Lost At Sea

Lost At Sea

Despite the current lockdown restrictions Strathnaver Museum is continuing to carry out community research projects and are appealing for members of the public to submit their stories about those ‘Lost at Sea’ along the north Sutherland coast.

As part of the Year of Coast and Waters Strathnaver Museum will be staging a digital exhibition ‘Lost at Sea’ exploring the stories of those who lost their lives at some of the wreck sites to be found along the north coast. These include the SS Ashbury (1945), fishing disasters at Kirtomy (1910), the 1890 storm which saw losses of fisherman from Port Vasco, Portskerra and Melvich, alongside the Portskerra drownings of 1848 and 1918 and ‘The Thorvaldsen’ (1858).

The most recent disaster the team are researching is that of the SS Ashbury. It represented the worst loss of a merchant ship during World War II not due to enemy action. The steamer foundered and sank at the mouth of Talmine Bay with the loss of the 42 strong crew on 8th January 1945.

The SS Ashbury had been traveling as part of a convoy from Lochewe, but falling behind, it became unmanageable in heavy seas. Twenty-six bodies were recovered with fourteen of the crewmen buried in war graves in Thurso Cemetery.

In 1910 the village of Kirtomy was devastated when a fishing boat was swamped within sight of the harbour. Three boats had been out taking in their creels when they were caught in a sudden storm. Two boats were able to make the safety of the harbour but the third, the “Rival”, sailing against the storm was swamped and sank. All five crewmen were lost that day leaving behind four widows and five children.

One of the worst local fishing disasters occurred twenty years previously when a storm swept into Scotland catching many fishing boats out at sea. Three boats from this area, the ‘Excelsior’, ‘Lively’ and the ‘Diadem’ were lost along with the lives of 20 of their crew.

Nearly all of the seven crewmen on the local boat “Excelsior” came from the small hamlet of Port Vasco. The other two boats the “Lively” and the “Diadem” were crewed by fishermen from Portskerra and Melvich. A memorial on the road to Portskerra harbour commemorates the local fishermen who tragically lost their lives at sea in the storms of 1848, 1890 and 1918.

The museum holds 3 objects relating to one of the earliest tragic shipwreck stories to be explored as part of the research project.

The Thorvaldsen with a crew of 12 and 2 passengers left Cardiff for Trondheim in Norway with a cargo of coal on 26th February 1858. The 300 ton Norwegian barque was captained by Hans Berg accompanied by his English wife Eleanor, who was one of the passengers.

From leaving port the ship was beset by heavy gales which led to them mistakenly thinking they were off the coast of Shetland when in fact they were heading towards Strathy Point. On the evening of 9th March Captain Berg, seeing land, ordered the anchor to be let go. Unfortunately, this action resulted in the ship swinging round broadside, her mast going over, tearing out the ships side and breaking the hull in three pieces.

The scene was witnessed by a crowd on shore but with the nearest boat, a coble, being 4 miles distant a rescue attempt was delayed. Four local men bravely rowed the coble to the stricken ship but it took three attempts before they managed to reach and bring ashore the 4 exhausted survivors. Captain and Mrs Berg are buried in Strathy graveyard.

The Board of Trade awarded bronze medals to the rescue party, one of the recipients was Angus Macdonald. His grandson, the late Angus Macdonald of Bettyhill, donated the medal to Strathnaver Museum.

The figurehead of ‘The Thorvaldsen’, sculpted by Hans Michelsen (1789-1859), a student of Bertel Thorvaldsen, an internationally famous Danish sculptor based in Rome, is displayed in Strathnaver Museum.

The final item relating to ‘The Thorvaldsen’ is timbers from the hull of the ship which forms the roof over the croft house display. The cruck frame was retrieved from a croft house in Strathy when it was renovated in 1985. Several of the neighbouring croft houses had adapted parts of the hull to use as roof timbers. This demonstrates just how important the reuse of materials would have been for people on the coast, particularly for scare materials such as wood.

Researcher and Strathnaver Museum Director, Robert Mackay said: “There are many fascinating stories attached to these wreck sites and we are keen to explore these further. We would like to hear from descendants who may have personal family reminiscences about the men and their loss so we can uncover the stories behind the names”.

If you have a family story about these events Strathnaver Museum would like to hear from you. Please contact the team at genealogy@strathnavermuseum.org.uk to submit your stories or to get more information.

