website offering novel and exciting ways to delve into the rich history of the Scottish Highlands. From archaeology and ancient stones to paintings, crofting tools, and complex colonial histories, incredible stories of the historic Highlands and its people are ready to be discovered.

The dynamic learning hub centres around an interactive timeline, allowing users to discover over 350 fascinating objects from 3 billion BC to present day. High-quality photographs along with detailed descriptions provide up close analysis of each object. Available to anyone interested in the history of the Scottish Highlands, 200 free resources, from fun games to in-depth learning aids, invite a deeper dig into the past. A Gaelic version of the website will be complete in the Autumn.

Fifteen diverse museums from across the Highlands collaborated to create the website, with project management by the heritage network organisation Museums and Heritage Highland. The project has been supported by Art Fund through its Reimagine programme and Museums Galleries Scotland.

Innovation and Network Manager at Museums Heritage Highland, Nicola Henderson, said: 

“When the country went into lockdown in 2020, museums across the Highlands, like museums everywhere, looked for new ways to engage with people. Collectively, our network of museums developed the idea of an online digital learning hub sharing collections from across the Highlands. Thanks to funding from Art Fund and Museums Galleries Scotland, this spark of an idea has become Museum of the Highlands. 

“We have created an engaging, fun and, most importantly, user-friendly website that supports individuals, families, schools and museums to engage meaningfully with museum collections at home or in the classroom.”

Museum of the Highlands learning resources have been developed in partnership with teachers and young people to support teachers to engage students and help them learn in innovative and creative ways, not just in history lessons. Object-based learning enhances engagement with many topics to suit our 21st-century Scottish curriculum.

Rosie Barrett, Digital Learning and Interpretation Specialist who worked on the project, said:

 “For anyone new to object-based learning, the concept is simple. The term refers to using physical objects as a teaching aid. We can see, touch, and even smell things our ancestors held and used to learn about the past. This project challenged us to capture and convey these physical attributes for a digital platform.

“My work is focused on exploring objects in ways that help us to grow and develop, including cognitively. I am interested in the untapped potential of using historical artefacts in cross-curricular ways and supporting the whole learner and how we think. Objects from the past can help us make sense of the present and work towards the future. Throughout the project, we share objects in ways that stimulate curiosity and develop thinking.

“One learning resources is the set of debating activities. We consulted schools to find out what issues young people were interested in, then built the activities around objects from the fifteen museum collections. We have scaffolded discussions around questions of importance today. For example, a prehistoric harpoon features in a debate on animal rights, as we ask, ‘Should animals have rights like humans?’. This debate builds on students learning about their human rights and the democratic processes in Scotland. It also widens the topic to contemporary issues like choosing vegan and vegetarian lifestyles.”

An additional feature of the website encourages users to contact museums directly to find out more about their collections. Schools and other groups can also arrange virtually or in person visits. 

While researching objects selected for the project, Museums discovered links to colonial history and the Transatlantic slave trade that they had not previously considered and uncovered complex colonial histories.

Freya Samuel, Digital Learning and Interpretation Specialist who also worked on the project, explains:

“Links to slavery and colonialism are prevalent in museums across the UK – the Highlands are no exception. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it was common for wealthy Highlanders to be involved in colonial trade. The expansion of the British empire opened up new opportunities for pioneering Highlanders to make their fortunes, from military postings in the colonies, working for East India or Hudson Bay Companies, to livelihoods made as merchants or overseers profiting from the slave trade. These often-lucrative opportunities were particularly appealing to those facing hardship following the Highland clearances.

“It is important that we engage openly with this aspect of Highland history. We encouraged museums to think critically about their collections. Uncovering these links is not intended to villainize individuals or judge the ethics of the past by todays standards. It acknowledges these histories by including the voices and stories of the people exploited by the British Empire.”

Colonial themes presented through the website include the transatlantic slave trade, colonial collecting from Africa, Asia, North America, and Oceania, the Opium trade, colonial and post-colonial military battles, loot and the work of missionaries. Interpretation across the digital learning hub aims to take an informative yet balanced approach.

Museum of the Highlands is online now and free to access. It is supported by the Art Fund and Museums Galleries Scotland and is sponsored by Ilum Studio to help it grow and thrive post-launch.

Museum of the Highlands can be found at https://museumofthehighlands.org

The power of object-based learning, digitally!

The power of object-based learning, digitally!

Rosie Barrett, Digital Learning and Interpretation Specialist, discusses the power of object-based learning which is at the heart of our new digital learning hub – Museum of the Highlands.

