Recently stepping into Yvonne Cotter’s very big shoes, Melissa tells you about her background and aims for Nairn Museum.
Hi, I’m Melissa. I’ve just started working as Manager at Nairn Museum.
My background is diverse. For many years I was employed by the University of Edinburgh as a literacy tutor and support officer for students with learning difficulties, and I’ve retained an interest in the provision of access for people with different needs. I’ve also worked extensively in museums, including Abbotsford – the home of Sir Walter Scott in the beautiful Scottish Borders and the Brontë Parsonage Museum on the edge of wild moorlands in West Yorkshire. History and literature are my passions, and I look forward to exploring the heritage of Nairn, with the help of our friends at the Nairn Literary Institute.
One of my most interesting and fulfilling jobs was at the Gavin Maxwell Museum – as live-in Custodian on the tiny island of Eilean Ban, tucked beneath the Skye Bridge and with my very own Stevenson lighthouse to look after. I was responsible for the care and interpretation of Maxwell collections, provided tours of the author’s home and talks on his life and career, and assisted the Eilean Ban Trust on the maintenance of the island and the protection of its wildlife. There was plenty of marketing and promotion to do, and finding ways to engage local people, together with the area’s many visitors. The experience was hugely rewarding, though it could also be quite lonely at night – alone on my island. Perhaps it was a dream, but I’m convinced I was visited one night by a ghostly presence: could it have been the legendary Viking army said to haunt the island? The days were more sociable, and it was a wonderful experience – living so close to nature with seals, sea birds and occasional otters as my daily companions. Writing a blog on daily wildlife sightings was part of my routine and in between duties I enjoyed cycling over the Skye Bridge to Kyleakin. The sunsets on the way home were often spectacular.
My husband and I moved to the Highlands permanently in 2017 when he took up the role as Curatorial Manager for the Highland Folk Museum and Inverness Museum and Art Gallery. I worked at the Folk Museum and the Castle Viewpoint at Inverness Castle, before taking up a position as Learning Support Officer at the University of the Highlands and Islands campus in Inverness. It’s wonderful to be coming into this new role now at Nairn Museum, and I’d like to extend my thanks and good wishes to Yvonne Cotter, who has served the museum so admirably over the last decade. I’m really looking forward now to working with our wonderful volunteers, and also supporting the Trustees as we move forward with some exciting developments at the museum. It’s an exciting role, but it comes with many chaIlenges – preserving the museum’s welcoming and friendly atmosphere and sense of community, while developing ways to attract more visitors and engage with new audiences, especially amongst younger people. The Trustees and I are looking at ways to increase and diversify income at the museum, building financial sustainability and helping to secure this much-loved institution’s future for generations to come.