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.

Highland Threads…Many a Mickle Maks a Muckle

Dan helping to mount swimming costume from the Highland Museum of Childhood with the George Bain jumper in the foreground

This week Dan Cottam, chair of MHH and manager at Grantown Museum, tells how a small idea led to the development of new projects in a pandemic – both for his own museum and for MHH in the form of Highland Threads.

Over the past couple of years, we (the exceedingly small team at Grantown Museum) have been focussing our work on our collection; catching up on an ever-growing backlog of cataloguing, beginning the process of digitisation and generally sorting and tidying our store which has been sadly neglected in the previous few years when we have been prioritising more ‘front of house’ activity. A chance conversation, about what I now forget, led to me directing a volunteer to have an explore through our costumes which lie neatly packed away in acid free tissue paper, in archival grade boxes (thanks to a previous funded project) but are seldom, if ever, looked at. Many a happy, subsequent hour was spent, alone in the store by our fascinated volunteer, admiring an eclectic mix of Victorian dresses, military uniform, baby clothes, underwear, arisaids, lace shawls, muffs and fox-headed stoles. 

‘To save double handling them,’ I asked her, with a cunning plan coming to mind, ‘….as you go through them, can you take measurements, do a rough condition check, photograph them and compile a spreadsheet of data ready to go onto the digital catalogue?’   (not too much to ask of a dedicated volunteer is it?)

Revisiting this forgotten, yet comparatively organised corner of our store made me wonder about exhibiting some of our costume, and quickly remember the barriers and challenges to doing this. We don’t have many mannequins, costumes are vulnerable to environmental conditions and moreover, while the clothes are nice to look at, they mostly don’t have contextual information or provenance attached from which to make a good story worthy of an interesting exhibition. 

I also thought – ‘I wonder what other costume highland museums have in their collections?’

 So, I found myself in the new style meeting, me at my kitchen table and 12 other people crammed into my laptop, asking my colleagues from the highland museum sector – “ do any of you lot have any interesting costume in your collections? And the rest, as they say, is (literally) history!

That fateful meeting from which Highlands Threads was born and would grow arms and legs was a heritage café, a series of informal meetings organised by Museums and Heritage Highland for the people who run Highland museums at the time when we suddenly all found ourselves cloistered at home running closed museums. They were set up to respond to the isolation, intrepidation and confusion that we all felt in the early days of lockdown (which many of us are still feeling a year later) and while it felt a bit weird to begin with, has proven to be a hugely valuable and engaging fortnightly catch up.  Curiously, I feel that I have got to know my peers in the sector better through this remote medium than at the many ‘old style’, quarterly sector gatherings in Inverness  I have attended where we only really got to chat informally during coffee breaks and lunch. A simple device, that was available to us before (although who’d even heard of zoom before March last year?) has proved revolutionary in many ways, not least in making collaborative working across a geographically disparate group of people considerably easier, more equitable and far less time consuming.  I’m very much looking forward to being in a room full of people again, it will happen one day, but I believe that we are now ,far better equipped to create more wonderful collaborative projects, using ever more clever technologies as the collective energies, skills and knowledge of Highland museums prove the idiom that many a mickle maks a muckle.

 Thanks to Museums Galleries Scotland and that dedicated volunteer, Grantown’s costumes collection can be found here: 
Search object results on eHive

 And Grantown Museum’s new  Adventures in Costume – grown up dressing up can be found here:
adventures in costume – Grantown Museum  

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.

Highland Threads…It’s all about collaboration

Highland Museums project meeting on Zoom

Highland Threads was conceived during one of our regular Museums and Heritage Highland Heritage Café Zoom sessions, sometime back in June 2020. Back then, many of our conversations were around practical issues in responding to the Covid pandemic. How were our communities coping, what funding resources were out there… and how might it ever be possible to open our venues again?!

At some point during one of these chats, Dan Cottam, Manager at Grantown Museum, mentioned their costume collection, much of nestled safely away in archive boxes rather than on display. Wouldn’t it be great to work together on a way to showcase some of these amazing costumes? The conversation sparked an energy in everyone at the meeting. This was an opportunity to pause the stressful discussions around PPE, hand sanitisers and reopening toilets and to do what most of us do best… think creatively about our collections and how we can share them with our audiences!