From time to time, most teachers find themselves looking around for interesting ways to engage students and help them learn as school priorities change. We’ve developed the Museum of the Highlands to support exactly this, using object-based learning to enhance engagement about a range of topics to suit our 21st-century Scottish curriculum.

There are over 300 objects from a full range of historical periods and nearly 200 learning resources. I’m going to share just a handful of these resources and give a taste of the way we’ve created them to allow teachers to explore objects in innovative and creative ways, and not just in history lessons.

What is object-based learning?
For anyone new to object-based learning, the concept is actually incredibly simple. The term refers to using physical objects or artefacts as a teaching aid. The idea is that we can learn about the people of the past through their objects. We can see, touch, even smell, the things that our ancestors held and used.

Objects are tangible and real. This makes them great for younger children with more concrete thinking styles. We can hold objects, feel their weight and texture, and better understand how they might have been used or valued.

Metal WW2 round, green hat.
Metal World War Two hat from The Highlanders’ Museum

However, objects are also fantastic for developing empathy in all of us – no matter our age. By putting on a metal Brodie hat, for example, we move closer to understanding how the soldier who wore it might have felt and experienced conflict. We move closer to the proverbial ‘standing in another’s footsteps’ – in this case, wearing another person’s hat.

It can undoubtedly be a very powerful experience, holding something and feeling a physical connection. It can give us sensory information and very quickly.

However, these are great arguments for visiting museums (and for taking students to museums) – and I hope you do, lots! But the Museum of the Highlands is a digital entity. Through the site, we are definitely hoping that schools will feel supported to work more closely with the 15 featured museums and to visit them. However, we also knew that we needed to create stand-alone resources that brought the advantages of digital technology to object-based learning. We’ve pushed ourselves throughout the project to do exactly this – to share objects in creative ways that stimulate curiosity and develop thinking (among other things).

Today, I’m going to share a couple of the approaches we’ve taken.

Stimulating curiosity and catering to a range of learners
One activity, which we’ve called ‘Object in Focus’, allows students to look at objects from a range of different viewpoints by providing a series of photographs of unusual angles. It taps into students’ natural curiosity as they are able to puzzle over the different angles and try to work out what each object could be. The activity challenges us to see things slightly differently and helps to explore the objects in more detail.

prehistoric harpoon on a white background. Made from bone, long and think with sharp edges
Prehistoric harpoon from West Highland Museum

A powerful example is a prehistoric harpoon, used 5000 years ago for hunting. Looking closely at this object tells us so much! I love that you can see the wood grains so clearly, ponder on the survival of this fragile material. You can see the way that a hole has been carefully pierced so that it can be attached to a strap to help the hunter to use, manipulate and hold onto it. You can see the many barbs used for ensuring it lodged in the hunter’s prey. It’s a gruesome object, but it’s also fascinating when learning about our ancestors.

Another activity is ‘What’s the Noise?’. Here, museum staff recorded the sounds that some of the objects make. It’s another great resource for stimulating curiosity as students can puzzle over what an object could be from its sound. However, this activity also helps us to move closer to the people of the past by hearing the same things that they would have heard.

Black metal handcuffs on white background. two round pieces of metal joined together by links of black metal
Handcuffs from Cromarty Courthouse Museum

Listening to the jangling of historic handcuffs from Cromarty Courthouse Museum is very eerie and evocative! When I first heard that recording, for a moment, I was right there with the prisoner. This activity would make a great starter activity – whether you’re looking at the Victorians in primary school, the treatment of criminals for a psychology module, or even doing some creative writing in an English lesson.

Developing thinking – objects for the future
It’s easy to see how we can learn about people from the past by exploring the objects that they made, owned, used, treasured, or even discarded… However, a lot of my work as an education consultant has been focused over the years on exploring objects in ways that help us to grow and develop now, including cognitively.

I’m really interested in the huge, untapped potential of using historical artefacts in cross-curricular ways and to support the whole learner and how we think. I believe that objects from the past can help us make sense of the present and support us to work towards the future that we want for our planet.

Afterall, what is the point of studying the past if we don’t use it to inform our decisions today? The Scottish Curriculum for Excellence rightly places a strong emphasis on the role of the individual within a community, including participating responsibly in decision making. Most teachers are also passionate about supporting young learners to develop into the confident adults of the future.

One of the learning resources of which I’m really proud is the set of debating activities we’ve created. We consulted schools to find out what issues young people were interested in before developing these, then built the activities around objects from the 15 museum collections. Using the objects, we’ve scaffolded discussions around questions of importance today.

