Help West Highland Museum bring Bonnie Prince Charlie home

picture of west highland museum from the outside

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

St Demhan's Cross, Creich © Ewen Weatherspoon

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

Picture of outside of Timespan museum - brown top half and yellow bottom half of building with the letters in yellow of the name (timespan) across the brown wood on the top half

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!

view of glen with community members standing in circle surveying site

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.

Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service awarded to West Highland Museum

Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service awarded to West Highland Museum

The West Highland Museum is very pleased to announce that we have been awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award given to charitable organisations.  It is the equivalent of an MBE for volunteering.

Volunteers have been at the heart of West Highland Museum activities since it was founded almost 100 years ago.  However, over the past decade volunteers have made an even more important contribution to the running of the museum when free entry to the museum was introduced in 2011 to increase visitor engagement.  Over this period our visitor numbers rose from 9,000 – 60,800.  Volunteers have been core to our success and deliver core services at every level of the museum operations, from greeting visitors, to governance, to assisting with curation, DIY, and providing learning activities.

Ian Peter Macdonald, Chair of the Board of the West Highland Museum Trust said “The West Highland Museum are delighted that the value of their volunteers has been recognised for a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.  The volunteers who support our museum range from board members to acknowledged experts who give their time and intellect freely. The bulk of our volunteers are local enthusiasts who welcome the visitor to the museum with pride, knowledge and a generous smile. The museum provides a stimulating activity for an often, retired community where they enjoy their companionship with their colleagues, enjoy engaging with the visitor and where they can enjoy learning a little more every day.”


Perth Museum trip 2019 – Morag MacNeil Christine Hutchison Irving Nixon Jenny Beattie Sonja McLachlan Colleen Barker John Bruce David MacFarlane Vanessa Martin Betty Bruce & Alan Kirk

Coinciding with Volunteers’ Week, the Queen’s Award recognises that volunteers have been vital throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and will continue to be as the country emerges from lockdown.  Volunteers’ Week is an annual celebration for the UK to recognise those who have dedicated their time to support their local community, both through the pandemic, and over many years.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service Independent Committee Chair Sir Martyn Lewis, said the awards “highlight the growing and key role which volunteers are playing in times of rapid change and unprecedented challenges. Whether driven by a neighbourly passion to help others or to achieve that well recognised “high” of personal satisfaction, volunteering taps into a rich spirit of generosity, ingenuity and kindness. The Queen’s Award’s judges are proud to honour the achievements of those who help to make our country great.”

Minister for Civil Society, Baroness Barran said, “I’m extremely grateful for the work being carried out by volunteers across the country, and this prestigious award is extremely well deserved. I’d like to congratulate all of the winners, and thank them for the dedication to their communities.”

Volunteers are essential to the success of the West Highland Museum.  Due to the impact of COVID-19 our volunteer numbers have halved since 2019.  If you would like to join our dynamic volunteer team, please contact Sonja on 01397 702169 for an informal chat, or email us on info@westhighlandmuseum.org.uk 

MYseum May

MYseum May

Museums across the Highlands are welcoming back their local communities with free (or greatly reduced) entry, inviting them to see new exhibitions and acquisitions first!

To celebrate the reopening of museums, following COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, thirteen Highlands and Islands museums are taking part in a new MYseum campaign which sees them offering free (or reduced priced) entry to local residents for the month of May. 

Starting this Saturday (May 1) The MYseum campaign is designed to encourage residents local to each museum to rediscover the history and heritage on their doorstep and re-engage with their local museums, many of which have remained closed for the past year. 

Local museums, which are run primarily by volunteers, have been hit-hard during the pandemic as they rely heavily on income from visitors, but with support from XpoNorth Heritage and Museums and Heritage Highland many have worked hard during lockdown to reimagine their offering and produce engaging online content to stay connected to their communities – locally and internationally. Examples include Groam House Museum’s ‘Groam at Home’ collection which saw worldwide attendees discover and enjoy the museum’s content and its work to digitise the George Bain Collection, a recognised collection of national significance to Scotland. Highland Folk Museum launched its Badenoch Shinty Memories project and an online exhibition titled ‘Am Baile’ and West Highland Museum created a digital gallery in partnership with the University of St Andrews showcasing 100 objects in its collection.