MHH worked really quickly to put a project plan together responding to this creative call to action. This would be a digital exhibition centred around Highland costume, with a focus on finding creative ways to support museums both financially but also with practical outputs like conservation and photography advice that would have a lasting impact. We put a call out to all Highland museums to share their costumes and stories and to join us in a collaborative, co-curated project. Fourteen museums responded, from Castlehill Heritage Centre on the north Caithness coast, to Glencoe in the southern Highlands. 

We were really keen to take our lead from the museum partners and not set any boundaries on the choice of costume, other than it having a story to tell. The idea of having fourteen different museum voices shaping a project might have been seen as a risk, but the Heritage Cafes had already shown the strong collective voice of our Highland museums and their desire to work collaboratively. 

The energy of the project has been amazing. It has brought together the largest and smallest of our museums in an innovative project that showcases some of the most fascinating, intriguing and often previously unknown costume in Highland museums. Although tartan does feature on one object, most of our objects tell stories that audiences might not traditionally associate with the Highlands. Our programme of events and talks will also illuminate some of the hidden stories behind the costume. We hope audiences will be as excited to view the exhibition as we have been to develop it and we look forward to the possibilities of more innovative collaborative work between our Highland museums in the future.

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.

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.

Introducing…Highland Threads

Introducing…Highland Threads

Highland Threads was conceived at a Highland Heritage Cafe – a regular online meet-up for people working in heritage in the Highlands. We share ideas, discuss issues affecting our sector and find ways to support each other. This support could be as small as recommending a supplier or, like Highland Threads, an ambitious plan for an innovative digital partnership project. 

Unsurprisingly, recent discussions have focused on the effects of COVID-19 on our sector. How can we work together to support museums struggling with the financial implications of temporary closure, furloughed employees and a significant reduction in volunteer contribution? How can museums provide access to collections and generate income while the uncertainty of lockdown and travel restrictions made planning exhibitions and events almost impossible? 

Part of MHH’s remit is supporting museums to employ and develop digital technologies to allow access to collections, increase audiences, and generate income. So, it seemed fitting to nurture an idea using digital tools to address some of the issues our member museums are experiencing.

Through further discussion at the Heritage Cafe, it was agreed that plans for an online exhibition focusing on a costume from each museum’s collection would be developed and funding sought to support the work. 

A successful bid by Museums and Heritage Highlands to the National Lottery Heritage Fund Resilience Fund provided a green light and Highland Threads was go!

Our collective vision for the project is to use collections to support museums in these difficult times. Driving new and existing audiences to our museums whether they are open or closed; help museums find new ways of creating income streams; and open up access to collections in a manageable, sustainable and engaging way.

By employing innovative digital technologies and contracting sector professionals to produce an exceptional product, Highland Threads reflects the quality museums and diverse collections found 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.

Our partner museums are: Glencoe Museum, Inverness Museum & Art Gallery, Gairloch Museum, Ullapool Museum, Grantown Museum, West Highland Museum, Highland Museum of Childhood, Castlehill Heritage Centre, Tain through Time, Wick Heritage Museum, Highland Folk Museum, Groam House Museum, Strathnaver Museum and Dornoch Historylinks.

Strathnaver Museum secure major funding boost

Strathnaver Museum secure major funding boost

Strathnaver Museum has taken a major step forward in realising their vision for creating a world class visitor attraction on the north Sutherland coast after securing £113,157 from Museum Galleries Scotland’s Recovery and Resilience Fund.

As well as supporting the future aspirations and recovery of the popular visitor attraction the funding will help cover operational costs during the 2020 closure as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Project Manager, Fiona Mackenzie said “Strathnaver Museum secures 76% of its income from admissions and retail sales so the closure of the museum has had a significant impact on our income generation over 2020. The closure could have had a significant impact on our reserves which have been built up over many years to help fund our much-anticipated refurbishment programme. This welcome funding from MGS will ensure that we enter 2021 in a strong position and are able to carry forward our essential refurbishment programme”.

The funding granted towards recovery will enable Strathnaver Museum to undertake crucial survey work to progress plans for the refurbishment and repair of Strathnaver Museum. The development project will make much needed repairs, improve access to the site and its collection, create additional spaces for community projects and help the Trust to improve its sustainability. 

Lucy Casot, CEO of Museums Galleries Scotland said:

“We are pleased to support Strathnaver Museum through the Recovery and Resilience Fund. They have faced severe difficulties caused by the pandemic, but none the less have continued to make exciting plans for their substantial refurbishment programme to become a heritage hub for North West Sutherland.