The prehistoric harpoon features as one of several objects in a debate on animal rights, as we ask: ‘Should animals have rights like humans?’. This debate builds on students’ prior learning about their own human rights and the democratic processes in Scotland, but also widens the topic in a way that is absolutely applicable to the current age when many people are considering vegan and vegetarian lifestyles.

It was really important to us that these activities didn’t have a right or a wrong answer. A key element of the development of the education resources was ensuring that young people felt able to express themselves and articulate their own viewpoints. In order to do that, they need to be able to talk through those views and work out how they feel. They also need to know that it’s perfectly legitimate to change their minds and that sometimes their friends may have different opinions.

interior of croft doll's house, shows 3 small rooms - kitchen, bedroom and living space.
Homemade croft dolls’ house from The Highland Museum of Childhood.

Lots of the topics, understandably, explore environmental issues, including the impact of taking holidays and the effects of fast fashion. A debate for younger children encourages them to explore a range of alternatives to buying new toys, such as making their own games. This debate is based around a beautiful handmade dolls’ house, created during the Second World War out of recycled materials during a time of toy shortages. It’s a really wonderful and very inspiring object!

I hope I’ve given you a little flavour of our take on object-based learning for a digital age! And I hope you’ll enjoy the activities we’ve put together.

The Museum of the Highlands has been generously supported by the Art Fund and Museums Galleries Scotland. It is sponsored by Ilum Studio to help it grow and thrive post launch. We are grateful to all its supporters so far.

A Taste of Highland Heritage – Museum of the Highlands

A Taste of Highland Heritage – Museum of the Highlands

Freya Samuel, Digital Learning & Interpretation Specialist, highlights a selection of objects showcased on the new Museum of the Highlands digital learning hub.

Over the last year, I have worked with fifteen incredible collections across the Highlands on the new digital learning hub ‘Museum of the Highlands’. The platform brings together around 350 objects from these collections into an immersive digital experience supported by a suite of exciting learning activities for schools.

A big part of this project has been drawing out the stories of people and places found within objects. The objects almost act as a vessel through which captivating stories of Highland history can be told. Before the big launch, I wanted to share a taster of some of the amazing objects that you will find. 

Making a spectacle out of spectacles

Although these unassuming tortoiseshell glasses may not look special, they have quite the story to tell. They are said to have belonged to Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat, (1667 – 1747). Chief of Clan Fraser, he was a Jacobite nicknamed the ‘Old Fox’ for his double dealings, violent feuds, and changes of allegiance.

Lovat was convicted of treason for his part in the 1745 Jacobite Rising and sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered. His punishment was commuted to beheading. On 9 April 1747, he was the last person publicly executed on Tower Hill, London. 

Such a crowd gathered for his execution that a stand holding spectators collapsed and killed nine people. Lovat was so amused by the incident that legend has it that this is where the origin of the phrase ‘laughing your head off’ comes from – quite the spectacle! 

Korean connections in Balintore

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This beautiful porcelain vase reveals the unexpected links between the Seaboard village of Balintore, and South Korea. 

In 1872, thirty-year-old Christian missionary, John Ross, was sent to northeast China. He founded the Dongguan Church in Shenyang and became acquainted with traders from Korea. Ross is a very important figure to modern-day Christians in South Korea, and the John Ross Centre, a key part of the history of the Seaboard villages, was funded by a South Korean Christian group. 

This rare chinaware vase commemorates the founding of the Chinese Empire in 1916 by the Yuan Dynasty. It was donated by Elder Ahn Kee-Seok (a member of the group of South Koreans dedicated to preserving the history of John Ross) as a symbol of Korean culture and tradition.    

A Celtic cushion with a tale to tell

The fascinating story behind this hand-embroidered Celtic-style cushion cover lies with its maker, Kay Matheson. Matheson (1928 – 2013) was a well-known Scottish nationalist and Gaelic language lobbyist, born on the shores of Loch Ewe to a crofting family. She was famed for her involvement in the recovery/liberation (sometimes called theft) of the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day, 1950 when she was age 22. 

A 3 billion-year-old object

This may look like any ordinary rock at first glance. However, a well-trained eye could spot that this is actually a sample of one of the oldest rocks in the world – Lewisian Gneiss. 

Formed three billion years ago, Lewisian Gneiss forms the basement rock for the coastal strip on which Gairloch is situated, as well as the Outer Hebrides, from which it takes its name. Over millennia, this area experienced numerous geological upheavals and now helps us to understand periods of intense volcanic activity when Europe began to split from North America.  

These are only a few of the incredible stories the Museum of the Highlands will tell. From archaeology and ancient stones, to paintings, crofting tools, and complex colonial histories, there is so much to learn about the intricate, diverse, and fascinating heritage of the Highlands.

