Pathways to Action 1 – How can museums inspire radical climate action in their communities?

Pathways to Action 1 – How can museums inspire radical climate action in their communities?

October 26 @ 1:30 pm 3:00 pm

First event in a short series of discussion events that hope to inspire museums to take the lead in their communities in tackling climate change. We have invited speakers from all over the world to share their climate projects – projects that are looking to go beyond raising awareness of the challenges we face, by helping find solutions and promote action. Each speaker will give a short presentation before we have a panel discussion and audience QandA. (image above is copyright of the Existances Project)

Dr Rowan Gard, Research Fellow at UCL Institute of Archaeology, will introduce us to the ‘Reimagining Museums for Climate Action’ project and put it into the context of COP26

Walter Francisco Figueiredo Lowande, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Laboratory of Studies in Theory, Historicity and Aesthetics of the Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Walter will tell us about the Existances project in Brazil and how they approached answering the question ‘ What if Museums were small places that supported their communities in addressing local climate challenges and actions?’ The Existances project goes beyond documenting and preserving the past, reminding us that such knowledge is vital for the future of the planet.

Andy Mackinnon, director/cinematographer/producer and Arts Curator at Taigh Chearsabhagh Museums and Arts Centre, North Uist, will discuss Taigh Chearsabhagh’s Lines project (which addressed rising sea levels for local island communities) alongwith UistFilm projects, COP26 Message in a Bottle and Message from Upernavik.

Bryony Robins, Creative Director, Royal Cornwall Museum, will talk about their projects focusing on the climate emergency, in particular Fragile Planet – a major exhibition of watercolours by renowned artist Tony Foster that illustrate the precariousness of wilderness and endangered environments around the world.

This event has been supported by the #COP26Conversations fund developed in partnership by Museums Galleries Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland and Scottish Libraries Information Council.

Free Tickets must be booked via the eventbrite link below.

MHH

07388346626

museumsandheritagehighland.org.uk

Zoom

United States + Google Map

Climate conversations hope to inspire museums to take the lead in tackling the environmental crisis

Climate conversations hope to inspire museums to take the lead in tackling the environmental crisis

With all eyes on Scotland ahead of COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, people across the world are engaging in discussion on the climate emergency. For our museums and heritage organisations, action on climate change is as urgent as in any other sector as we all adjust and develop plans for the transition to a net zero economy.

Museums and Heritage Highland invite people to join two free online events asking what the route to a low carbon future is for museums and discussing how cultural organisations can inspire radical climate action in their communities.

Nicola Henderson from Museums and Heritage Highland said:

“Museums, heritage and the arts are in a unique position to address important climate issues across Scotland. We are fortunate to have cultural organisations at the heart of many of our local communities across the Highlands and these organisations can inspire and facilitate change.

“However, these events are not just for people involved in heritage in the Highlands, and we invite everyone to come along, join the debate and be inspired to take action.”

The first online event on 26 October will cover stories from the Existances project in Brazil, Taigh Chearsabhagh’s Lines project addressing rising sea levels in our island communities, COP26 Message in a Bottle and Message from Upernavik, Greenland and Fragile Planet, a major exhibition by artists Tony Foster at Royal Cornwall Museum.

On 2 November, the second online event will focus on the route to a low carbon future for small to medium-sized museums by sharing practical advice on energy reduction and implementing sustainability in the cultural sector by connecting people to a sustainable future through culture.

Helen Avenell, Museums and Heritage Highland, who will also moderate the events, added:

“We have invited speakers from all over the world to share their climate projects – projects that look beyond raising awareness of the challenges we face by helping find solutions and promote action. We take a look at the practical steps museums can take to make their businesses more sustainable. 

“At each event, speakers will give a short presentation before a panel discussion, and the audience can ask questions. We hope people will join us at these events and, from the information shared, feel confident to inspire action within their communities.”

These events are made possible by the #COP26Conversations fund developed in partnership with Museums Galleries Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland and Scottish Libraries Information Council.

More information on each event and tickets can be booked at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/pathways-to-action-a-series-of-climate-conversations-tickets-180894659797

(Image at top courtesy of the Existances project, Brazil)

New website and leaflet highlight the rich Pictish Heritage of the Highlands

St Demhan's Cross, Creich © Ewen Weatherspoon

The rich Pictish heritage of the Highland Council area is being highlighted this week with the launch of a new website, app and leaflet encouraging local people and visitors to explore 32 Pictish sites along an expanded Highland Pictish Trail.

The Picts dominated north and east Scotland from around 400AD for about 600 years, and the carved stones they left in the landscape, with their mysterious symbols, carvings of animals, and, later, intricately-carved Christian crosses and images of bible scenes, battles and hunting, have been a source of fascination for hundreds of years, along with their network of hill forts.