We are delighted that this fund will support the museum to continue their development as an important hub for regional heritage and an asset for their rural community.”

Strathnaver Museum’s building dates from the mid-18th century and is an important part of the Highland Clearances story. From the pulpit which still dominates the main room, Rev David Mackenzie read out eviction notices to his congregation. Later in 1883 crofters and cottars gathered to give evidence to the Napier Commission which eventually led to them gaining security of tenure.

Strathnaver Museum have secured £1.06 million of the £1.9 million capital funding costs which will secure the building, create a new agricultural annex building and see new interpretation installed across the site. The group are awaiting the outcome of a number of funding applications and have launched a Crowdfunder to help meet an anticipated £30,000 funding gap.

The team are offering some exclusive rewards as part of their Crowdfunder including money off vouchers, behind the scenes tours and the chance to have your name displayed in the refurbished museum. You can contribute to the Crowdfunder here: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/refurbishment-of-strathnaver-museum


2019-01-30 Strathnaver Museum volunteers with architect Catriona Hill at a consultation event discussing refurbishment plans in January 2019

Elgin Museum – A year in review

Elgin Museum – A year in review

It’s been a funny old year for us at Elgin Museum (as it has for everyone!). For probably the first time since we opened in 1843, this year Elgin Museum has not been open to visitors.

After a typically busy winter period 2019-20, all of our volunteers and our 3 P/T members of staff had to abandon ship in early March leaving the building in a state comparable to the Mary Celeste (I’d like to say without the water, but sadly we have an ongoing issue of a leaky roof!). Two of our staff were put on furlough, with our Education & Outreach Officer working from home and continuing to deliver activities for our younger audience, albeit online instead of in person. An Emergency Executive Committee of 4 of our Board Members was assembled, and this team has worked tirelessly throughout the year dealing with the day-to-day issues faced by a Museum as well as the various difficulties arising from the COVID-19 situation.

Our Education and Outreach Officer left us in August to take up a teacher training offer – seeing the writing on the wall for museum sector employment? However, thanks to some dedicated volunteers we have been able to carry on offering various children’s activities through our website and social media channels. Our remaining 2 P/T members of staff returned to work in October, following a detailed risk assessment of the building and the implementation of various mitigation measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the Museum. And from mid-November, we began to welcome a small number of Volunteers back to the Museum to assist with an Inventory Project – though it’s quite a different place to work in now than when they left back in March.

Our biggest challenge this year has been having to switch our focus to digital content, albeit with the heavy-hearted awareness that this may exclude some of our regular audience. However, we have been delighted to welcome a new audience who before 2020 were not aware of, nor able to visit, Elgin Museum.

Moving to online activities and events has been a big shift, but our volunteers have risen to the challenge. Our social media channels (see links at end) continue to go from strength to strength; we’ve added a wide variety of family-friendly activities  to our website so people can “Museum From Home”; we launched our blog “Museum Musings”, featuring short pieces written by our volunteers; creating an online jigsaw page ; and we started a regular “cheery update”  to be sent out by email to all of our volunteers, Moray Society members, and other friends of the Museum.



We’ve also expanded our YouTube Channel with “virtual” tours of some of our exhibitions, our family-friendly craft series “Elgin Museum Makes”, and we’ve recently begun our traditional Winter Lecture Series online and in a new format. “Elgin Museum: In Conversation” replaces our usual lecture programme, and instead sees us talking with Friends of the Museum to gain insight on their life, career and connections with Moray and Elgin Museum. Our first episode featured Neil Curtis, Head of Museums and Special Collection at the University of Aberdeen – and who could have guessed at Neil’s secret passion for plumbing? Our next interviewees are John Borland, president of the Pictish Arts Society (and formerly Measured Survey Manager at HES), followed by Craig Stanford, Archaeology and World Heritage Officer at HES (formerly the NTS St Kilda Archaeologist). Subscribe to our YouTube Channel so you don’t miss our next Conversations!

Another first has been hosting our now annual Friends of Elgin Museum Art Exhibition online. The exhibition features photography, oil, acrylic and watercolour paintings, textile art, jewellery and relief prints. All of the items in the exhibition are available to purchase with a percentage of sales donated to both Elgin Museum and the NHS. There’s no denying it has been a huge amount of work (for the artists whose works feature in the exhibition, and for the volunteer who created the online exhibition!), but so far we have sold & shipped pieces to Nottingham, Dublin and Iowa, and it’s great that we’ve managed to reach an even broader audience than usual! The exhibition will continue on into the New Year, so there is still time explore and enjoy the wonderful arts and crafts of our very talented Volunteers and Moray Society Members from the comfort of your own home!