The Museum of the Highlands has been generously supported by the Art Fund and Museums Galleries Scotland. It is sponsored by Ilum Studio to help it grow and thrive post launch. We are grateful to all its supporters so far.

Sealladh – a review of our inaugural conference

Sealladh – a review of our inaugural conference

On 20th April 2023, as the sun beamed across the Highlands, museum and heritage sector workers, volunteers and representatives made their way to Inverness, gathering for Sealladh – Highland Heritage Conference.

Initiated and organised by Museums Heritage Highland, the event is a chance for our Heritage sector to assemble. With long distances to travel and work demands, folk across the Highlands’ museums and heritage sector don’t often find time to get together – an in-person gathering felt long overdue.

The two-day event is the first conference focused solely on heritage to take place in the Highland capital. The line-up of local heritage professionals presenting alongside representatives from national funding and support agencies was impressive. The topics on the agenda were varied and pertinent.

A warm reception from the MHH team, accompanied by refreshments, was a chance for our heritage colleagues to meet and catch up. After a welcome from MHH Chair Dan Cottam, small groups formed for the first session, sharing highlights and difficulties of the last few years, what worked, what changes they have implemented in their museums and where there were problems or failures. This session concluded with a discussion on skills, the diversity of skills in the sector, the professional needs of our heritage colleagues and how we bring those two together.

A Pecha Kucha followed. Delegates presented a project and discussed how they have responded to the demands of the last few years. We enjoyed fascinating presentations by Gaelic museum and arts professional, Anna NicGuaire on the use of Gaelic in museums, the Coast team shared insight into a wonderful west coast community engagement, storytelling and mapping project, Racheal Thomas discussed Gairloch Museum’s ‘Warm Winter Wednesdays’ addressing community issues such as loneliness, isolation and inclusivity, and West Highland Museum told of their experiences with virtual reality as they develop an immersive experience partnered with St. Andrews University.

The first day concluded with delegates enjoying supper at Velocity and viewing the Gaelic documentary Dùthchas – Home, a touching exploration of the effects of population movement on the Gaelic language and culture of the Isle of Berneray in the Outer Hebrides.

The next day’s packed schedule kicked off with the Our People panel discussion focusing on the museum workforce and how this is changing. Tamsin Russell (Museums Association), Siobhan Beaton (Ullapool Museum), Ian Leith (Wick Heritage) and David Bell (National Mining Museum) talked about attracting, retaining and get the best out of our volunteers and when and how to engage additional staff.

Following, two concurrent group sessions took a deep dive into themes touched on in the panel discussion. David Bell discussed succession planning and, through examples of his own experience, as a museum volunteer and then employee, what we can do when volunteers with specific knowledge or skills stop volunteering and we can’t fill that gap. Meanwhile, Tasmin Russell led a workshop exploring well-being in museums sharing sage advice on how we best support our staff and volunteers day to day, in specific situations and through difficult times.

More tea and on with the next panel discussion.

Resourcing Our Heritage – a subject critical to all heritage organisations and museums dealing with further cuts in funding and increasing costs. How can we as a sector move from surviving to thriving in these difficult times? Chaired by MHH’s Andrew Mckenzie, Gillian Simmons shared Museums Galleries Scotland’s new seven-year strategy, Megan Braithwaite provided insight into applying to Heritage Lottery Fund, and Katie Mullen shared invaluable tips on securing support from individuals and sponsors. From the floor came tough questions and comments on core funding, funding feedback, funds now available and how to deal with failure in funded projects.

The following session, Capital Projects Discussion Group, talked about big projects, how to fund them, manage them, and how to not get overwhelmed. Delegates shared their experiences, offered guidance and found reassurance within the group.

Meanwhile, Andrew McKenzie and Yvonne Crook discussed Highland Tourism’s ambitious project to promote the Highlands as a premium environmental tourism brand and work they are doing involving the community and the heritage sector.

More Highland hospitality with lunch and a chance to chat brought us to the final leg of the conference. The afternoon focus was on collections – how we use them, care for them and how we tell the stories they hold.

The panel, Katey Boal (NTS), Freya Samuel (The Highlanders Museum), Rachael Thomas (freelance museum curator and conservator), Abeer Eladany (University of Aberdeen Museums) and Peter Knowles (Smartify) discussed a wide range of collection-related subjects from community engagement, representation, physical and intellectual accessibility, anti-racist practice and thinking about collections in a local and international context.

Delegates had the choice of joining three different groups for the last sessions of the day.

