Reflecting on Highland Threads

Reflecting on Highland Threads

Catriona Davidson, curator at Glencoe Folk Museum, writes about being part of the Museums and Heritage Highland Network and getting involved in the Highland Threads Exhibition.

Being part of Museums and Heritage Highland has been fantastic for Glencoe Folk Museum. As a small museum with only one full-time member of staff (myself, though the past couple of years we have employed a Redevelopment Manager), having access to the resources, expertise and advise of staff across a range of Highland museums has been invaluable. 

Highland Threads is a great example of how MHH has helped smaller museums. We chose to put forward our 18th Century Spitalfields Silks dress for the exhibition, partly because it is the most beautiful item of costume in our collection and partly because it required more work than can be done with just one member of staff. The dress has been on an inappropriate and unsuitable mannequin for years: it was the wrong shape for the style and was putting strain on the already damaged silk. Previous attempts to remove or improve the dress led us to the conclusion that once it was removed from its current mannequin it would not be going back on, and we didn’t want to handle the fragile material more than once. That meant that before we did anything we needed a suitable replacement mannequin, the assistance of a conservator to direct us in how to handle the dress and to make a condition assessment while it was loose, the input of someone who could tell us how the dress would have been worn so that we could fashion the mannequin appropriately, plus funding for all of the above! So, when Highland Threads came along, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for us to achieve something that we had been working towards for years, while also getting to contribute to a fantastic collaborative project. 

Another unexpected bonus for us was that we discovered more about the history of our dress. This dress has very little provenance other than that the silk was woven probably in Spitalfields in 1740, and it was being used as a dressing up costume (and was put in the washing machine!) before being donated to the museum in the 1970s. However when MHH took on the services of Rebecca Olds, a Dress Historian with particular expertise in 18th Century costume, she was able to read the history of the dress in its stitches, tucks and threads, painting a detailed picture of a well-loved gown that was passed down through different generations and fashions. It is so much more than we ever expected when we joined this project, and certainly much more than we would have likely achieved by ourselves.   

Seeing our dress up on the website alongside beautiful, intricate and fascinating items from other museums makes us really feel like part of a Highland museum community, and we’re so grateful to MHH for creating opportunities like this for small museums. 

You can visit www.highlandthreads.co.uk to see the full exhibition and support Highland Museums.

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…Photographer on the move

Jim Dunn photographing a gansey from Wick Heritage Centre

As part of the Highland Threads project, Museums and Heritage Highland offered each participating museum conservation expertise, professional photography and promotion. Many smaller museums struggle to access these services, so contracting sector professionals to work across the project and individually with each participating museum is affordable and proves excellent value for our members. For this third blog in our series Jim Dunn, professional museum photographer, tells of his travels across the Highlands during a pandemic to capture all the beautiful costumes on camera for the online exhibition.

One of the delights for me working on the Highlands Threads project has been how organised each of the museums I visited have been. The West Highland Museum had even arranged with the traffic warden for me to be allowed to park in the pedestrian area outside the front door of their building, a trivial thing you might think, but when your car is bulging at the seams with all the paraphernalia required to set up a temporary studio for photography and video, small things like that bring a smile to my face. 

Helen Avenell takes credit for arranging all my visits, the constantly changing situation due to Covid meant that access dates had to be moved or cancelled and as I type, we wait with bated breath hoping lockdown will allow us access to one final piece of costume – talk about drama! 

Every visit that could be arranged went very smoothly. I was welcomed by staff or volunteers, safety precautions related to Covid were discussed and implemented where required, I was then shown to a space that in every case was suitable for me to set up my background and lights – perfect!  

Talking of backgrounds, at an early stage of the project it was decided that a black background would be used for all the photography and video. Not a big challenge I thought, lots of light coloured outfits, maybe a couple of military uniforms that might be a bit tricker to light against the black. But no, a few wags thought it might be amusing to make things more interesting for me and give me more of a challenge! “lets look out that funeral dress, yes the ‘black’ one” – “what about a nice pullover, yes the one with the great story, the ‘navy blue’ one… “. 

Photographing a Fisherman’s Gansey at Wick Heritage Centre

But all joking aside I do like a challenge and in the end I was pleased how all the outfits turned out, whether dark or light in tone.  