What next for Elgin Museum? Progress with our previous aspirations has slowed down with COVID-19 priorities, but we still aim to attract funding for a major buildings project, incorporating essential repairs with repurposing an empty retail property in our ownership and also to reinstate a manager/curator post. For now, we’ll “keep on keeping on”, as we wait to see how life will change in 2021. We’ll look towards when (and how) it might be possible for us to once again open our doors to visitors. We look forward to rescheduling our programme of events, originally planned as part of the Scottish Government’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 (now rebranded 2020/21) including our cancelled Fossil Finders Weekend and the new Elginerpeton fossil display.

In the meantime, we’ll continue expanding our digital presence with new content, encouraging people to visit Elgin Museum From Home. If you haven’t done so already, please look us up online or on social media (see links below) – and we look forward with anticipation to being able to welcome you in person to Elgin Museum.
Claire Herbert
Elgin Museum Volunteer, Vice-President of The Moray Society
www.elginmuseum.org.uk   
https://twitter.com/ElginMuseum
https://www.facebook.com/ElginMuseumMoray/
https://www.instagram.com/elginmuseum/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqVYIHX1wwQUPOcJdVljb7g

Spirit of the Highlands – what is it?

Spirit of the Highlands – what is it?

Spirit of the Highlands is an initiative specifically designed to help boost tourism and economic growth throughout the Highland area by promoting its culture and heritage, supported by the Inverness and the Highlands City Region Deal.

One of the project’s aims is to create an ‘Autobiography of the Highlands’, a unique collection of stories held in a digital archive, all told by the people who live, work and visit here. 

This “Spirit:Autobiography / Spiorad: Fèin-eachdraidh” will be an authentic insight into life in the Highlands today, and the heritage that has shaped this unique region, in the words of people from across the Highlands. 

We want to hear stories of communities too, large and small – the local events that shaped it, or how global events have affected it; about its singing sands or Viking graffiti – the things that give it a distinctive fingerprint. All the stories will be available for present and future generations to enjoy in the “Spirit:Autobiography” digital archive. Some of the stories will be used to inspire artists in a series of commissions in the Spirit:360 project, and others will be the foundation of the ‘Spirit of the Highlands in 100 Stories’ exhibition in Inverness Castle when it reopens. 

We’re looking for stories behind the headlines of history, stories about people you might hear at a ceilidh: the uncle who worked on the hydro schemes; the sister that set up the local fèis, the niece that kayaked the Great Glen in record time. 

We live in an extraordinary part of the world, rich in stories that make us laugh, cry or gasp in wonder. Stories that inspire and thrill us, that make us think and imagine, or sing and dance.

Whichever part of the Highlands we live in, these stories and legends reflect who we are and how we lived our lives in the past, how we live them now and how we might live them in the future.

Sharing these stories will encourage people who live here, and visitors, to explore the Highlands and discover more about our extraordinary and unique area. It’s quite a gift to give.  

That’s what the Spirit of the Highlands project, including the transformation of Inverness Castle, aims to do. 

The call for these stories is now live, and people across the world are being invited to share them at www.spiritofthehighlands.com . Find out more through this short video narrated by Julie Fowlis. The closing date for submission of these stories is November 30th 2020. 

You can also follow and share the project through our social media channels Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Exploring Lost Inverlael with Ullapool Museum

map of the Inverlael area

Museum Mangaer, Siobhan Beatson, tells all about this exciting new project that launched just before lockdown and is slowly building up steam.

Lost Inverlael: Finding Balblair is potentially one of the biggest projects Ullapool Museum has undertaken that did not require rebuilding walls or emptying the museum. It will certainly be the longest running project and in my opinion the most exciting. The involvement of archaeological activities combined with in depth research of the townships of Inverlael and Balblair and its people will bring the community together in a single mission to reignite local memory of the area and the lives of its inhabitants.

 There are several adjacent projects which include a cultural development of music and art, a recreation of the landscape and townships in Minecraft and a full digital interactive exhibit that will take a permanent place in the museum. The combination of the last two show how Ullapool Museum is stepping into the modern world and taking on new challenges to accent our engagement with the local community and our visitors which will hopefully develop an emotional connection to the project. With this blog we hope to involve our community and interested parties in the genus of the project, more recent events and how we plan to take the next steps.