Our Collection Care workshop shared our positives and negatives about collections care, storage, display and use with invaluable advice from conservator Racheal Thomas. Digitising Collections workshop with Peter Knowles from Smartify provided insight into digital as an opportunity to bring in different voices, connect to people who can’t visit a museum, and generate income. At the Decolonisation of Collections workshop, Freya Samuel and Abeer Eladany guided our delegates in identifying and recognising the colonial structures and approaches in heritage and advised them on taking action.

The conference closed with a round-up from Dan thanking all the speakers, facilitators and everyone who came along.

As an informative and inspirational two days ended, friends and colleagues dispersed with helpful insights and practical advice, accompanied by a real sense of mutual support across the heritage community.

Feedback from delegates has been overwhelmingly positive. We all enjoyed the welcoming atmosphere and the chance to meet people in the MHH network and, of course, will benefit from learning from sector colleges. We also hope that similar events will take place in the future.

The event was organised by Museums and Heritage Highland, a charity formed in 2019 to promote collaborative working and provide a supportive voice for the Highland heritage sector. It is supported through the Museums Galleries Scotland Forums Fund project and is made possible with The National Lottery Heritage Fund, thanks to National Lottery players. The event was also supported by Smartify, the world’s most downloaded museum app, and Highland Tourism CIC, who are working with the sector to create a world-leading sustainable destination and premium environmental tourism brand.

You can watch the pecha kucha talks and panel discussions on our YouTube channel here.

Landseer – exhibition of rare works comes to Grantown Museum

Landseer – exhibition of rare works comes to Grantown Museum

New exhibition coming to Grantown Museum of paintings by Sir Edwin Landseer aims to explore the Victorian creation of the Highlands as a site of romance and adventure – a fantasy that endures to this day.

Two hundred years ago, Edwin Landseer followed his wealthy patrons from the upper-class drawing rooms of London to spend his summers in the wilderness of the Cairngorms. The drama and mystery of the landscape would have a profound effect on the artist and his work, and he in turn would do much to popularise a romantic vision of the Highlands as an exotic northern wilderness.

Landseer’s obsession and fascination with the Cairngorms inspired the creation of a new visual identity for the Highlands during a time of great cultural and societal change. Opening this May, Landseer – A Highland Romance at Grantown Museum brings together rarely seen works by the artist to explore how our sense of Highland culture has been shaped by his enduring imagery.

The exhibition includes paintings from the Royal Collection, Woburn Abbey and The University of Dundee, as well as works on paper from private collections, and photographs from the museum’s own collection. The loans are supported by the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund. Created by the Garfield Weston Foundation and Art Fund, the Weston Loan Programme is the first ever UK-wide funding scheme to enable smaller and local authority museums to borrow works of art and artefacts from national collections.

Dan Cottam, manager of Grantown Museum said, ‘It will be a wonderful opportunity to get up close and personal with an incredibly talented artist, a household name in his day, whose position in society meant he played a hand in shaping the way people see the Highlands and Highlanders to this day. We are giving today’s Highlanders a chance to see some of Landseer’s original paintings and sketches which are rarely seen in public and tell the story of the land that inspired him and his relationships with the influential people who shared his passions in and of the Cairngorms. We are most excited to bring The Highlander and The Highland Lassie from the Royal Collection back to the Highlands – two works created by the artist at the pinnacle of his career.’

19thC engraving of ‘The Eagle’s Nest’ © Grantown Museum

Landseer‘s (1802 – 1873) personal and professional life was irrevocably changed when he met the Duke and Duchess of Bedford. Pioneers in the worlds of science and the arts, this trailblazing pair were instrumental in shaping Landseer’s rise to the top of the art world. Their patronage, influence and affection during the summers they shared in the Cairngorms would see Landseer inspired by a new landscape and way of life.

A love for the Highlands was famously shared by another couple – Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Landseer’s depictions appealed to the Royal couple’s ideal of a simple way of living, away from the stifling city and the confines of society life. Their new Highland residence, Balmoral, was within riding distance of the tiny enclave of rustic cottages at Glen Feshie that the Duchess had taken for pleasure.

With royal patronage and influence in high society, Landseer’s fame grew and prints of his work would soon be hanging in the parlours of the Victorian middle classes. His images, including the much-loved Monarch of the Glen, are popular to this day.

Landseer – A Highland Romance will look at the artist’s relationship with the Cairngorms and with his influential patrons, as well as the role that Victorian celebrity played in creating an artificially romantic notion of the Highlands and of the people who lived there.

The paintings on display demonstrate Landseer’s brilliance in the use of narrative and mythology to appeal to Victorian sensibilities, while his lesser known personal collection of landscape sketches illustrate how he came to understand and use the unique Highland environment in his larger works.

