Take 5 – Discover childhood in the past

Yellow picture with a pencil drawing of a girl and of a doll with the wording 'Florence and Tissie'

‘Take 5’ is our series of blog posts, each highlighting the incredible objects and activities on Museum of the Highlands – a digital learning hub for use in the classroom or at home. They’ve been put together to help you explore key themes in the classroom by museums education specialist Rosie Barrett. Whatever you’re teaching, Take 5 will help you discover amazing objects and stories from across the Highlands.

Take 5 – Discover childhood in the past
From across the Highlands, you can access lots of objects to help you explore the history of childhood.

1) You could start with the Victorian abacus with a difference from Grantown Museum. It comes from the days when children could be beaten for not learning their maths fast enough.
Abacus | Museum of the Highlands
Try listening to the sound it makes as an intriguing introduction to this object in ‘What’s that Noise?’
NOISE-12 | Museum of the Highlands

2) For a more cheerful look at childhood, the Highland Museum of Childhood has a number of fascinating toys to explore, including a nurse dressing up outfit.
Child’s Nurse Dressing-up Costume | Museum of the Highlands
Two home-made toys are great for exploring the ‘make do and mend’ era. Check out a simple skipping rope and a much more intricate hand-made dolls’ house.
Jill’s Biggin Croft House | Museum of the Highlands
Bobbin Skipping Rope | Museum of the Highlands

3) Museum objects are great for thinking about our own attitudes to toys today and whether we should be reusing and recycling more toys. You can hold a debate with ‘The Big Question’, which asks should children stop getting new toys?Should children stop getting new toys? | Museum of the Highlands

4) Discover the delightful interactive story of Tissie, a special doll with two different owners from the Highland Museum of Childhood. Your students can decide if they could give away a favourite toy to make someone else happy.
Florence & Tissie | Museum of the Highlands

5) Finally, learn about the impact of working life on children in the past. Use the fun quizzes, ‘Could You Survive’ to find out more about the perils of life for the children of lighthouse keepers near Gairloch and those sent down Brora mine.
A coal mine | Museum of the Highlands
Life in a Lighthouse | Museum of the Highlands
Or create a memorial to remember the child miners of the past.
Children in Mines | Museum of the Highlands

Take 5 – Explore environmental impact

Box containing rows of different sized bird's eggs

‘Take 5’ is our series of blog posts, each highlighting the incredible objects and activities on Museum of the Highlands – a digital learning hub for use in the classroom or at home. They’ve been put together to help you explore key themes in the classroom by museums education specialist Rosie Barrett. Whatever you’re teaching, Take 5 will help you discover amazing objects and stories from across the Highlands.

Take 5 – Explore environmental impact

Climate change is never far from our minds. If you’re looking to explore the environmental impact of the way we lead our lives with your students, we’ve got lots of resources to help you.

1) People of the past have been very resourceful with natural materials. This pot scrubber from Gairloch Museum needed no packaging and made use of simple, easily available materials.
Natural Heather Pot Scrubber | Museum of the Highlands
Use the ‘What’s that Noise?’ activity to guess what’s making the sound as a nice way to introduce the topic.
Natural Heather Pot Scrubber | Museum of the Highlands

2) Take this further by thinking about the materials we use today. Consider objects in the past that would be made of plastic today through this stoneware lemonade bottle from Brora Heritage Centre.
Dingwall Lemonade Bottle | Museum of the Highlands
Then, explore if the time has now come to ban plastic packaging with ‘The Big Question’ activity on the site.
Is it time we banned plastic packaging? | Museum of the Highlands

3) How have people made changes to their behaviour? Discover why we no longer collect birds’ eggs, and the decimating effect this hobby had on the bird population through an incredible collection of eggs from Gairloch Museum.
Collection of Birds’ Eggs | Museum of the Highlands
You can use the ‘Object in Focus’ activity at the bottom of the page (in the link above) to let your students guess what the object could be.