The original Highland Pictish Trail, which dates back more than 25 years, has now been extended to include 32 of the area’s most impressive and accessible Pictish sites, including carved stones set in superb scenery, museums and visitor centres where you can see impressive and thought-provoking carved stones and Pictish objects, and the mighty hill fort of Craig Phadrig (on the outskirts of Inverness) with its amazing views over the Beauly Firth and towards the Great Glen. 

High Life Highland Chairman Ian Ross said: “This new project offers a great opportunity for residents and visitors to step back in time and discover life as it was 1,000 years ago. For many years, the Highlands were thought to be just an outpost of a Pictish kingdom in the Perthshire and Angus areas, but recent discoveries have shown the north was an important Pictish area in its own right – with major religious and royal centres of power, and strong links with Europe.

“I hope people will enjoy a weekend or during the upcoming school holidays learning about Pictish culture and society, whether through the app or by picking up one of the leaflets soon available from our museums or libraries.”

Chair of The Highland Council’s Tourism Committee, Councillor Gordon Adam said: ‘The new Highland Pictish Trail website www.highlandpictishtrail.co.uk not only provides information about all the sites on the Trail; it is also a unique guide to the latest expert thinking on Pictish culture and life in the north of Scotland and includes links to a wide range of online and printed sources of information for people who would like to find out more. In addition to the website, a new free app can be downloaded to help people explore Trail sites in a particular area or connected by a specific theme, while the new Highland Pictish Trail leaflet, which will soon be available in a range of local outlets including museums along the Trail, Visitor Information Centres and Highland libraries, is a handy free guide for when you are out and about or planning a Pictish-themed trip. And during the summer months, the Cromarty-Nigg ferry is a handy link between the Black Isle Pictish sites and Easter Ross sites of the Seaboard villages and the Portmahomack peninsula – a great day out!”

Dan Cottam, Chair of Museums and Heritage Highland said: ‘After all the stresses and strains of the last 18 months or so, the Highland Pictish Trail offers local people and visitors the chance to step back into a time when life in the Highlands was very different from today.  You can admire the skill of the Pictish stone carvers, think about what the symbols and images are telling us about life here more than 1,000 years ago, and enjoy beautiful scenery and fresh Highland air. Exploring the Trail – whether for an afternoon, a day, a weekend or a week – is also a chance to explore and enjoy the food, drink, crafts and atmosphere of the distinctive Highland communities along the route. It’s is a real opportunity to slow down, immerse yourself in a different world, and re-charge your batteries. As many of the sites on the Trail are on or close to the NC500 route, we hope that NC500 visitors will also take advantage of the chance to enjoy this fascinating aspect of Highland culture.”

The Highland Pictish Trail project is a partnership of The Highland Council, High Life Highland and Museums and Heritage Highland and has received financial support from the Highland Council, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Museums Galleries Scotland. Museums and Heritage Highland will be maintaining and updating the website and app when the current project ends.

Timespan nominated for Museum of the Year 2021

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

The Timespan gang are beyond delighted and honoured to be shortlisted for this year’s Artfund Museum of the Year award for their programme and work during lockdown. The second Highland Museum (read about Gairloch Museum’s win here) in two years to make the cut for the biggest prize in the Museum world. 

Cultural institutions across the globe proved that culture is needed in the best, and worst, of times, and the Timespan gang responded with their best spirit and kept their community connected, engaged and active throughout with their online Real Rights exhibition telling the history of the parish within the intersecting framework of climate change and colonialism; YASS! Club @ Home where  village kids tackled big ideas in joyous ways in their Friday home-delivered activity packs, from growing their own veg and cooking for the village to making their own stargazing kits and learning about space commons; TYCI saved local teens from boredom with online workshops including investigative journalism and dj and radio broadcast skills; the People’s Mobile Archive kept our elders active and generated amazing new oral histories (shout out to Christine who initiated their mobile lending library) and their quarantine cooking show Recipes For A Disaster taught us how to prepare and make Billy Cowie’s famed lobster salad from local fish shack C Food & Eat (Don’s La Mirage meringues and Ann’s B&B brekkies are top of the list for the coming season).

Timespan Helmsdale Image © Marc Atkins / Art Fund 2021

The Chair of Timespan’s Board, Jean Sargent, says
“ I am absolutely delighted that Timespan has been shortlisted as a finalist for the Art Fund Museum of the Year. We have a very strong team here with an experienced board, an innovative staff and dedicated volunteers who along with our committed funders have all contributed to get us to this position. When lockdown struck, the team were quick to realise the difficulties this would entail and set about finding ways to overcome the physical closure of our museum. They worked alongside Helmsdale’s resilience group to provide enlightenment, entertainment and solace for everyone, young and old, in our community. Also, by digitising our latest exhibition and our museum offering they were able to entice a whole new global audience. Their hard work and commitment certainly deserves this prestigious accolade”.

We wish them luck for the final!

p.s. You can dry your dishes and decorate your walls with their Heritage Manifesto, which is featured on
beautiful new tea towels and posters.100% profits go to United Friends and Family Campaign (UFFC), a coalition of families and friends affected by deaths in UK custody.

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