Long stays in fashionable shooting estates provided the perfect subject matter to exploit Landseer’s talent for animal painting and portraiture. His many unapologetic and often graphic depictions of ‘the stalk’ helped to cement a growing passion for field sports that has been tremendously influential on the economy, environment and social structure of the Highlands.

This exhibition will give visitors the opportunity to explore the realities and myths of Highland identities, the interaction of celebrity and art, and the changes in land use in the 19th century that continue to affect this precious landscape today.

Sophia Weston, Trustee of the Garfield Weston Foundation, said: “We are pleased that the Weston Loan Programme is supporting the display of these paintings at Granton-on-Spey’s community museum. Our programme is all about helping museums tell compelling stories through significant loans, and this is a perfect opportunity to encounter Landseer’s work amid the landscape that so inspired him.”

Exhibition Details

Landseer – A Highland Romance, 13th May until 30th September 2023 at Grantown Museum, Grantown-on-Spey PH263HH

Museum admission: £4 (free for children & members)

For more information or images please contact: Dan Cottam, Museum manager, Grantown Museum: dan@grantownmuseum.co.uk

Museum of the Highlands – A Digital Learning Hub

Museum of the Highlands – A Digital Learning Hub

With a launch date set for the end of May, The Museum of the Highlands digital learning hub is almost ready for you to explore. MHH Innovation and Network Manager, Nicola Henderson, offers a little background on how we got to this point and the aims of the project.

When the country went into lockdown in 2020, museums across the Highlands (like museums all over the world) looked for new ways to engage with their audiences. Many already had a digital presence, but it was very much secondary to the physical. Now digital was everything. This was particularly true for museum education content. How do you engage with young people and schools when your core asset – your museum – is closed? As a sector, we experimented with downloadable pdfs, online activities and virtual visits, to name a few initiatives. These were very successful, not just with our local audiences but with schools and families across the world. Suddenly, we weren’t just offering resources and activities for our local communities but for anyone, anywhere, who was interested. The potential was huge.

However, many of our small – medium-sized museums already work over capacity. As we began to open up our buildings and demand for in-person interactions rose again, maintaining and capitalising on the opportunity offered by this global reach was challenging.

Museums across the Highlands get together through monthly online ‘Heritage Cafes’ – informal gatherings on Zoom to share challenges, and successes, ask questions and meet with colleagues. The focus of one session was education and our museums. How could we meet this challenge, grabbing the opportunities while maintaining and nurturing local relationships?

Through discussion, we decided that a collaborative approach – a central hub that could host content and point to museums and their unique offers – could be the answer. Sharing the work, sharing the learning, sharing the reach and potential. This idea grew arms and legs. And, thanks to funding from Art Fund and Museums Galleries Scotland, has become the Museum of the Highlands digital learning hub.

Over the last year, we have worked with museums across the Highlands to create a dynamic digital learning hub enabling children, young people and teachers to discover and engage with museum collections in new and exciting ways. Fifteen museums from across the region have collaborated and worked closely with our Digital Learning and Interpretation Specialists by bringing objects from their collections together to create a digital portal into the rich history and culture of the Highlands.

The learning hub will allow users to access museum collections and learning resources related to objects and topics for use at home or in the classroom, with the functionality to contact museums directly to set up virtual or in-person learning visits.

The site is sponsored by Ilum Studio to help with ongoing maintenance costs and to develop new activities in the future. This ongoing support is essential to the project, ensuring that it doesn’t fall to our already overstretched museums to maintain – it will also allow the website to grow and adapt as feedback is received and we are very grateful to the team at Ilum Studio for supporting us through year 1.

The team of Rosie Goodwin and Freya Samuel as Digital Learning and Interpretation Specialists, have led the curation of the objects and designing the associated learning games and resources in partnership with teachers and young people. In the lead up to the launch of the website, Freya and Rosie will introduce you to the process and types of activities you will find on the site.

I am excited to share the project with you – it is no small task working with the collections of fifteen museums and ensuring content and activities meet the needs of teachers and parents. I believe we have created an engaging, fun and, most importantly, user-friendly site that will support schools, families and museums to engage meaningfully with museum collections in the classroom.

Museums gearing up for new season!

Museums gearing up for new season!

Many, but not all, Highland Museums close or reduce their hours during the winter season, giving them time to care for their collections, research new exhibitions and take time to plan for the future. As Easter approaches many of our museums are getting ready to welcome visitors once again.