4) Make a memorial for declining animal species with the activity ‘On Reflection’ – or pledge to take positive action to help today.
Declining Animal Species | Museum of the Highlands

5) Finally, decide if we should take more drastic steps to reduce our environmental impact. Use objects from across the Highlands to debate, ‘Should we stop having holidays for the sake of the planet?’ in ‘The Big Question’ activity.
Should we stop having holidays? | Museum of the Highlands

The Unsung Heroes of Gaelic Development

The Unsung Heroes of Gaelic Development

With the current provision of Gaelic Development Officers (GDOs) across the region under threat, we have invited Anna MacQuarrie (Gaelic Museum Development Officer, working for Applecross Historical Society, Gairloch Museum, Highland Museum of Childhood and West Highland Museum) to highlight the important work our GDOs do and how the loss of this role will impact Gaelic development across the Highland region, most especially in our museums.

Museums demonstrate brilliantly the transformational impact that one well-placed funded role can make to a community. Across Scotland there have been around 30 such posts employed as Gaelic Development Officers (GDOs) since 2021, working to increase the number of people speaking, using and engaging with Gaelic. I am one of these GDOs. So it was devasting to learn this February that the scheme will end with no future funding put towards it. It had been funded partly by core Bòrd na Gàidhlig budget, with c£350,000 additional top-up funds from the Scottish Government. A trifling amount of money in the context of Government budgets, but hugely significant in a community context.

A pic of Anna MaQuarrie - a young woman with long dark hair, wearing glasses.

Working across sectors covering heritage, community development, the arts, youth engagement and the environment, these roles have seen transformational change in their organisations and communities, a majority of which are in the Highlands and Islands. There has been a distinct sense of hope and optimism associated with these roles, with meaningful and appropriately paid work opportunities for professionals often in rural areas. That the roles have been Gaelic-specific has been a necessary and very welcome step – putting the language and culture at the heart of all the activity happening, whether that is organising local music sessions, biodversity workshops, art exhibitions, or football camps for hundreds of young people across the country. Sometimes this work has been in areas where Gaelic remains a community language, in other areas it hasallowed people to re-engage, or engage for the first time, with it. It has been an unmitigated success, with Gaelic strengthened in response to community needs. One such example is with my own colleagues at West Highland Museum where, with Comunn na Gàidhlig, a national youth development group, we have delivered badly-needed extra-curricular sessions for Gaelic-speaking young people. This has contributed to them developing a sense of pride and ownership in and of their culture and the museum collections, and has given them vital social opportunities outwith a school setting.

My role has been a particularly rare beast among the wider GDO network, with museums outside the Hebrides generally slow to put Gaelic-specific work at the core of their developmental aims. These cuts will affect not just my work, but also GDOs in vital Highland cultural organisations like Fèisean nan Gàidheal, Fèis Rois, Eden Court, the Shieling Project, An Comunn Gàidhealach and SEALL. There are many more working in other areas which also impact the Highlands – the strength of the Gaelic community is the well-connected ecosystem in which we live and operate. But all of this is is now at risk.

As Gaels we have a distinctive worldview and, traditionally, customs and perspectives very different to that of the English-speaking world. The landscapes we love and Highland traditions we enjoy have been shaped by practices rooted in Gaelic culture. As has been well documented, a few hundred years of systematic oppression instilled a deep internalised shame in some generations that still lives on in some speakers to this day. However, Gaelic still remains – and is the backbone – to the culture of the areas in which our museums are located. It’s a language of poetry, song, landscape, nature and a culture of vibrant creative expression, holding a deep connection to who and what came before.

At the MHH Sealladh conference in 2023 I gave a brief introduction to my job and asked of the audience “If you’re not including Gaelic in your work then I’d ask you to reflect on why, and what you might be able to do?” It led to a huge amount of interest from attending heritage organisations, asking how they could begin to undertake similar work. While I’ve seen positive early steps, it needs people on the ground to deliver the work.