Another person whose work made my job infinitely easier was conservator Rachael Thomas. I often arrived at a venue a day or two after Rachael to find a beautifully dressed mannequin ready for photography or that could be placed on my turntable for the 360deg videos. 

This has been an interesting project for me, not just the logistics and the disparate venues, but the beautiful costumes and in particular meeting so many dedicated staff and enthusiastic volunteers. 

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.

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.

Opportunity – Events and Outreach Coordinator, Gairloch Museum

Gairloch museum exterior

Gairloch Museum is inviting museum learning professionals and digital content providers to work with our Curator and volunteers to develop, deliver and market a programme of entertaining, heritage-related digital content and blended learning activities..

Download the full tender here –

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.

GAIRLOCH MUSEUM NAMED AS A WINNER OF ART FUND MUSEUM OF THE YEAR 2020

GAIRLOCH MUSEUM NAMED AS A WINNER OF ART FUND MUSEUM OF THE YEAR 2020

Gairloch Museum has been announced as a winner of Art Fund Museum of the Year 2020, the most prestigious museum prize in the world. In a unique edition of the prize and in recognition of the unprecedented challenges that all museums face this year, five winning museums have been named. They will equally share the £200,000 award, a 40% rise over previous years. 

The winning museums are: Aberdeen Art Gallery (Aberdeen, Scotland); Gairloch Museum (Gairloch, Scotland); Science Museum (London, England); South London Gallery (London, England); Towner Eastbourne (Eastbourne, England). They are awarded based on their achievements in 2019 – 20.

Dr Karen Buchanan, Curator of Gairloch Museum commented:-

“The recognition that comes with this award brings our small, independent museum to the national stage.  With the prize money, we will be able to invest in our planned outdoor museum space and procure expertise and equipment to redesign our events and outreach programme for a sustainable, digital future.   We rely on tourism to our small community.  Our Art Fund Museum of the Year status will boost visitor numbers in 2021, when our must-see event will be an exhibition of the art of Alison Dunlop RSW, celebrating the rugged beauty of the Shiants – the enchanted isles of the Minch.”

Today’s announcement kicks off a week-long celebration featuring live-streamed talks, events and digital activity, giving an inspiring opportunity to get involved with museums all over the country. 

The judges, Jago Cooper (Curator of the Americas, The British Museum), Dame Liz Forgan (Trustee, Art Fund), Ryan Gander (artist), Melanie Keen (Director, The Wellcome Collection) and Jenny Waldman (Director, Art Fund), reflected: 

“The story of the rebirth of this truly special museum, nestled on the remote north-westerly coast of Scotland, captivated the judges; a tale of people-power, determination, and local pride. The museum’s move in 2019 to a new home – not a grand new build but a repurposed nuclear bunker – transformed a village eyesore into an important visitor attraction.  It was the culmination of an 8 year, £2.4 million redevelopment project made possible by more than 120 volunteers.  The redisplay of the museum’s collection which encapsulates the history, culture, beauty and character of Gairloch and its new home have reanimated the village’s pride in its heritage, created a buzzing new community hub, and produced a sustainable cultural landmark for generations of visitors to enjoy.”

Jenny Waldman, Director of Art Fund, said: “Congratulations to Gairloch Museum. The five Art Fund Museum of the Year 2020 winners are exceptional examples of museums offering inspiration, reflection and joy in the heart of communities. The UK’s museums – admired worldwide and vital locally – were thriving before Covid-19. Now they can help rebuild our communities and confidence as we emerge from the virus.” 

Dr Karen Buchanan, Gairloch Museum’s Curator, will reflect on the museum’s achievements as part of a panel discussion at 11am on Tuesday 13 October, featuring all the winners of Art Fund Museum of the Year 2020 and Art Fund Director Jenny Waldman. Produced in association with The Art Newspaper and led by art critic and podcast host Ben Luke, registration can be made here https://art-fund.arttickets.org.uk/art-fund/2020-10-13-meet-the-winners-art-fund-museum-of-the-year

As part of the week-long celebration, Gairloch Museum is also holding a three-day archaeological dig at one of the Achtercairn Roundhouses, located just behind the museum (Wednesday October 14th, Thursday October 15thand Friday October 16th). On Thursday October 15th, local researcher, historian and Museum Director Jeremy Fenton will give a talk, describing the changes to and impact on the Gairloch area as transport links improved in the region through time. 