The idea of exploring the history of Inverlael and Balblair was brought to us last summer by our now famous local historian Duncan MacKenzie, whose family had strong ties to the area. He had been brought up on stories of the Clearance of 1819/20 by Sir George Steuart MacKenzie of Coul. The folk tales of tenants being turfed out of their houses and having to set up a makeshift camp outside of Clachan church intrigued him to pursue the real story of the townships. He has spent many years playing detective and had conducted a significant amount of research on the land and in various archives. On the discovery of Land Tax records from the early modern period, he discovered that Balblair was valued considerably more than other townships in Lochbroom. This led to the educated assumption that Balblair, a township that had been all but forgotten even in the local community, had something significant to offer and was more notable than previously believed. A comment in some research read that Balblair was the largest township north of Dingwall. When all this evidence was presented to us we were all in agreement that we had stumbled upon an intriguing and previously lost story. We were eager to follow this up and Lost Inverlael: Finding Balblair was born.

In January we received confirmation of funding from Historic Environment Scotland, which gave us the green light for the project. In the early weeks of Lock Down we appointed the Archaeology team for the project. Highland Archaeological Services provided the best answers and foresight and we were thrilled to be able to offer a local company the opportunity to work with us. We also appointed Immersive Minds to the project who will conduct the recreation of the landscape and heritage in Minecraft (a block building computer game). We are very excited about this as it is something very different and gives us an opportunity to work with the local school children, and give them an opportunity to build parts of the landscape while learning about this history, culture and heritage through a very modern and familiar medium. The Crafting the Past website is available to look at which already has the preliminary landscape features. In June we were approached by Interface a consultation company who pair up digital projects with Universities to work in partnership. This has meant that we can look forward to developing an interactive museum display, which will be able to give our visitors all the details of the project in a user-friendly manner, with interactive maps, stories from the people who lived there, potential archaeology finds can be analysed and much more. The possibilities with this type of tech are endless and we hope to pioneer this use of technology for museums in the highlands.

The last couple of months have seen the start of the research programme of the project begin to take shape. Myself and our Reception and Admin assistant Arran MacDonald have started the groundwork for the more detailed research that will come later on. We have managed to collate a basic list of names in Family groups or individuals from the two eviction notices of 1819 and 1820. This gives us a good foundation on which to work on. Some interesting facts have emerged from this record, including the name of Lady Katherine MacKenzie (Ramsay) of Coul, who was the mother of Sir George Steuart MacKenzie. She is stated as the land owner in the eviction records, which we believe were left to her after her late husbands death to contribute to her upkeep. Further research into this is being conducted, including trying to find General Sir Alexander MacKenzie of Coul’s Last Will and Testament, which would confirm this theory.

We are excited to begin the project properly and we are working towards planning the community workshops for the winter period. This will involve bringing the whole team together including the schools and the archaeologists to develop a programme of workshops to inform the community of the details of the project and to involve them in various aspects of research, information gathering and potential volunteering opportunities. We hope to reach all aspects of the community from the youngest to the oldest and include all abilities and knowledge levels. 

While 2020 has had a shaky start, we hope that Lost Inverlael: Finding Balblair will bring a new enthusiasm and vigour to the end of the year. Which can take us into 2021 with a renewed outlook and endless possibilities.

Follow the project on their website – https://ullapoolmuseum.co.uk/elementor-1498/

Historylinks – the journey to reopening and beyond!

Historylinks – the journey to reopening and beyond!

When COVID-19 struck, Historylinks Museum was already in the process of preparing to open for the 2020 season. All was suddenly on hold and our Curator and Museum Assistant worked from home before eventually being put on Furlough. During this time the Trustees and Museum Committee began the task of altering the way the museum worked in terms of its digital output. It felt really important to make sure that the local community and potential visitors still had access to the heritage, but in a different way. Funding was granted from MGS to update and enhance our popular Image Archive and make it even more user friendly and accessible. It also enabled us to set up an online ticketing service and pre booked museum tours via our website for when we eventually reopened. We managed to engage more people with our Facebook Page. The local community have been very active in commenting on posts and sharing memories jogged by the images. It has also been possible to set up a digital platform that has enabled us to share film clips from our Archive easily. 