What else can Gaelic offer Highland museums? So many of the museums across the region are built upon a history lived by Gaelic speakers, whether or not it is explicitly recognised as such. Many Gaelic-language collections lie in stores without the expertise to interpret them – not a fault of any particular museum but sympomatic of our sector, which is already under-resourced. Gaelic offers the chance to engage with questions of decolonisation and climate breakdown from a distinct perspective, something which is increasingly being asked of us all as museum professionals. The work being done by GDOsnot only meets the needs of individual communities, but also responds tomuseum sectoral priorities. Aims of the National Gaelic Language Plan and recommendations of the Government-initiated Short-Life Working Group on Economic and Social Opportunities for Gaelic are also being met. Impact, impact, impact.

The proposed cuts are demoralising at best and, at worst, put all that we cherish about the Highlands’ indigenous language and culture at risk. Meanwhile, for as long as any of us have these GDO jobs, we’ll continue to shout about the value of the work we do, as well as our language, culture and how badly the museum sector needs more, not less of these opportunities. I hope you will too. Suas leis a’ Ghaidlig!

Nurturing Sustainability in Highland Museums: A Climate Ambassador’s Journey

Aila, female in her late 20s with a golden coloured dog sitting ona ruined croft house with grass and plants around her

We hear from Aila Schäfer on her journey as one of our MHH Climate Ambassadors:

Embarking on a six-month journey as a Climate Ambassador with Museums and Heritage Highland has been an interesting and insightful experience. Our mission is clear: to support museums across the Highlands in implementing environmentally sustainable practices. But how can we tackle such a big project in only six months? This blog post will delve into the process, progress we made so far, and our hopes and expectations for the outcome of this important project.

The Challenge:
Navigating the path towards environmental sustainability poses a considerable challenge for our independent Highland museums, especially those with limited resources, as addressing sustainability may seem overwhelming. Factors such as limited staffing, insufficient project funding, and the fear of venturing into uncharted territories can create barriers.

However, the importance of becoming more sustainable is accentuated by the contemporary call for funders to incorporate sustainability practices in their strategies and application processes. This adds a new layer of significance to the pursuit of environmentally friendly practices, making it not just a moral obligation but a strategic imperative for museums seeking financial support and longevity.

Despite the size or constraints each museum faces, tackling these challenges head-on is crucial and making a positive impact is achievable for every institution. As educational institutions, dedicated to serving communities, we bear a responsibility to ensure that our collections will be preserved for generations to come in the most sustainable and environmentally friendly way. This commitment holds true regardless of the size or potential obstacles faced by our museums.

Climate Ambassador Training:
As a Climate Ambassador, I have actively participated in Ki Futures training sessions, immersing myself in a wealth of resources, including books, articles, and engaging video sessions. The monthly one-on-one meetings with our mentor have proven invaluable, guiding me through the large field of sustainability in museums. Together with my fellow climate ambassadors and our mentor, we have designed a comprehensive questionnaire for participating museums, which helps us to establish a foundational baseline for their sustainability journey.

The training program, has been instrumental in shaping our approach, as it offers a blend of theoretical insights and practical applications, providing foundational knowledge for developing a profound understanding of sustainability.

The guidance and materials provided during these training sessions have proven very beneficial, imparting structure our project, boosting the confidence of us ambassadors, enabling us to navigate this important initiative.

Progress and Expectations:
Our work involves creating tailored action plans and sustainability statements for each participating museum, drawing insights from their feedback. These resources will become part of the MHH resource bank, fostering a sustainable legacy beyond the project’s lifespan. It’s inspiring to witness the different measures already taken by Highland museums and we recognise the vast potential for further progress.

By distilling the information from our training sessions, combined with the specific needs and aspirations of each museum, we aim to provide practical, actionable steps that contribute to their long-term sustainability goals. The aim is for all participating museums, to be able to create their own personal roadmaps that address the unique challenges and opportunities each institution faces, based on our action plans.