Dè tha dol? What’s happening?

cut our puppet of a girl doing a cartwheel. coloured in orange, yellow and purple

Many of our museums are still working hard behind the scenes to ensure their audiences can get their heritage fix and connect with each other. We are going to do a wee series shining a spotlight on what’s happening. This first blog shines the spotlight on the Museum of the Isles at Armadale Castle, Skye, West Highland Museum in Fort William and Groam House Museum, Black Isle .

The Museum of the Isles at Armadale Castle, Isle of Skye, is keeping audiences engaged online. With education staff unable to deliver the weekly family sessions, they’re posting family activities to do at home on the website instead: https://www.armadalecastle.com/family-activities-to-do-at-home/. They are also sharing lots of content on social media, with a popular ‘object of the week’ post featuring artefacts from the galleries and museum stores. Traditional music is an important part of Armadale Castle’s activity, so they are also regularly sharing highlights from the castle’s piping and clarsach competitions held on Facebook. [eg https://www.facebook.com/ArmadaleCastleSkye/videos/2501800346710409/]. And with the museum being situated in a stunning garden location, there’s regular garden tips too [https://www.armadalecastle.com/seasonal-garden-tips/]
And if you’re intrigued about what a curator gets up to in lockdown, have a look at this #MuseumFromHome video! https://www.facebook.com/ArmadaleCastleSkye/videos/1143750272645277/
Follow them here –
https://www.facebook.com/ArmadaleCastleSkye/
https://www.instagram.com/armadalecastleskye/
https://twitter.com/ArmadaleCastle

While the West Highland Museum in Fort William is closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic they are focusing on improving their online content to engage with their existing social media followers, support local communities, and develop new global online audiences.
They already have a popular Facebook page with almost 2.8k followers where they regularly share content about collections, local history and links to interesting stories.  They have re-launched thei Twitter account and will be posting to this regularly.  They have also started Pinterest and Instagram pages to share their collection with the world.
Since the Museum has been closed they have launched a blog, featuring a good variety of guest bloggers who showcase their collections and local history. They have recently launched a podcast and the first series focuses on local communities in the Fort William area and they will be working with Edinburgh University Museums to develop an online learning project about Scottish folklore for children.
In the longer term they are in the process of developing a new website and are looking to start video output with the launch of a YouTube channel.

https://www.facebook.com/WestHighlandMuseum/?ref=bookmarks
https://westhighlandmuseum.wordpres.com
www.westhighlandmuseum.org.uk
https://www.buzzsprout.com/966610/3590722?fbclid=IwAR0XP5A26qaI68uZbouoMd-YRqUgehbCHKR_LpXBoc1mvgwPW1DNay50Qmo
https://twitter.com/WestHighMuseum
https://www.instagram.com/west_highland_museum/
https://www.pinterest.co.uk/whm1922/

THE SWORD OF DONALD CAMERON OF LOCHIEL

Groam House Museum have launched Black Isle Scarecrows!  The idea is simply to make a scarecrow, display it for your neighbours and passers-by to see, then, if you would like to, take a photo and post it to their new Facebook group ‘Black Isle Scarecrows’  https://www.facebook.com/groups/BlackIsleScarecrows/ 
A traditional scarecrow is made with threadbare overalls and stuffed with straw or anything else you can find – maybe old newspapers or plastic bags.  The secret to making the best possible scarecrow is being creative to recycle, reuse and repurpose old clothes and other props you already have.  During lockdown we all have time to have a good rummage around the house, shed or garage where I’m sure you will find all you need to inspire you!  
They are also continuing work on looking at how to present the work of George Bain online and are inviting feedback from all on this. Find out more here http://www.groamhouse.org.uk/index.asp?pageid=709546&fbclid=IwAR3WV5LgMWgrK3Np3og51kpY6aeyYzP7FVL2EDkMxbpzxtL1mHVGZWVEc_g

Covid-19 Resources and info

Covid-19 Resources and info

To support museum staff and volunteers at this time we are launching our first digital Heritage Cafe‘s  – we thought it may be useful to have an online space where we could come together, share advice, ask for support or just have a natter over a cup of tea? On Friday 10th April , we would like to host two Zoom sessions for you to join us. One at 10am and one at 2pm. Just for an hour or so. If you would be interested in taking part, drop Nicola an email here and we’ll send you a link to the session.