By the beginning of July, it was clear that the Scottish Government was going to allow museums to reopen and so it was time for the Historylinks team to make a decision. To reopen or stay closed? It was not a decision that was taken lightly, but consultation with staff and volunteers revealed that everyone wanted to take steps to open the doors of the Museum once again. A few volunteers have not able to return for the time being because they are still shielding but all were supportive of the plan to reopen. Museum staff were back at work on the 8th July and working towards a reopening date of 18th July.

Another grant from MGS allowed us to buy the appropriate equipment such as PPE, hand sanitiser and other items we needed in order to reopen safely.

The staff and committee members then worked together to create as safe a space as possible in order to welcome back visitors. The first thing in place was a Perspex screen at reception and adequate PPE for all staff and volunteers.

With all this in mind we created our ‘7 steps to safety’. The steps are displayed outside the building and again in reception so that people can read and take in the information before entering the museum. A short film about what to expect in terms of safety measures when visiting will be up on our website soon.

One of the most important points in the 7 steps is the requirement for visitors to wear a face covering and sanitise their hands on entering the building. We have automatic hand sanitiser stations on entry and around the building with paper towels and bin provided.

The reception and retail area here at Historylinks can form a bottleneck for visitors because as well as the way in, it is the way out! The answer to this problem is a traffic light system on entry. This means that our staff and volunteers are in complete control of the flow of visitors. They are able to work the traffic lights remotely from the counter to allow only one party of people at reception at a time. This takes the pressure off the volunteer and allows them time to record track and trace details, fill in Gift Aid forms and explain the one-way system around the museum.

Some things have had to change more significantly. We decided to implement a ‘no touch’ policy around the building in order to minimise any cross infection. Our interactive displays were removed and the children’s toys put away into storage. The addition of polite reminders not to touch the glass cases or exhibits ensures that people are aware of our policy as they walk around.

Having to close the children’s room was sad for us as we love having youngsters in the museum. So, instead of toys in the children’s room they have a fantastic animated film to watch made by local children about Dornoch’s mythical fairy bridge ‘The Gizzen Brigs’. In addition to this, they can see the amazing masks created by our Young Curator’s for their Halloween walk last October. Plus, they can enjoy our story labyrinth in the grounds of the museum.

The addition of a new outdoor exhibition called ‘Domestic Life’ featuring objects from the 19th and early 20th Centuries means that we have enhanced our exterior displays, giving visitors even more to enjoy outside.

Despite the restrictions in the museum we have gone ahead with our new exhibition of Katherine Gray’s dress from 1710 and the display of our East Sutherland Longhouse project featuring a scale model of a pre-clearance settlement. 

Since reopening we have had a steady stream of visitors. Everyone so far has been compliant with our new rules. Occasionally we might have to prompt someone to use the hand sanitiser on entry but this has not caused a problem. Numbers are running at about 60% of the same time last year.  

Visitors have commented that they feel the museum is well organised and volunteers have said that they feel safe with the new safety measures in place. The most difficult thing is having to turn people away when we are at capacity. Especially if it is raining! We do try to encourage people to come back and can generally estimate when we will have room for them.

We do keep a stock of disposable facemasks for people who have lost for forgotten to bring their own.

The main thing we have learned is not to rush entry to the museum. People are always eager to get into the museum but we do have to take quite a lot of information, especially if visitors are Gift Aiding their entrance fee. Taking time to make sure that all the information is accurate is imperative for track and trace and our traffic light system has been very valuable in allowing that to happen.

Our opening times have changed slightly to 10.30am – 4pm but we are still open 7 days a week.

www.historylinks.org.uk

www.historylinksarchive.org.uk 

Highland Museum Re-opening Plans

Highland Museum Re-opening Plans

Planning a trip to the Highlands and wondering if your favourite museum is open? Here is a comprehensive list that will let you know what their plans are, ways you can support them from afar and/or how to contact them to find out more. You can also check our map page to find out where they are – https://museumsandheritagehighland.org.uk/map

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**MUSEUMS THAT ARE OPEN NOW OR OPENING SOON**

Glencoe Museum

Museum of the Isles, Armadale Castle, Skye

  • NOW OPEN (reopened 6th August)
  • Until 18 October the museum will be open Wednesday to Saturday, 10 to 4pm.
  • Entry to the museum will be via timed ticket, purchased at the main ticket office. A one way system has been introduced with floor markers to maintain social distancing and hand sanitiser/handwashing facilities are available at entrance and exit. They are encouraging visitors to wear face coverings and are collecting visitor details to support NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect service as per Scottish Government guidance. Face coverings are required in our shop areas.
  • Audio guides will not be available at this time and the library is currently closed
  • All details and any changes to the above info will updated via our website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Gairloch Museum