A key aspect of our strategy is to ensure the longevity and accessibility of these resources. Therefore, we will finish the project with a toolkit for the Museums and Heritage Highland (MHH) resource bank. This repository will serve as a valuable archive for future initiatives.

It is inspiring to witness the commitment and innovation displayed by Highland museums in their current sustainability measures. From adopting energy-efficient practices to engaging their communities, many institutions are already making meaningful strides. The diversity of initiatives undertaken emphasises the potential for further progress and sets the stage for a shift towards sustainability within our Highland Museum community.

Sustainable Museums: Small Steps, Big Impact:
In the face of the urgent climate crisis, cultural institutions, including museums, are called upon to adopt sustainable practices. The magnitude of climate change necessitates a collective response, and even small steps taken by our museums in the Highlands can have a profound impact. By implementing simple yet effective measures, we can lower emissions, reduce waste, and demonstrate to our communities that sustainability is an achievable goal.

From embracing LED lighting solutions, which are known for their energy efficiency, to hosting zero-waste events, museums have the power to transition into green entities without undergoing drastic overhauls. These initiatives not only align with broader environmental goals but also serve as tangible examples of the positive influence cultural institutions can exert on environmental awareness.

Conclusion:
Being one of three Climate Ambassadors with Museums and Heritage Highland has been a great journey so far, marked by challenges, growth, and networking with other professionals with a commitment to sustainability. Reflecting on the progress made and the path ahead, it becomes evident that the significance of this endeavour extends beyond our immediate goals.
As we conclude this journey in less than two months, the goal is not just to mark the completion of a project but to leave behind a sustainable legacy. The toolkit we are developing for the MHH resource bank will ensure the longevity and accessibility of the resources created. It is our hope that this collective effort, locally driven yet globally resonant, will contribute to a more sustainable and resilient future for Highland museums.

This project is supported by Museum Galleries Scotland Forum’s Fund with thanks to National Lottery Players.

Unlocking Potential: The Impact of Student Internship Programs on Small Museums

Unlocking Potential: The Impact of Student Internship Programs on Small Museums

We’re delighted to welcome Aileen-Laura Schäfer (one of our climate ambassadors and former curator at Clan MacPherson Museum) to tell us about the benefits of working with international student interns and the process, if you think this would work in your organisation, for applying.

Two years ago, I found myself as the only person on site full-time in a small independent museum. Operating with limited resources, staff and volunteers, but a million ideas for projects and events, I shared a problem, many of us face across museums in the Highlands. Therefore, I decided to find a way that would not only enrich the museum’s capacity, but also provide a valuable and fair opportunity for young talent in the sector. After some correspondence with a German university, we initiated an internship program, welcoming two student interns, who worked with me at the museum full-time, for two months each, and the experience proved a great one for all involved.

The collaboration with the English department of the university, laid the foundation for an internship program that would benefit both the museum and the students. A crucial aspect, especially for a small museum like ours, was the provision of a scholarship from the sending institution, covering the living expenses for the student intern. This financial support made the program accessible to both, students who might not have otherwise been able to participate and a museum that could not have easily supported an additional member of staff. Recognizing the challenges and costs of finding lodging in the Highlands, I offered the interns to stay in my spare room, free of charge, during the time of the internship. 

Despite a tight recruitment schedule to allow enough time for the successful applicants to sort out scholarships, visas and get organised, we received a great response of 20 highly motivated applications in less than 14 days. Selecting only two interns was a challenging task. Taking time to get to know them meant gaining insights into their main interests though, and allowed for setting the stage for a personalised and enriching experience.

Four months later, the first intern finally arrived at the museum, with a huge suitcase and a lot of enthusiasm. The first week of the internship was dedicated to introducing the students to the museum’s regular activities and tasks, particularly in front-of-house responsibilities. They largely shadowed me during this first week, through which they also gained brief insights into behind-the-scenes activities and I tried setting time aside each day for them, to get familiar with the place and the exhibition and to chat about the different aspects of museum work. A crucial feedback session after this initial period allowed us to tailor their experiences further to their interests and to talk through the tasks, I had planned for them to get involved in, in the weeks to come.