As lockdown restrictions ease, local museums are eager to welcome visitors back to their venues by extending a warm welcome to local families. Some of the museums taking part in the initiative include Glencoe Folk Museum, which is putting its hugely popular Clan Donald Genealogical Chart on display; Museum of the Isles, Armadale Castle, Skye, which is launching a new outdoor learning space in early summer for Covid-safe family activities and events; Art Fund Museum of the Year, Gairloch Museum which has a new animation on the Gille Dubh, narrated by Sam Heughan, a new exhibition on Botanical Art by Cindie Reiter and a new photography exhibition, Scotland from the Sky to share; Highland Museum of Childhood, which will be unveiling its new main gallery following a lockdown refurbishment; Dingwall Museum, which will be opening with a fantastic new installation of the Conan Pictish Stone; Cromarty Courthouse Museum, which has installed a new digital sound system over lockdown and is launching a new soundscape experience, scripted and voiced by local people; Groam House Museum is launching with a fascinating exhibition, The Book Of Kells, Some Mysteries Revealed, exploring how The Book of Kells has inspired two specific artists and craftspeople: George Bain and Thomas Keyes; Inverness Museum and Art Gallery has created a dog-themed family trail around the museum to launch its latest acquisition: ‘On the Moors’ – an oil painting by Richard Ansdell; and Grantown Museum has a brand new Victorian  gallery to explore, ‘Grantown: 1882’ including 21 gorgeous replica costumes on display ready for its ‘Adventures in Costume’ project to begin. 

Six further museums, Castlehill Heritage Centre, West Highland Museum, Wick Heritage Museum, Brora Heritage Centre, Tain Museum and Nairn Museum are all expected to re-open in June. 

Talking about the MYseum campaign, Nicola Henderson, Heritage Sector Specialist at XpoNorth said: ‘’The independent museum sector has been hard hit during the pandemic with some museums not being open since the end of 2019. However, with support from organisations such as XpoNorth and Museums and Heritage Highland, all have been very agile in finding new ways to engage online and through collaborating with each other on activities such as the beautiful Highland Threads exhibition, showcasing 14 costumes from across the region through video and photography, and the Highland Objects podcast series. Now they are ready to welcome back visitors and they want to start with their local community. Staff, volunteers and visitors will all be nervous as we adjust to visiting venues again so their invitation to the community is to say thank you and welcome back, allowing them to engage with their exhibitions and new objects on display first and to help build confidence for all in this new world.’

Museums are offering free or reduced entry for local residents on presentation of proof of address. Re-opening dates vary. For detailed information on opening times and booking policies, please contact the museum directly before travel. 

-ENDS-

Museum Details 

Glencoe Folk Museum

Reopening 13th May – Thurs-Sunday only, 11-3pm, last entry 2.30pm. 

Free entry to locals

Museum of the Isles, Armadale Castle, Skye

Reopening – 26th April. Open daily 9.30 – 17.30, museum 9.45 – 17.00

Paid entry for all – but significant discounts for locals (Skye, Lochalsh, Mallaig) 

Gairloch Museum

Reopening – 27th April

Free entry for locals from April 27 to May 15 – contact the museum on 01445 712 287 or by email to office@gairlochmuseum.org to arrange your booking. 

Ullapool Museum

Reopening – 30th April – 22nd May for Locals 

Free access for locals, but donations welcome.

Castlehill Heritage Centre 

Reopening – early/mid June  

Entry always free to all – donations welcome.  Fully accessible and ample parking.

Wick Heritage Museum

Reopening 4th June

Free entry to locals for first 2 weeks

Timespan 

Reopens on May 17th, 2021
Price: Adult £4, Concession £3, Child£2, Family£10 (2 adults & 2 children), Group concession (over10 people) £2.65, Group £3.50 (over 10 people), School group £1.75.

Free entry to locals and members.

Opening times: every day, 10am – 5pm.
Please note, the museum and cafe capacity have been reduced to ensure social distancing. You can book a slot in advance by contacting us on 01431 821327 | enquiries@timespan.org.uk

Brora Heritage Centre

Re-opening: End June (date TBC

Historylinks Dornoch

Reopening – Monday 26th April. 