Collections security – It is important to check with insurers on this, but if it absolutely essential for you to check on collections from time to time, please see the template letter from Groam House Museum. It is important to ensure safety of staff and volunteers in the first instance, but if one person is making as few trips as possible and preferably by foot, taking all necessary precautions such as hand-washing etc, then it is possible to do. some pandemic guidance can be found here – https://icom.museum/en/covid-19/resources/recommendations-for-museum-conservation/?fbclid=IwAR3bmuPF9p5ZGrlN3bmoXC9qSyVEisva1h783r7scJmAK5LlUy0ADOI6UyI

The first XpoNorth Heritage Hangouts were a great success and thanks to all who took part. If you would be interested in taking part in one – you can still get in touch and I’ll add you to the list for the next round. They are an opportunity to discuss different ways you can utilise technology to engage with your audiences; develop digital experiences; create immersive content and/or how to monetise content. email nicolahenderson@xponorth.co.uk

On monetising – one thing we discussed with many museums last week was using Patreon https://www.patreon.com/ It is a bit like an online friends subscription service and a place where you could add special content for your members etc. if you would like to know more don’t hesitate in getting in touch!

And finally some more links to useful information at this time and a link to free measuring social impact courses which could be extremely helpful going forward:

MGS updated that all accredited museums will have their award status extended for 12months. – https://www.museumsgalleriesscotland.org.uk/accreditation-recognition/accreditation-scheme-frequently-asked-questions-faqs/?utm_content=buffer8ae31&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

MGS have also launched their emergency funds to support the sector through this crisis – https://museumsgalleriesscotland.org.uk/stories/mgs-announces-new-funds-to-support-scotlands-most-vulnerable-museums-and-galleries-and-to-support-digital-and-home-working/

AiM are hosting fee online advice surgeries – https://www.aim-museums.co.uk/coronavirus-support-resources-online-advice-surgeries/?utm_content=buffer93f8c&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

NLHF have launched their emergency fund – https://www.heritagefund.org.uk/news/heritage-emergency-fund-launches-help-sector

More NLHF info https://www.heritagefund.org.uk/blogs/how-we-will-be-helping-heritage-community-during-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic

Some useful resources from an email from the Archives NRA Jiscmail list here https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/webadmin?A2=ind2003&L=ARCHIVES-NRA&P=R85448

AiM – https://www.aim-museums.co.uk/coronavirus-resources/

Creative Scotland – https://www.creativescotland.com/what-we-do/latest-news/archive/2020/02/coronavirus-advice

Third Sector Resilience Fund – https://scvo.org.uk/support/coronavirus/funding/for-organisations/third-sector-resilience-fund

XpoNorth resource library – https://xponorth.co.uk/resources/covid-19-coronavirus-resources

Free social impact courses from Just Enterprise – https://justenterprise.org/demonstrate-social-impact/e-learning-impact-measurement/

Internationalising Our Culture and Heritage Course – https://xponorth.co.uk/resources/our-culture-and-heritage-international-market-opportunities-elearning

OSCR guidance – https://www.oscr.org.uk/guidance-and-forms/covid-19-guidance-for-charities/2-funding-and-finance/?fbclid=IwAR0XTEG5EbBEif6kLv-OUiAYuCHIkDlTe6JFcZ4pZMUsWxq2ZRFJ6xg5PKk

Visit Scotland Market Intelligence – https://www.visitscotland.org/binaries/content/assets/dot-org/pdf/marketing-reports/visitscotland-market-intelligence-290420.pdf

Social Distancing Toolkit for Museums https://www.designbyccd.com/wp-content/plugins/pdfjs-viewer-shortcode/pdfjs/web/viewer.php?file=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.designbyccd.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2020%2F05%2FCCD-x-Smartify-Re-mobilising-Museums-White-Paper-1.pdf&dButton=true&pButton=true&oButton=false&v=1.5.1#zoom=auto





XpoNorth Heritage

xponorth logo

XpoNorth launch Museum and Heritage Support Programme

We are really excited to launch XpoNorth Heritage as a dedicated support strand for the Highlands and Islands Heritage community. This support programme is unique in structure and will be completely driven by the needs of the sector; it will also interface with XpoNorth’s wider specialist advice programme, encouraging deeper cross-sectoral interaction that will lead to new and innovative ways of working. You say what you need and the programme aims to help you find a solution!  

So, what it is and what can it do for me?

The heritage programme aims to offer support through providing additional capacity and expertise to help turn your ideas for building more resilient organisations into actions. The programme will help the Heritage sector to develop ideas that will attract new and/or diversify existing audiences, investigate the potential to create new income channels or build capacity within your organisation by creating new connections across the creative industries. We all know that there is a great range of skills and expertise across the sector and there are many excellent ideas as to how we can change our ways of working in order to become more resilient in difficult economic times – and in the face of a climate crisis. However, for many of us the offer of a helping hand and advice can be enough to bring the idea to fruition. This programme hopes to help you with that. You may have a story you want to tell using new technology, or an event programme that you want to encourage more people to engage with remotely or an innovative new product idea. Whatever you are thinking, get in touch and we can chat through how we can help you reach your goal. 