Ullapool Museum

  • NOW OPEN (reopened 1st August)
  • Opening Times will be – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Friday, 11-4, Saturday 10-5.
  • Customer details will be taken; 10 people Max inside the museum at one time; Masks to be Worn; One way system; Films shown on the hour; New Outdoor History Treasure Trail (both Adults and Children)
  • Can’t visit this year? Donate! Ullapool Museum Giving Fund – paypal.com/gb/fundraiser/charity/3920689
  • Website www.ullapoolmuseum.co.uk
  • You Tube https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=ullapool+museum
  • Social media links – facebook, @ullapoolmuseum | instagram, @ullapoolmuseum | Twitter, @Ullapoolmuseum | TikTok, @Ullapoolmuseum

Historylinks, Dornoch

  • NOW OPEN! (did so, on 18th July)
  • Open 7 days a week from 10.30am to 4pm. 
  • Visitors can just pay at reception or prepay online via their website or book exclusive use of the museum after hours for £30 for a group of up to 8 people. www.historylinks.org.uk
  • They have a traffic light system in place and a limit to 10 people in the museum at a time. All visitors are asked to wear a face covering if their health permits and to sanitise their hands on entry. There is also a sanitising station half way around the museum. There is a one way system in place and people are asked not to touch anything.
  • They have some new exhibits including an outdoor display of domestic object from the late 19th, early 20th century, an 18th Century dress and a display about their latest community project funded by HLF of a preclearance site at Dalnamain, Dornoch. The display features a scale model of the settlement c1800 made by a Historylinks volunteer and the Young Curators.
  • Their Young Curators have also created an exhibition of masks that they made for a Halloween walk last year. Each mask depicts a character from Dornoch’s history and they have written the interpretation in their own words.
  • They also have 4 films for visitors to watch and a brand new children’s quiz.
  • Keep up to speed via their websites and facebook, www.historylinks.org.uk or www.historylinksarchive.org.uk or https://www.facebook.com/HistorylinksMuseum/

Tain District Museum and Clan Ross Centre

Tarbat Discovery Centre, Portmahomack

NOW OPEN for pre-booked visits – to book a slot and find out more about your visit, go to their website – https://www.tarbat-discovery.co.uk/visitor-information You can also make a donation to support them there if you can’t visit this year.

West Highland Museum, Fort William

  • Opening Friday 4th September
  • Open: Tuesday to Friday 10am to 2pm
  • To book, please email: info@westhighlandmuseum.org.uk or telephone: 01397 702169 or 07985 251335 between 9am and 4pm (Monday – Friday)
  • Require face coverings, following of a one way system, no-touch policy, and will be taking customer details 
  • If you can’t visit this year, you can still support them: Website has a donations button, see below.
  • Follow their FB page to find out more about their digital projects and their Jacobite digital heritage trail.
  • http://www.westhighlandmuseum.org.uk/
  • https://www.facebook.com/WestHighlandMuseum/
  • Twitter: @WestHighMuseum

Timespan, Helmsdale

  • NOW Open
  • Open Monday – Sunday 10zm – 5pm
  • Please note, the museum and cafe capacity have been reduced, to ensure social distancing. You can book your slot in advance by contacting them on 01431 821327 | enquiries@timespan.org.uk
  • Please see our new reopening visitor guidelines to keep you covid-Secure and their community, staff and team safe.
  • Their latest online exhibition Real Rights explores land use and ownership, colonial history and climate change in the Iron Age, during the Highland Clearances and at the height of the herring fishing boom at Helmsdale.