Whether they close completely, reduce their hours or keep on going as normal, Highland museums always see the Easter holidays as a chance for a re-awakening. A chance to encourage you to rediscover their collections, visit a new exhibition, attend some exciting events or just pop in for a chat. Whether you are a local or a visitor to the area, you can be guaranteed a warm and friendly welcome. We have a handy map on this website that can help you see where our museums are located as you plan your visit and their listings have contact details so that you can reach out directly to see what is happening and when they are open. Visit the map here.

Two of our museums have some very exciting events coming up. Clyne Heritage Society are celebrating 25 years in existence and have an extensive and fascinating series of events to mark the occasion. You can view a full list of what’s happening here.

And just a little further north in Castletown, Castlehill Heritage Centre is launching a new exhibition to also celebrate an anniversary. Mucking in for 100 years!  will feature themed displays of stories, photographs, tools and implements from CHC’s local Olrig parish farming heritage.  The exhibition is being run in conjunction with the Caithness District Young Farmers Association which is celebrating its centenary this year.



Museum and heritage representatives will gather in Inverness for our first Highland Heritage Conference. Sealladh will take place at Inverness Creative Academy on the 20th – 21st April, 2023.  

The conference will focus on issues impacting our heritage sector. Alongside presentations by delegates from across the Highlands, speakers from national organisations Museums and Galleries Scotland, National Lottery Heritage Fund and Museums Association will share invaluable insights into resourcing our heritage and empowering our workforce. 

Anyone who works or volunteers in the heritage sector is welcome to attend.

The event is organised by Museums and Heritage Highland, a charity formed in 2019 to promote collaborative working and provide a supportive voice for the Highland heritage sector. It is supported through the Museums Galleries Scotland Forums Fund project and is made possible with The National Lottery Heritage Fund, thanks to National Lottery players. The event is further supported by Smartify, the world’s most downloaded museum app, and Highland Tourism CIC, who are working with the sector to create a world-leading sustainable destination and premium environmental tourism brand.

Nicola Henderson, Museums and Heritage Highlands Digital Innovation and Network Manager, said:

“The conference schedule is packed with sessions focusing on innovation and digital skills, managing capital projects, caring for collections and fundraising. There are also discussions around tourism in the Highlands underpinned by rich heritage as well as well-being in museums.

“The first session will be a fun ice breaker, where we will learn more about the diversity of skills in the sector, the professional needs of our heritage colleagues and how we bring those two together. We are planning a ‘Pecha Kucha’ inviting delegates to present a project and discuss how they have responded to the demands of the last few years. We will also discuss complex issues such as the decolonisation of museums and how we ensure our collections are accessible and representative of all society today.”

“The event is an opportunity to discuss and develop plans for the future of our heritage sector. That’s where the event name came from, Sealladh, meaning perspective or view in Gaelic.”

Helen Avenell, Museums and Heritage Highlands Projects and Partnerships Manager, added:

“Our network of museums, galleries and heritage organisations reaches from Strathnaver on the North coast to Gairloch, Granton and Glencoe. Over the past few years, we have held regular online meet-ups, this is the first conference we have organised. We are excited to see our colleagues from across the Highlands in person and looking forward to meeting new members. I encourage anyone working or volunteering in museums or heritage organisations to come along.

“Although we are a Highland-based organisation, many topics we will focus on are relevant to every heritage organisation. We hope to attract heritage delegates from beyond the Highland region to Inverness for this event.”

There will be a screening of Dùthchas – Home, a touching and emotive exploration of what it meant, and still means, to people, especially women, to have to leave the island of their birth to get an education, work, and live. In this, the third documentary feature film ever to be made in Gaelic, Co-directors Kirsty MacDonald (Comas Creative) and Andy Mackinnon (UistFilm) explore the effect this movement had on the Gaelic language and culture of the Isle of Berneray in the Outer Hebrides.

Sealladh – Highland Heritage Conference, takes place 20th and 21st April, 2023 in Inverness. Programme info and tickets are available via Eventbrite

More information on our sponsors:

Highland Tourism CIC

Together we will create a world-leading premium environmental tourism brand. With communities, our ambassadors and partners, we will build on the Highlands’ natural, historic and cultural assets and showcase them to the world. We will work in partnership with stakeholders across all sectors to create a dynamic environment in which tourism businesses and their communities are supported and encouraged to become conscious hosts, ready to deliver the exceptional, immersive and authentic experiences that the growing conscious tourism market is now seeking. Ultimately, we will leverage this vision of a sustainable, wellbeing destination to position The Highlands as one of the world’s most inspiring and welcoming places to live, work, visit, study and invest. highlandtourism.org


Smartify connects people to art. Trusted by cultural organisations around the world; we entertain, enliven and enrich audiences.  Because when we’re inspired, we’re unstoppable. 