The unique backgrounds of our interns added diverse dimensions to our small museum. One, an English literature student, became involved in literature-related events, the library, book-related objects, and publicity. Serendipitously, we were in the final stages of self-publishing a history book, and her contributions were invaluable to the successful launch.

The second intern, on the path to becoming a teacher, focused on kid-related projects. From designing a child-friendly museum guide to preparing events for school-visits and contributing to child-friendly museum interpretations, her impact on our educational initiatives was profound.

Their contributions did not end with their internships. Both interns, having become valued members of our team, continued to volunteer remotely after their official term. Their remote volunteering activities included social media, publicity and translations amongst other things, showcasing a sustained commitment to the museum’s success.

Beyond the tangible contributions of an additional full-time team member, witnessing their personal and professional development was immensely gratifying. As interns, their confidence grew, and their opinions were valuable additions to our team discussions. Moreover, the benefits of having interns extended far beyond these aspects. Despite initial concerns about the capacity for supervision and introduction with just one person on site full-time, the interns’ contributions proved to be invaluable. The time and effort invested in their onboarding and guidance were more than compensated by the fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and increased productivity they brought to the museum. Their involvement not only lightened the workload but also introduced novel approaches to tasks, enhancing the overall creativity and effectiveness of our operations. To me, the internship-programme showed in a great way that the addition of enthusiastic individuals can lead to significant positive outcomes.

For me personally, there were great merits too, as the introduction period, the creation of schedules, and the weekly feedback sessions prompted me to reevaluate and refine my work processes. Breaking down tasks into steps and engaging in regular reflections streamlined daily operations and the drafting of clear to-do lists, checklists, and procedure plans became second nature, which was immensely helpful for all our volunteers as well. 

The positive experience resonated so deeply that, without re-advertising, other students expressed interest in future internships.

The ripple effect of this program reached even further, as the following year the university organised an excursion with one of their seminars, bringing a group of 16 students to visit our museum for workshops and talks. This not only highlighted the success of our internship program but also solidified the museum as a valuable educational resource. As I reflect on this process, I can very much recommend any other small museums to consider inviting interns to their organisation. 

Finding an intern, the process

It all began with the creation of a comprehensive vacancy, detailing the nature of the internship and its requirements. Following the submission of the vacancy to the university and their distribution amongst the relevant students, the recruitment process unfolded. It involved the regular stages of shortlisting, communication with candidates, and interviews. Once the successful candidates were identified, a Letter of Acceptance, outlining the internship and most importantly, the exact dates, needs to be sent to the interns. This document is pivotal in facilitating their scholarship and visa applications, a process that spanned several months but required minimal direct involvement from the museum. It therefore is important that the following information is contained in the letter: exact start date, exact end date, any accommodation or pay, that the language for the internship will be English, the address of the museum, the line-manager of the intern and that the museum will not be able to aid with travel and visa processes.

Nearing the time of the internship a form sent by the university needed to be signed to confirm the details, and the consulate sent straightforward two-page forms to confirm visa details, at the beginning and end of the stay of each intern.

Throughout the internship, a structured process was in place to ensure ongoing communication and evaluation. Midway through, an Interim evaluation form from the interns’ university prompted a reflection on their performance. This involved answering multiple-choice questions and providing insights into their achievements. A similar comprehensive evaluation was conducted at the end of the internship. On the final day, each intern received a Letter of Recommendation, a common practice in Germany for future job applications. Interns are tasked with crafting an internship report resembling a diary by the university, but the museum has no responsibility in this. Regular feedback sessions, which, though not obligatory, can be a valuable practice contributing to a positive work environment.

If you would like to know more, please get in touch.

