Take 5 – Folk Tales and stories from across the Highlands

10 Neil Gunn book covers in past colours of pink, green and lemon

‘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 – Folk Tales and stories from across the Highlands
The Highlands have provided rich inspiration for stories and tales for centuries. On Museum of the Highlands, there are lots of objects to give your students a glimpse into this rich creative world.

1 Start with a remarkable object from the West Highland Museum: a walking stick owned by Bard Iain Lom, made Poet Laureate by King Charles II.
Iain Lom’s Walking Stick | Museum of the Highlands

2 Dig into two fascinating folk tales. Explore the stories told and passed down by families, inspired by the years following the Glencoe Massacre, when ‘A Soldier Visits an Inn’.
Or get to grips with a story of sea monsters from the Seaboard villages, in ‘A Fisherman’s Tale’. Could there be a more mundane explanation?
A Soldier Visits an Inn | Museum of the Highlands
A fisherman’s Tale | Museum of the Highlands

3 Find out more about the fishing village that inspired the writing of award-winning Highlands author Neil Gunn, by discovering the sculpture to honour his most-famous novel at Dunbeath and watching the short video exploring his impact as a writer.
Sculpture of ‘Kenn and the Salmon’ | Museum of the Highlands
Neil Gunn’s Dunbeath | Museum of the Highlands
You can also see a range of his novels at Dunbeath Museum.
Selection of Works by Neil Gunn | Museum of the Highlands

4 Hear from a contemporary writer who has found inspiration in our region. Susan Fletcher first caught the critics’ eyes when she won the Whitbread First Novel Award for Eve Green, before turning her attention to Glencoe for a novel exploring the fate of a young woman accused of witchcraft. In a set of videos for Museum of the Highlands, she talks about how the Glen provided rich material for her writing.
Exploring Glencoe with Susan Fletcher | Museum of the Highlands
If you want to hear more, Susan also shared her insights in a career-based video on the site. Listen to Susan discussing what it’s like to be a writer.
What’s it like being a writer? (video) | Museum of the Highlands

5 Delve further into the witchcraft theme to uncover the story of Isobel Gowdie, the woman from Nairnshire accused of being a witch in the 17th century. Find out what brought her to people’s attention.
Isobel Gowdie | Museum of the Highlands

Take 5 – Discover more about Jacobite history

Diorama of Glencoe Massacre features 4 cows, redcoat soldiers, 2 croft houses and injured crofters on a snowy background

‘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 more about Jacobite history

1 Discover the terrible story of the Glencoe Massacre.
In February 1692, the clansfolk of Glencoe famously had an example made of them – with terrible and tragic consequences. When they failed to pledge their allegiance to the new monarchs William III and Mary II on time, orders were given for the way out of the Glen to be blocked and for the murder of anyone found in the glen.
Watch the Highland Explorer video about Fort William and see the room where the order for the Glencoe Massacre was signed, now in the West Highlands Museum.
An Gearasdan | Museum of the Highlands
Explore a diorama based on the massacre in Glencoe Folk Museum, then take a look at the ‘On Reflection’ activity to help you memorialise these events with your students.
Diorama of the Glencoe Massacre | Museum of the Highlands
The Glencoe Massacre | Museum of the Highlands

2 Who was Prince Charles Edward Stuart, better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie? Introduce your students to this famous historical figure through two objects with close connections to the prince: his chair now at Glencoe Folk Museum and a death mask at the West Highlands Museum.
Chair Belonging to Bonnie Prince Charlie | Museum of the Highlands
Death Mask of Prince Charles Edward Stuart | Museum of the Highlands

3 Explore the days and hours leading up to the Battle of Culloden through an interactive story. Students can imagine what it must have felt like and explore how one man’s personality impacted the lives of so many.
Bonnie Prince Charlie | Museum of the Highlands
You can reflect further on this battle in the ‘On Reflection’ activity – will your students choose to celebrate the Jacobite achievements, or memorialise their loss?
Culloden | Museum of the Highlands

4 Find out more about the weapons on the battlefield. Explore an incredible knife used at Culloden and targe design.
Knife from Culloden | Museum of the Highlands
Replica Targe | Museum of the Highlands

5 Finally, what was life like for supporters of Prince Charles? Find out about the secret symbols and strategies they adopted, in the secret portrait at West Highland Museum.
Secret Portrait | Museum of the Highlands
Or try out our fun quiz, ‘Could You Survive’, so your students can get a taste of what life was life in the decades following the ’45.
After the ’45? | Museum of the Highlands

Object based learning – educator’s guide

Object based learning – educator’s guide

From time to time, most teachers and educators find themselves looking around for interesting ways to engage students and help them learn as school priorities change. We’ve developed the Museum of the Highlands to support exactly this, using object-based learning to enhance engagement about a range of topics to suit our 21st-century Scottish curriculum. There are over 300 objects from a full range of historical periods and nearly 200 learning resources to be found on this digital learning platform.