Admission £4 for adults £3.00 for concessions. Members and children are free. We have a limit of 10 people in the museum and this is controlled by a traffic light system. Online booking is available but not essential.

Open day with free admission to the local community on Saturday 22nd May (TBC)

Tain Museum

Reopening – 28th June. Free for locals

Tarbat Discovery Centre

Reopening – 1st May.  pre booked visits only for up to 6 individuals from two households. Please go to https://www.tarbat-discovery.co.uk/booking-formpage to view the available times and book your visit. 

Highland Museum of Childhood

Reopening – Thursday 20th May and will be open Thursday to Saturday, 11:00-16:00 and Sundays, 12:00-16:00. 

Free access to all for May.

Dingwall Museum

Reopening – mid May, exact date TBC. 

Free for all

Cromarty Courthouse Museum

Reopening on Saturday 29th May, our 2021 season will run to Thursday 30 September.

Opening hours: 12.00am – 4.00pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays plus Bank Holiday Mondays. Closed on Mondays and Fridays.

Free admission to all.

Groam House Museum

Groam House Museum, High Street, Rosemarkie IV10 8UF
https://groamhouse.org.uk

Reopening 1st May – weekend afternoons only. Additional opening over the summer. Please book via our website or at the museum.

Entry to the museum is free. 

Inverness Museum and Art Gallery 

Reopening – 27th April. Entry by donation. Booking is advisable (as we have a maximum capacity) but not essential. 

Tuesday – Saturday: 10.00-13.00 and 13.45-17.00  (last booking at 16.00)

Sunday & Monday: CLOSED

Highlanders Museum, Fort George

Reopening – 30th April, everyday from 10am. Entry to museum is free, but you do have to pay to enter Fort George – unless you become a member of the museum (£10 a year) then you can get full free entry. https://www.thehighlandersmuseum.com/

Nairn Museum 

Reopening – start of June (TBC Thursday 3rd) Limited day of opening,  Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 11-3pm

Grantown Museum 

Reopening – 1st May, everyday apart from Tuesdays. Free access to all in May

Highland Folk Museum 

Reopening – 5th May, entry by donation.  7 days 10am – 5pm

Collaborative Project links:

Highland Threads – www.HighlandThreads.co.uk

Highland Objects – https://highlandobjects.wordpress.com/

Thanks to Gairloch Museum for the picture – featured are the Front of House team Eilidh Smith, Beryl Seaman and Barbara Mackenzie

Reflecting on Highland Threads

Reflecting on Highland Threads

Catriona Davidson, curator at Glencoe Folk Museum, writes about being part of the Museums and Heritage Highland Network and getting involved in the Highland Threads Exhibition.

Being part of Museums and Heritage Highland has been fantastic for Glencoe Folk Museum. As a small museum with only one full-time member of staff (myself, though the past couple of years we have employed a Redevelopment Manager), having access to the resources, expertise and advise of staff across a range of Highland museums has been invaluable. 

Highland Threads is a great example of how MHH has helped smaller museums. We chose to put forward our 18th Century Spitalfields Silks dress for the exhibition, partly because it is the most beautiful item of costume in our collection and partly because it required more work than can be done with just one member of staff. The dress has been on an inappropriate and unsuitable mannequin for years: it was the wrong shape for the style and was putting strain on the already damaged silk. Previous attempts to remove or improve the dress led us to the conclusion that once it was removed from its current mannequin it would not be going back on, and we didn’t want to handle the fragile material more than once. That meant that before we did anything we needed a suitable replacement mannequin, the assistance of a conservator to direct us in how to handle the dress and to make a condition assessment while it was loose, the input of someone who could tell us how the dress would have been worn so that we could fashion the mannequin appropriately, plus funding for all of the above! So, when Highland Threads came along, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for us to achieve something that we had been working towards for years, while also getting to contribute to a fantastic collaborative project. 