Other highlights of the week include Outlander star Sam Heughan reading a beloved folktale from the West Highlands of Scotland, pertinent to Gairloch Museum’s collection and local histories. Aberdeen Art Gallery will unveil Spotify playlists reflecting the museum’s collection. Towner Eastbourne will hold a daily ‘digital mindfulness retreat’ tapping into the beauty of the museum’s location and collection. South London Gallery will reveal a new poem inspired by Walter Crane’s wooden panel at the Gallery stating, ‘The source of art is in the life of a people’. The Science Museum will release a series of ‘Secret Science Club’ films on Instagram in collaboration with influencer Anna B that will explore the amazing experiments you can see in the museum’s Wonderlab: The Equinox Gallery. Find out more www.artfund.org/museum-of-the-year– add @artfund and #museumoftheyear 

VisitScotland has welcomed the news of the award as a boost to tourism in the North of Scotland.  Chris Taylor, VisitScotland Regional Leadership Director, said: 

“I am thrilled that Gairloch Museum has been chosen as one of only two Scottish winners of Art Fund’s prestigious Museum of the Year award.  I would also like to extend my congratulations to the other Scottish winner, Aberdeen Art Gallery. Both are equally-deserving of this accolade, demonstrating that their work over the previous year has stood out way beyond that of their competitors. 2019 was a transformational year for Gairloch Museum. At the heart of its relocation and reopening has been a huge community effort from a fantastic volunteer base, to successfully secure £2.4 million in funding to redevelop and transform a disused nuclear bunker into such a fantastic new visitor attraction and community hub. For such a small community, this is very inspirational. The Museum has further strengthened the cultural offering for visitors to the Highlands during what has been a hugely challenging year for the tourism industry.”

Wondering what to do with the kids this October? Try a Museum!

Wondering what to do with the kids this October? Try a Museum!

This year’s October holidays are going to be a bit different. The weather is less reliable than in the summer months and in normal times we’d visit more indoor activities – the pool, soft play, theatre, museum. This year many things are not open and therefore choices are pretty limited. And those that are open you may be wary of visiting as the Covid-19 crisis continues or  are worried about what the experience will be like with lots of restrictions in place. As a lover of museums I was keen to get back, but with two young kids I was worried both about how safe we would feel, but also if touching and interacting was off the table, then keeping a 2 year old and 6 year old engaged would be very difficult.

I was wrong and write today to reassure you that a museum visit this October is a great way to entertain your little ones! I visited two museums in September – Gairloch Museum and Highland Folk Museum and was reassured that fun and learning could still be had in a safe way!

Gairloch is a traditional museum – in that it is indoors with a series of rooms telling different stories from history that relate to the Gairloch area. As per Scottish Government guidance all of us over 5 had to wear a mask entering the museum and wash our hands. We were greeted by a volunteer who explained the one way system, provided us with a guide and asked us not to enter a room while another family was there. Now, my 6 year old was happy wearing his mask in the reception area, but as we moved round the museum he got hot and wanted to remove it – I had suspected this would happen and raised it with the museum beforehand. As they were asking for one household only in each gallery we agreed that at ‘pinch points’ like the reception area or going to the toilet we would insist he wore his mask, but when we were in the gallery on our own with no other households we let him remove his. We kept ours on at all times.

Gairloch has also got the balance of what kids (and adults!) can still interact with and what  they can’t exactly right. If it is a delicate, historic object that is difficult to clean then touching is a big no-no (quite rightly), but for their interactives you were provided with wipes and hand santiser to use before and after any touching. This was fantastic. You felt confident that everything was clean and safe, while also ensuring that the museum visit was fun and engaging for your young child. My boys loved it and had such a fab time – we passed an hour, learned a lot and had fun!

Playing on the earthquake maker!

The Highland Folk Museum is an outdoor museum so social distancing and the like are a bit easier. Obviously you still make sure you stay 2m from anyone else visiting and if you go into any of the indoor bits, then please do put on your mask, but aside from that it all felt perfectly normal! You can explore old croft houses, shops, school and tool yards while also burning some energy on a good Highland walk and there is a playpark and picnic benches. So much for adults and kids to both enjoy and it is easy to spend half a day there.

In essence, a day out at a Highland Museum is a great way to entertain the kids this October – no matter their age! Please visit our page on what museums are open to help plan your great day out! https://museumsandheritagehighland.org.uk/highland-museum-re-opening-plans