How will it work?

If you have an idea for meeting challenges or creating new opportunities, and would like support in developing it further and/or access to specific creative industries experts (such as digital, retail, publishing, storytelling, sponsorship etc) then please fill out this form – https://xponorth.co.uk/sector-support-programmes.  One of our team will then get back to you to discuss your project and what kind of support you need. Essentially by filling out the simple request form, you get a commitment to provide you with an advisor who has time to work with you to develop your idea or put you in touch with the relevant expert to support your project. It is important to note that this programme is not about telling the sector what it needs – it is about you telling us what you need. It may be specialist advice on a product you want to develop, or how best to cultivate and engage new and existing audiences; a key area for the project is also the potential for the introduction of new technologies to enhance physical customers experiences or leverage exciting remote interaction. You may be looking to better articulate your story and the provenance around it, or how to demonstrate the value of your idea to key stakeholders.

Anything else?

Accompanying this central element of the programme will be a series of events looking at examples of where experiments with new technologies or creative industry partnerships have helped the heritage sector identify new income streams and/or attract new audiences and inspire ideas. If you have a project you would like to share with the sector, then please do get in touch – nicolahenderson@xponorth.co.uk. There will also be opportunities to access training and skills development as part of the wider XpoNorth programme.  

Nicola will be planning some visits to discuss the programme with you and to ensure it best meets the sector’s needs so please expect an email in the near future – in the meantime if you have any questions do not hesitate in getting in touch nicolahenderson@xponorth.co.uk.

Nicola Henderson who is working with XpoNorth on the Heritage Support Programme

 XpoNorth Heritage is supported by HIE, Museums Galleries Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland and Creative Scotland

Armadale Castle opens doors for new season and launches new bar-bistro

view of armadale castle with trees behind and grass in front

Armadale Castle, Gardens & Museum opens its doors for the new visitor season on Monday 2 March. The Visit Scotland 5 star visitor attraction has extended its opening in response to Skye’s growing popularity as a year-round destination. The castle gardens and museum will be open Monday-Friday during March and November, and daily from April to end October.

Also opening on 2 March is a new bar-bistro. Armadale Castle has teamed up with Z’s Amazing Kitchens to bring a new dining experience to the historic stables building. Open daily from morning until late, the Armadale Bar and Bistro will serve classic dishes with a modern twist with an emphasis on locally sourced produce. 

The south Skye attraction has also announced a busy programme for all ages and interests. Highlights include a monthly marketplace selling plants, produce and crafts and a Jacobite Day in August with costumed re-enactors. In the museum, a new exhibition on Clan Donald castles by the sea has been specially produced to celebrate Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters. 

Armadale Castle particularly welcomes families and this year has reduced the price of under 16s entrance ticket to signal this commitment. Local residents continue to enjoy special reductions, and annual membership is also available.  Family activities on offer this year include a weekly baby and toddler group, Easter treasure hunt and family fun sessions in half term and holidays. 

On Tuesday 24 March, local businesses are invited for a unique afternoon experience of what Armadale Castle and Z’s Amazing kitchen will offer in 2020. There will be the opportunity to meet the teams, swap leaflets, network with other tourism businesses and take a garden or museum tour. See the Armadale Castle website or social media for more information.

Zsolt Balogh of Z’s Amazing Kitchens commented: ‘We are very excited about the new additions to our portfolio and we are looking forward to opening on Isle of Skye, where both locals and visitors can be assured of a great atmosphere and outstanding service. Z’s Amazing Kitchens is an award-winning, independent, family-owned business with a clear vision: to bring something unique and engaging to the restaurant industry and make a permanent mark on Scotland’s culinary scene. At Armadale Bar and Bistro we will be offering contemporary bistro cuisine, blending traditional flavours with modern cooking methods and exquisite presentation.’

Sue Geale, Museum Manager and member of the Management Committee, commented: ‘We had another great season last year with increased numbers of visitors and much positive feedback. We’re greatly looking forward to opening on 2 March and welcoming both local friends and visitors from around the globe.’

2020 programme at a glance

For more information see www.armadalecastle.com/events. Further events to be announced.

Monday 2 March: Armadale Castle, Gardens & Museum open Mon – Fri, 10am – 3pm; Armadale Bar and Bistro open 10am – late.

Thursdays from 5 March, 10.30am – 12.00: Family activities in the museum. During term time:‘Museum Monkeys’ baby & toddler group with games, stories and songs. During half term and school holidays: Family fun for all ages, with art & craft activities. 