Cromarty Courthouse Museum

  • Open on Saturdays and Sundays during August and September from 12am until 4pm. Admission is free.
  • Staff and volunteers will be on hand to advise you on your route through the Courthouse and they will ask all visitors to use the hand sanitiser provided, wear a suitable face covering and maintain social distancing. 
  • More details on their website – http://www.cromarty-courthouse.org.uk/ or Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/CromartyCourthouseMuseum/ 

Groam House Museum, Rosemarkie

  • NOW OPEN
  • Opening times: Thursday to Sunday from 1:30 – 4.15pm
  • Booking is essential, only 1 group in at a time,  maximum of 6 people in the group,  half an hour slots. You can book online at their website, www.groamhouse.org.uk or by phone at 07799 663984. 
  • Face coverings will be required.  Guided tour will be offered.
  • Even if you can’t visit this year, you can still engage in their work and support the museum. Ways to donate and see the work they are doing can be found on their website.
  • Their exhibition this year is ‘Book of Kells; Mysteries Revealed’ which is being put together in conjunction with Thomas Keyes.  
  • Web site: www.groamhouse.org.uk Facebook: GroamHouse Twitter: Twitter @ Groamhouse

Highland Museum of Childhood, Strathpeffer

NOW OPEN. times vary and booking is preferred so please call 01997 421031 or e-mail info@highlandmuseumofchildhood.org.uk when planning your visit. Also check their website. highlandmuseumofchildhood.org.uk 

Highland Folk Museum, Newtonmore

  • NOW OPEN ( opened 29th July)
  • Opening times – Wed – Sunday 10.30 – 4
  • Booking system to be made public on Monday 27th – https://www.highlifehighland.com/highlandfolkmuseum/
  • Face coverings required in the toilets and shop
  • Donations link on booking system and on website

Inverness Museum and Art Gallery

The Highlanders Museum, Fort George

Will be reopening on 11th September! More details to follow. Check their facebook page for updates – https://www.facebook.com/thehighlandersmuseum 

Mallaig Heritage Centre

NOW OPEN!
Follow them on facebook https://www.facebook.com/mallaigheritage/
Visit the website for latest info http://www.mallaigheritage.org.uk/

NTS sites including Culloden Battlefield

  • Culloden is NOW OPEN (reopened 1st August)
  • They will be open 10 to 4 Wednesday – Sunday and are asking people to book online to come into the exhibition.  https://www.nts.org.uk/visit/places/culloden/events
  • Brodie Castle, Inverewe gardens, Glencoe and Glenfinnan will be opening shortly. Check back for more details.
  • Abertaff House and Hugh Miller’s Cottage are staying closed for now

Russian Arctic Convoy Museum, Loch Ewe

  • Opening on a limited basis from Wednesday 12th August, Wednesday’s through to Saturday, until 31st October, 2020.
  • All visitors should pre-book a visit slot. Please contact the museum on 01445 731 137 or via e-mail at exhibition@theracmproject.org giving your name, phone no. & size of party.
  • Visits are limited to a maximum period of 1½ hours, beginning at either 10.00, 12.00 or 14.00
  • Entry fees remain the same as 2019 (adults £4, 12 to 18 £3). Payment preferably by contactless. Due to the closure since April, and the additional costs incurred in now opening with COVID-19 measures in place, any donations will be gratefully received.
  • Social distancing should be adhered to at all times during your visit. Face masks will be mandatory throughout the visit. If you do not have your own mask these will be available at reception at cost price. Please use the hand sanitizer provided at time of entry and during the visit.
  • Visit the website here – https://racmp.co.uk/

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**MUSEUMS STAYING CLOSED OR STILL DECIDING**

Nairn Museum

  • Staying Closed for the season
  • Currently working on a project titled – ‘Retail Therapy: Shops and Businesses in the Historic Market Town of Nairn’ which will involve a mixture of volunteers and locals. The aim is to gather memories, stories and photographs of Nairn shops and businesses to add to their archive, and they hope to have an exhibition on this next season.
  • Video tours of their exhibition spaces and current exhibition ‘A Woman’s Place: Prominent Women from the History of Nairn’ are being worked on and will be posted on social media.
  • Facebook link : https://www.facebook.com
  • Website link is: http://www.nairnmuseum.co.uk/ and you can also DONATE via the website to show your support!

Glenfinnan Station Museum – Not sure of plans yet. Call ahead – 01397 722295

Strathnaver Museum, Bettyhill

Are not reopening this season. You can still support them and engage with their work by visiting their website – www.strathnavermuseum.org.uk 

Wick Heritage Museum

Laidhay Croft Museum – Not opening – visit their website http://laidhay.co.uk/

Dunbeath Heritage Museum – Not currently open – follow their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/DunbeathHM/

Brora Heritage Centre – Not sure of plans. Check their Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/broraheritage/ 

Invergordon Museum – Are not opening this season – keep up to date on their news via their website http://www.invergordonmuseum.co.uk/

Grantown Museum – are still deciding. Check their website https://www.grantownmuseum.co.uk/

Elgin Museum