For anyone new to object-based learning, the concept is incredibly simple. The term refers to creatively using physical objects or artefacts to stimulate curiosity and develop critical thinking (among other things). The idea is that we can learn about the people of the past through their objects. We can see, touch, even smell, the things that our ancestors held and used.

To support use of the website we have created ‘Take 5’ – a series of blogs which will help you to explore key themes in the classroom or at home. You can access those via the links below:

Environmental impact

Childhood in the past

Daily life in days gone by

Highland Clearances

Role models and achievements

Jacobite history

Folk tales and stories from the Highlands

Colonialism and the legacies of slavery

Sport and achievements

Highland traditions and identity

Religion and beliefs

Geology

Crime and punishment

Science and inventions

Take 5 – Role models and achievements

3 medals in a row, two with red ribbon and one with red and yellow stripes

‘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 – Role models and achievements
It can be incredibly inspiring to learn about the achievements of people from our own locality. Across the Highlands, there are some amazing stories and objects which give us a glimpse of the creativity, inventiveness, and compassion of the people of the region!

1 A great starting point on Museum of the Highlands is the medals you can find.
Anyone can get a medal or award. Achievements can even start in our schooldays. Check out the Hugh Miller Medal from Cromarty Courthouse Museum and the Dux Medal from Brora Heritage Centre to find out what people used to celebrate about school achievement. Do your students think medals like this are a good idea?
Hugh Miller Medal | Museum of the Highlands
Dux Medal | Museum of the Highlands

2 Dig a bit deeper into the lives of two fascinating recipients of medals from the medical profession.
Red Cross Nurse of 20 years, Janet Adams MBE, received an array of different medals.
Medals awarded to Janet Adams | Museum of the Highlands
Discover how she helped in the aftermath of a hurricane in our interactive story.
Janet Adams | Museum of the Highlands
Or read the incredible story of a doctor from the Tarbat peninsula. Dr Jack Pyle served as a medic during World War Two, having already been awarded a military cross during World War One. Discover his experiences serving in the North African Campaign in our interactive story.
Dr Jack Pyle | Museum of the Highlands

After these inspiring stories from the medical world, you can hold a debate with The Big Question. Is it time we started valuing the NHS more?
Is it time to value NHS workers more? | Museum of the Highlands

3 For a change of scene, discover a story of extraordinary bravery at sea and learn about the role of the RNLI in another interactive story. Find out how Captain Macrae was rescued by the ‘Portmahomack Heroes’.
Captain Macrae | Museum of the Highlands

4 If students are feeling inspired, they could discover what ordinary people like us can do too.
Read the interactive story of Barbara Fairweather, a fascinating lady who helped to found Glencoe Folk Museum. She received an OBE – how might other members of the community do the same?
Barbara Fairweather | Museum of the Highlands

5 Finally, use the On Reflection activities to create your own memorials or celebrations for people who are meaningful to your students.
On Reflection | Museum of the Highlands

Take 5 – What happened during the Highland Clearances?

Yellow block of colour with the wording 'Donald Macleod -> Stories of Life'

‘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 – What happened during the Highland Clearances?

Explore the Highland Clearances through the people it affected most. You can explore a selection of stories, based on first-hand narratives, using research by Strathnaver Museum.

1 Discover what the Clearances felt like from a child’s perspective in the story of Angus Mackay and explore an object that was rescued from one of the longhouses.
Angus Mackay | Museum of the Highlands
Chair from Strathnaver Clearances | Museum of the Highlands

2 Learn about the church minister who broke the news to his congregation that their village was to be cleared. What will your students make of this bearer of bad news?
David Mackenzie | Museum of the Highlands

3 Explore how ordinary people can bring about changes in the Law by focusing on the extraordinary work of anti-Clearance campaigner Donald MacLeod.
Donald MacLeod | Museum of the Highlands

4 Consider if we can ever really know what happened in the past. Put this to the test as your students find out more about the notorious character usually called the ‘villain’ of the Highland Clearances, Patrick Sellar. Your students can decide for themselves how he should be remembered.
Patrick Sellar | Museum of the Highlands
Patrick Sellar was a well-known letter writer too. Take a look at his wax letter seal, at Brora Heritage Centre.
Wax Letter Seal Belonging to Patrick Sellar | Museum of the Highlands

5 Finally, discover Highlands writer Neil Gunn, noted for his novels exploring life in coastal villages set up during the Clearances. Explore his typewriter from Dunbeath Museum, or find ways to commemorate his achievements.
Typewriter Belonging to Neil Gunn | Museum of the Highlands
Neil Gunn | Museum of the Highlands

Take 5 – Learn how we lived in daily life gone by

Painting of Hilton secondary school - long white bulding with brown framed windows and 5 chimneys. skye is grey and a red clay type plaground to the front

‘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 – Learn how we lived in daily life gone by

Most of us know that daily life was significantly harder in the past. There are lots of objects to help you explore the rigours of just getting through the day!