Another unexpected bonus for us was that we discovered more about the history of our dress. This dress has very little provenance other than that the silk was woven probably in Spitalfields in 1740, and it was being used as a dressing up costume (and was put in the washing machine!) before being donated to the museum in the 1970s. However when MHH took on the services of Rebecca Olds, a Dress Historian with particular expertise in 18th Century costume, she was able to read the history of the dress in its stitches, tucks and threads, painting a detailed picture of a well-loved gown that was passed down through different generations and fashions. It is so much more than we ever expected when we joined this project, and certainly much more than we would have likely achieved by ourselves.   

Seeing our dress up on the website alongside beautiful, intricate and fascinating items from other museums makes us really feel like part of a Highland museum community, and we’re so grateful to MHH for creating opportunities like this for small museums. 

You can visit www.highlandthreads.co.uk to see the full exhibition and support Highland Museums.

Highland Threads…Getting Inventive in Glencoe

Highland Threads…Getting Inventive in Glencoe

This week we are joined by conservator Rachael Thomas who has worked with our museums to provide some much needed love and care for some of the costumes and to assist with mounting them before their image was to be captured.

When I was first asked if I would be interested in helping to mount some costumes for an upcoming project I jumped at the chance. I feel very privileged that over the years I’ve been given the chance to have a nosey within the stores of many of the museums involved, but even for me it’s pretty rare to get a chance to look at costumes and textiles as, being some of the most fragile things we care for, they are often packed away to avoid damage from light and handling.  

Working with museums across such as huge area initially sounded daunting, especially given that the distance between the most northern and southern venue is almost 200 miles. But it’s a credit to every museum within the area that with enthusiasm and pragmatism they were able to transport items to a few key hubs in the more rural areas. In each museum an open area suitable for mounting and photography was found or created, and where possible I was provided with photographs of the costumes being worn by their original owners which helped to give me a background on what I was looking to achieve.

On paper there isn’t much to putting a costume on a mannequin – any areas that require more support are padded with polyester wadding which is sewn on to the mannequin, and a cover material is added to ensure that the wadding doesn’t snag on to the interior of the costume. But when it comes to mounting historical clothing the standard size of mannequin often doesn’t represent who a dress was made for, especially when you factor in tiny waists and small statures. And within this collection of costumes three of the dresses have also been modified by family members of their first owner. As very specific shapes for a very specific person, getting these items to look correct on a modern mannequin was often both tricky and time consuming. The undergarments also play a huge role in supporting these unusual shapes. There’s always an element of ‘make do and mend’ when working within small museums, and in the case of creating the exaggerated sides of the Glencoe silk dress we knew that no matter how much polyester wadding we used it would never be enough, so we ended up with a full-sized bustles on either side of the mannequin.

What’s always great about doing an exhibition is that not only do we get to show off some of our objects that otherwise would be within store, but also that by collaboration we can learn so much more about the objects themselves. In this case, being able to remove Dornoch’s silk dress from it’s previous mount gave us a chance to scrutinise the interior stitching, which in turn tells a story about how the upper part of the dress has been modified over the years. It was incredibly odd to be looking at a dress in Dornoch, using my phone to show dress historian Rebecca Olds in Sussex, what the interior stitches look like. Within only a few minutes of this she was able to confirm that fewer alteration had been made than she had previously though. What a brilliant use for technology and what a rewarding experience knowing that my work can in turn help inform Rebecca, the museum’s curator and everyone else out there with an interest in this dress.

I think there can sometimes be a misunderstanding that people who work within museums would ideally like everything packed away in safety, in a dark, locked storeroom. But that’s not true – the delight on the faces of staff and volunteers who were able to see their costumes out of boxes and mounted ready to be shown to the world was a real reward. With such amazing collections, and interest from across the world, I hope this is the first of many excuses to have a rummage around our collections and share some more of the gems we have hidden within museums across the Highlands. 

Launching 1 April 2021, Highland Threads exhibition will be found at www.highlandthreads.co.uk, but until then you keep up to date with progress here (on the MHH site) and across social media using #HighlandThreads. Book tickets for the launch here.

Our partner museums are: Glencoe MuseumInverness Museum & Art GalleryGairloch Museum, Ullapool MuseumGrantown MuseumWest Highland MuseumHighland Museum of ChildhoodCastlehill Heritage CentreTain through TimeWick Heritage MuseumHighland Folk MuseumGroam House MuseumStrathnaver Museum and Dornoch Historylinks.