Smartify’s innovative technology and engaging storytelling makes cultural heritage accessible for a global audience. Our expert creative team delivers the best mobile experiences with highly engaging stories through audio, video and podcasts. Smartify productions are contemporary, thoughtful and entertaining.

More than 2 million artworks from the world’s greatest museums have been scanned on the platform, accessed by more than 3 million registered users through state-of-the-art object recognition, digital wayfinding and augmented reality. That, combined with speed, reliability and depth, makes Smartify the world’s most successful museum application. smartify.org

More information on the film Dùthchas – Home www.duthchas.org 

MHH Welcomes new board members!

MHH Welcomes new board members!

There have been a few changes on the MHH board recently. At the end of last year we sadly said goodbye to our secretary Graham Watson. Graham was a great asset to the organisation and helped us find our feet in the early days. His advice and cander was very much appreciated and we wish him well in his next endeavours. We have had a few free places on the board for a while and so undertook a campaign to encourage new people to join the network – in particular with skills in marketing/audience development, tourism and HR. We received a positive response to this call out and have added 4 new members in recent weeks. Welcome to Ben Thomas, Joe Derry Setch, Sophie Foot and Jason Martin. We are delighted to add such a variety of skills and experience to the board and look forward to working with them on our shared mission of helping Highland heritage to thrive.

Ben Thomas
Ben is Research Manager at Historic Environment Scotland, where he undertakes and supports research to understand the values and benefits of Scotland’s heritage.  He is particularly interested in community heritage and intangible cultural heritage, and is Principal Investigator on the Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded Outreach to Ownership community research pilot with Historic England.  Ben has previously worked at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and the University of Dundee.  In his spare time, Ben is a board member of Gairloch Museum, and the editor of the Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness.  He grew up in Gairloch, and lives and works in Inverness.

Joe Derry Setch
Joe is a Marketing and Communications Officer at Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS), the national development body for museums. His work at MGS involves creating digital content, planning campaigns, taking photos, and offering marketing advice. He is interested in exploring how museums can improve the accessibility and inclusivity of their digital and physical spaces, particularly with regard to LGBTQ+ history and culture. As a member of the MHH board, he hopes to support museums which are exploring their approaches to marketing, accessibility, and inclusivity. Previous jobs include front-of-house work at National Museums Scotland and a museum assistant role at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery. He has a background in Scottish early modern history, and spends his free time drawing, gaming, and playing badminton.

Sophie Foot
Sophie is originally from the Scottish Highlands, north of Inverness and now lives in The Hague, The Netherlands. Her academic background is in Ancient History and Egyptology, but she is fascinated by most areas of global history, ancient or modern and connections that are visible across cultures and time periods. I moved to Edinburgh for my Bachelors Degree in Ancient History, and then to The Netherlands for my Masters in Egyptology. Sophie brings experience in the creative and technology industries. She is interested in combining technology with history and heritage in innovative ways, to encourage audiences to be more engaged in heritage, especially using immersive technology to allow the audience to feel like they are participating in historical events. Sophie is our new secretary.

Jason Martin
Jason recently returned to his hometown of Inverness having lived in Edinburgh for several years. He originally studied MA in historical studies at the University of Glasgow. He started his career in heritage as a volunteer at Culloden battlefield before joining the team as a learning assistant for a season, primarily guiding and working with school groups. Jason went on to work for Mercat Tours, 5 star award winning walking tour company in Edinburgh, before moving on to tour operator with Absolute Escapes, in their operations department planning holidays around the UK. His current position is Destination Development Manager at the Cairngorms Business Partnership, the Chamber of Commerce and they operate VisitCairngorms. Jason is involved in various projects around the National Park, leading the development of CBP climate action plan, product development, business engagement and brings experience in marketing and working with travel trade. 

Kyle Station Museum

Kyle Station Museum

Step inside our historic station building and discover the intertwined stories of Kyle Harbour, West Coast fishing and the Kyle Line – one of the world’s most scenic train journeys. Inside you’ll find a fascinating collection of historic and quirky artefacts linked to the Kyle Line, alongside a new gallery using archive pictures and films to bring alive Kyle’s marine and local history. Children can enjoy our trails and hands-on activities, and there’s also an archive room and a well-stocked gift shop. The museum was founded by volunteers who campaigned to save the Kyle Line from closure in the 1970s, and all income supports the work of our charity.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KyleStationMuseum/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kylestationmuseum/ 

Website: https://www.kylestationmuseum.org