New film initiative aims to support Highland Museum & Heritage Sector

New film initiative aims to support Highland Museum & Heritage Sector

A new film training initiative aims to support museums and heritage organisations across the Highlands and Islands to deliver film training, screenings and cultural film festivals.

POETIC FILM SCHOOL aims to bring accessible and affordable filmmaking to people of all ages and skill levels; from first-time enthusiasts to experienced filmmakers, all who desire mentoring to hone their art form. The initiative has been brought to life by Sutherland born filmmaker Robert Aitken.

Robert is a writer, director and producer who has been making films about the people and places of the far North of Scotland for over a decade and delivering a successful programme of accessible film training for the last four years.

“I work predominately with rural Highland communities and have a deep understanding of people within landscapes, which has helped me develop a grounded placemaking approach to making films, and now with this new film training programme,” Robert says.

Robert’s latest film, The Dreaming Bog, an ecopoetic story about the bogs, mires ands peatlands of the Highlands, helped him to develop a greater awareness and understanding of the fragile economics, complex local politics and layered social narratives that underpin the anxieties of communities facing economic and potentially long-term environmental change in the far North.

To that end, POETIC FILM SCHOOL is a socially engaged filmmaking process (including smartphone filmmaking skills, scriptwriting, use of audio apps, editing, and final production etc.) and offers invaluable opportunities and support, especially for vulnerable local young people struggling with mental health issues and social situations. It can provide a creative outlet for anxiety and increase confidence and self-esteem.

There has also been a greater uptake by the older generation in digital activities since the Covid Pandemic, which can help combat isolation and loneliness. POETIC FILM SCHOOL aims to bring together In-Between Localities, Creatives (of all disciplines) and Young & Older People – here, there is great potential for intergenerational activities, including memory recording sessions, archival research and script writing.

Robert adds; “I embrace opportunities to reconnect people to their home area in the Highlands through filmmaking and engaging with communities, local filmmakers, writers, artists, researchers, anthropologists and historians etc. I enjoy sharing this rich and creative experience through mentorship and socially minded projects.”

Museums and Heritage organisations across the far North have faced challenging times of late, but this new film initiative offers a unique and timely opportunity to help support communities through a pivotal change in the area’s infrastructure and heritage. The ability to transition and capture this through engaging filmed stories, with a multitude of diverse voices, is at the heart of the training workshops on offer.

POETIC FILM SCHOOL also has a great team of researchers and cultural advisers to call upon, who can assist organisations work with their collections and archives, to help groups develop new scripts, stories and narratives embedded in their unique locality and culture. Over fifty screenings, film training events, and conferences across Scotland and International have already been delivered.

The film training is all about people; their past, memories and dreams for the future. But it’s also about people finding voice and expression through film-making and socially engaged research and creativity; to listen, learn and share about where they live and their place in the world.

“We are all having to adapt to new ways; adapting to the very real societal and environmental changes that local communities are facing whilst tentatively looking toward new ways of harnessing power and energy. As Caithness Makar, George Gunn, once told me, ’I want to tell modern stores about people in an ancient landscape’. That exactly sums up my approach.” Robert concludes.

POETIC FILM SCHOOL can offer now filmmaking training workshops for individual groups or collaborations of organisations working together to reduce costs and deliver one-off or multiple film screening events.

Now is a great time to get involved in film-training, so if you’d like to arrange film workshop and/or film screenings in your area, please contact Robert on: robert@aitken.online

For more information on POETIC FILM SCHOOL please visit:
https://www.aitken.online/education

Breathing Space

Breathing Space

We are delighted to launch the call-out for our second Breathing Space residency.

Breathing Space is a 2-day professional development opportunity for early to mid-career curator/managers. Curator/managers often find themselves focusing on the organisational aspects of their roles, caught up in a never-ending list of deadlines, unanswered emails, fundraising applications and budgetary concerns. The aim of this residency is to give them the opportunity to ‘take time out’ from the everyday to-do list, share their experiences, enrich their practice and explore in-depth issues, concerns, possibilities and opportunities in a safe non-judgmental environment. The weekend will be facilitated by Tamsin Russell and hosted by Nicola and Helen.