1 Start with some objects to help you explore the household chores that would have required lots of effort. Take a look at a washboard from Ullapool Museum and a carpet beater from the Highland Museum of Childhood
Washboard | Museum of the Highlands
Carpet Beater | Museum of the Highlands

2 Next, use the fun ‘What’s that Noise?’ activity to engage your class with the wonderful world of butter-making from Ullapool Museum.
Noise-14 | Museum of the Highlands

3 Discover daily life in the Seaboard villages, with the incredible achievement of Jessie MacDonald, a Highland school teacher whose students collected stories from the community. Those stories have been preserved in an original copy of ‘Down to the Sea’ at the Seaboard Centre.
Jessie MacDonald | Museum of the Highlands
Original copy of Down to the Sea | Museum of the Highlands

Pair this book with the fisherwoman’s creel from Nairn Museum. Fisherwoman’s Creel | Museum of the Highlands

4 Learn about crofting life in the fun activity Could You Survive?
On the Family Croft | Museum of the Highlands

5 Finally, what would it have been like to live through the Potato Famine? It makes a powerful topic for reflection.
The Potato Famine | Museum of the Highlands
Pair this with this supersized potato masher from the West Highland Museum
Extra Large Tattie Masher | Museum of the Highlands

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

Climate Action Toolkit

Climate Action Toolkit

This toolkit represents a comprehensive response to the pressing challenge of climate change, which not only poses a threat to the environment but also amplifies existing social injustices and inequalities. Its primary objective is to equip independent museums in the Highlands with the necessary resources and methodologies to effectively incorporate climate action into their operational framework while fostering meaningful engagement with their communities.

We acknowledge the challenges faced by many small museums that may already be operating beyond their capacity. Embarking on the sustainability journey can indeed seem daunting and overwhelming, particularly when viewed as a massive undertaking. However, the toolkit aims to alleviate this concern by emphasising that sustainability can be seamlessly integrated into existing plans and projects, thereby becoming an intrinsic part of ongoing museum activities.

By presenting a step-by-step guide, complete with lists, glossaries, and do-it-yourself policy kits, the toolkit seeks to demystify the process of becoming more sustainable. Rather than viewing sustainability as a separate and burdensome task, museums are encouraged to see it as a pathway to enhancing resilience and attractiveness to funders. By strengthening sustainability practices, museums not only contribute to climate action but also position themselves as more appealing destinations for visitors and potential revenue sources.

Ultimately, the toolkit strives to streamline the sustainability journey for museums, allowing them to devote less time to administrative tasks such as policy development and more time to engaging in meaningful sustainability projects and events. By providing practical resources and guidance, the toolkit aims to empower museums to navigate the sustainability landscape with confidence and enthusiasm, driving positive change within their communities and beyond.

Why should museums & heritage organisations take action?

  • It makes financial sense: save money. Action now, saves costs later. It is cheaper to address climate and adaptation measures now rather than leaving it. Make links to Sustainable Development Goals to strengthen funding applications.
  • Climate and social justice – ensuring a just transition.
  • Educational enrichment – assisting with behaviour change.
  • Enhance reputation.
  • Attract and retain staff.
  • Press opportunities – opportunities for museums to spread the word about the great work they do to be more environmentally and climate friendly.
  • You can tackle multiple issues and there are opportunities for co-benefits. E.g. nature and biodiversity, employment, reduce pollution, community wealth building
  • Current and future regulatory requirements: to secure funding in the future.
  • Meeting current legislation ≠ safety: Climate change is happening fast but regulations and guidance are slow to change, currently lagging 12-20 years behind the science.
  • Important to act now to avoid cascading risks: Full impact of climate change is difficult to quantify. E.g. Extreme weather disruption, fluctuating prices of materials.
  • Crossovers with health and safety. E.g. Storms and flooding, pests and diseases, rising temperatures.
  • Mitigation isn’t enough and we need to reduce negative environmental and climate impact.

Download the resources you need below and/or get in touch if you would like any help with getting started. This toolkit was developed in partnership with Ki Futures with thanks to funding from Museums Galleries Scotland.

The Full Toolkit

Getting started and templates –

Museum Sustainability in 8 Steps

Awareness: Starting to think about sustainability in your museum

Setting Your Baseline

TEMPLATE_Environmental Action Plan

Sustainability Strategy Development

Accreditation climate actions

Easy wins and project inspiration

Curating climate stories and quick wins

Storytelling for the Planet_ a place-based approach for museum audiences

The Plastic Age_Future Archaeologists

Understanding the terms and building a case

Glossary

Cultural Heritage Goals – Sustainable Development Goals

Resources & Training

Understanding Climate Change

Museums a Central Role

Rethinking Missconceptions

Funding tips

Funding Sources

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!