`Please read the call out below or contact Nicola on nicola.henderson@museumsandheritagehighland.org.uk for more information.

Treasurer Required!

Treasurer Required!

Are you looking for an opportunity to make a real difference in communities across the Highlands? Are you interested in a great career development opportunity? Are you looking for a fulfilling role in retirement? Do you have some experience in financial control and budgeting? Then we want to hear from you! This is a great opportunity to work with a young organisation looking to develop and grow in its work supporting museums and heritage organisations across the Highlands.

Museums and Heritage Highland (MHH) is a charity formed in March 2019. We are a strong, supportive voice for heritage in the Highlands. Our members include museums, galleries and heritage organisations of all sizes from across the region. We work to promote collaborative working and capacity building; promoting partnership opportunities that support our members in achieving their purpose and to be sustainable and resilient in challenging times. Why work with us? Watch the video below:

The Treasurer is one of the designated offices of the Board of Trustees of MHH, along with the Chair and Secretary. In addition to the normal duties and responsibilities of a Trustee, the role of treasurer is to maintain an overview of the organisation’s financial affairs, ensuring its viability and ensuring that proper financial records and procedures are maintained. The Treasurer reports at each meeting of the Board of Trustees on the financial position of the organisation, and advises of any significant issues of which the Board should be aware.

If you are interested in this role, then please get in touch with our chair, Dan Cottam for a discussion. Full details on the role can be found below.

Climate Ambassadors Wanted!

Image of green ferns, purple heather on a mountainside with a blue sky and white clouds

We are looking for three Climate Ambassadors to work with us on supporting the museum community in the Highlands to implement environmentally sustainable practices.

Our Highland museums often tell us that environmental sustainability is a priority for them, but that they can find the topic too big and a little overwhelming at times. ‘Please just tell me what I need to do,’ is a statement we often hear. After exploring some ideas as a group, we believe that the best way to meet this challenge head on is to upskill three passionate individuals in environmentally sustainable practices that are specific to our region and context. And to do this we will work closely with Ki Futures –  an international coaching and training network, connecting cultural practitioners across the world with real, sustainable action.

Our MHH climate ambassadors will be invited to join the Ki Futures program for a tailored 6-month program to learn about sustainability and how to support member museums in implementing their climate, energy, and waste goals. This innovative partnership is tailored specifically for our climate ambassadors program and has been designed in collaboration with MHH and Ki Futures.

This is a 6 month, paid role, giving each ambassador the time for training, study and work without it impacting on their other commitments. The full brief for the role is below and please do get in touch with any questions you may have.

This project is supported by the Museums and Galleries Scotland Forum’s Fund with thanks to National Lottery Players.

Six museums from across the Highlands and Islands launch new experiences on Smartify!

Six museums from across the Highlands and Islands launch new experiences on Smartify!

From uncovering Cromarty’s historic links to the Transatlantic slave trade to following a blue plaque walking tour revealing the individuals that made Stromness the town it is today, an incredible range of unique Highland history is now available worldwide.

Made possible thanks to a unique partnership between XpoNorth Digital, Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s specialist digital support programme for the creative and heritage sectors, and Smartify, the world’s most downloaded museum app, six Highland museums are now live on the global stage.

They are Inverness Museum and Art Gallery; Gairloch Museum; Highlanders’ Museum; Cromarty Courthouse Museum; Clyne Heritage Society (Brora Heritage Centre), and Stromness Museum, Orkney.

Selected earlier this year to take part in the initiative, the chosen six have been busy preparing to digitise either parts of their collection or unique experiences since then. The process has transformed their ability to use digital tools and is also expected to result in employment opportunities and increased income generation in the future.

Now, after six months and an incredible effort from local teams and partners, audiences around the world can access the treasure trove of their offering through the Smartify app, and engage with archives, artifacts, tours and memories from across Scotland’s north.

These include the opportunity to explore Cromarty Courthouse Museum’s Building on Slavery walking tour, with the help of an audio guide that takes visitors around Cromarty and uncovers the town’s historic links to the Transatlantic slave trade, featuring authors David Alston and Nicole Bontemps. Visit Cromarty Courthouse Museum on Smartify here.

Those interested in tracing the lives of the individuals and stories that defined the town of Stromness will be able to enjoy Stromness Museum’s ‘Blue Plaque’ walking tour, following it to discover local buildings and the people who lived in them. Surgeon John Rae, for example, is put under the spotlight as a prolific explorer who navigated the Arctic in the 1800s, while poet and dramatist George Mackay Brown is featured as an eminent writer whose work was distinctly Orcadian in character.

Gareth Squire, Administrator at Stromness Museum said: “The opportunity to bring the stories associated with our collections to a worldwide audience and the ability for Smartify users to enrich their visit using the app, will help raise the Museum’s profile as a ‘must visit’ destination in the Highlands and Islands. The unique ability to engage with our audience with the Blue Plaque Trail through Stromness, which links directly to our collections, is a further positive benefit to our integration with the app and it is hoped this will further increase our visitor numbers and profile”. Visit Stromness Museum on Smartify here.

Meanwhile, the Highlanders’ Museum has shone a light on their collection’s little discussed colonial past by producing a ‘Hidden Histories’ audio guide. Freya Samuel, Digital Engagement Curator at the Highlanders’ Museum, said: “For small, independent museums, physical space can be a limitation which impacts the stories that we are able to tell. Smartify lets us share extra content in a really seamless and accessible way, and it’s also easy to create and share new content, that encourages our visitors to come back again and again. Highland history is now being showcased alongside a world-class selection of museums, and is given an equal presence on the platform. The app really champions small museums and values the stories they have to tell, and we’re excited about sharing our heritage with the world.” Visit The Highlanders’ Museum on Smartify here.

Visitors can also use an audio guide to delve into the eclectic local collection at Brora Heritage Centre, which has showcased their highlights ranging from mining tools and medals to ice skates and bricks. Visit Brora Heritage Centre on Smartify here.

Gairloch Museum has produced a series of ten mini videos that will be showcased on the Smartify platform and shared on social media, that tell the story of the local landscape and its connection to the museum. Visit Gairloch Museum on Smartify here.

An unmissable experience has also been created by Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, who have developed an audio tour to guide visitors around the star objects of the collection including ‘rondello’, a round fiddle invented by Highland-born musician Alexander Grant. Visit Inverness Museum and Art Gallery on Smartify here.

Nicola Henderson, Digital Heritage Specialist at XpoNorth Digital, added: “Months of hard work on the part of the six museums involved has culminated in a milestone moment as the museums’ offerings go live. This partnership with Smartify is not only an example of XpoNorth Digital’s commitment to facilitating innovative ways of working for creative organisations in the region, but also demonstrates the huge potential of digital methods, in terms of both amplifying the area’s history around the globe but also forming networks closer to home. Smartify will help the region’s museums to unravel further layers of the stories held within their collections and give them a newfound appeal to audiences both new and old.”

Thanos Kokkiniotis, Director and Co-Founder of Smartify said: “We are delighted to be working with XpoNorth Digital and the museums on this important and ground-breaking project. One of the reasons we started Smartify was to make the kinds of digital tools that were once previously only available to the very biggest institutions accessible for all. It’s great to see that happening here in Scotland with organisations that are so passionate about Scottish heritage and culture.”

Smartify is available on iOS and Android from the App Store and Google Play respectively. It’s also available on the web via app.smartify.org. For more information on XpoNorth Digital’s work to support creative businesses in the Highlands and Islands, visit www.xponorth.co.uk.