Tuesday 24 March, 2 – 5pm: Open afternoon. All tourism businesses welcome. 

Monday 30 March – end October: Armadale Castle, Gardens & Museum daily 9.30 – 5.30 pm

Saturday 21 March: Junior Clarsach Competition.All welcome to hear young musicians.

April – May: Rhododendron and Bluebell Festival. Garden tours and trails.

Saturday 11 April: Coastal Castles of Clan Donald exhibition opens. Temporary museum exhibition linked to Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters, runs until end November. 

Thursday 2 – Monday 13 April, 10am – 5pm: Easter Treasure Hunt. Family fun in the gardens and museum. 

Saturday 9 May, then 2nd Saturday in the month up to September: Monthly marketplace. Crafts, produce and plants on the lawn outside the Stables.

Friday 12 June, 7pm: Piping competition. Five pipers compete in theannualDonald MacDonald Cuach Piobaireachd Competition. 

Saturday 13 June, 2.30pm: Clarsach competition. Three harp players compete in the annual Princess Margaret of the Isles Senior Clarsach Competition. 

Saturday 15 August Jacobite Day, 11.30 am – 4pm. Watch costumed re-enactors and join in Jacobite themed activities.

September – November. Scottish Tree Festival. Garden tours and trails.

2 – 27 November  Armadale Castle, Gardens & Museum open Mon – Fri, 10am – 3pm

Highland Museum’s Day

ARCH Highland logo

Highland Museums Collections: Taking Stock and Looking Forward
A day organised for volunteers and staff from Highland museums and archives (accredited / non-accredited, large and small) to exchange information about museums and collections, explore issues of on-line catalogues, volunteer  training, and other issues. Lunch is provided, and travel expenses reimbursed (please carpool if possible). Initially, please only up to four people per museum/archive. If spaces allow we will offer them to others. Free! The day has been funded by ScARF and High Life Highland, with support from ARCH and Museums and Heritage Highland.

Date: Thursday  12th March,

Venue: Alness Heritage Centre (102 High St, Alness IV17 0SG)

Times: 10-4

Bookings to Susan Kruse at  archhighland@googlemail.com. Please provide full contact details and specify any dietary issues.

Please find full information on the event via this link

Historylinks East Sutherland Longhouse Project

Historylinks East Sutherland Longhouse Project

Historylinks Museum in Dornoch is delivering an exciting project looking at the history of the Longhouse and in particular focusing on life in the community of Dalnamain pre-clearances.

Their Project Manager and Curator have worked together to create workshops that will inform the local community about life in Dalnamain before the Clearances took place. They have identified experts who could facilitate workshops and pulled together an exciting project programme. The programme, now in full swing, includes silversmithing, coppicing and willow weaving, cooking, construction and thatching, working with wool, leather craft, music and much more.

The programme of events will culminate on Saturday 28th March when they host Changing Perceptions: Let’s Talk About Dalnamain. Kicking off with a site visit to Dalnamain led by Archaeologist, Anne Coombs, it will be a day to showcase the practical workshops that have taken place, together with talks by Dr Michael Rhodes and their Curator. A scale model of Dalnamain as it looked in the 18th Century, and created by Dave Mahoney and Historylinks’ Young Curators, will be on show at the heart of their Project exhibition in the Museum.

Please read more about this project in this full blog

And find out about the full programme of activities here

An Iconic Acquisition with a Secret – at West Highland Museum

snuff box

Here is a short blog from Vanessa Martin at the West Highland Museum in Fort William on a recent exciting acquisition that is now on display in the museum.

‘We were delighted to have the opportunity to purchase a rare hidden portrait Jacobite snuff box at the Lyon and Turnbull auction in Edinburgh in August.  

It is a mid-18th century circular box with enamel tartan decoration, the hinged cover opens to reveal a plain interior, however, the hidden double lid opens to reveal a finely enamelled portrait of Prince Charles Edward Stuart in tartan jacket with orders of The Garter and Thistle decorations, white cockade and blue bonnet.

Hidden portrait snuff boxes such as this are amongst the most iconic Jacobite works of art. This example is in particularly good condition and finely enamelled.  The portrait is a variant of the famous Robert Strange example which likely date this piece to circa 1750.

The Museum has been established as a “Jacobite Museum” since its inception in 1922.  We have many unique and unusual objects already in our collection such as the Secret Portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie and his death mask. This iconic object will be a valuable addition to our Jacobite collection and is now on permanent display.

We would not have been able to acquire this fine object for the collection without the financial support of the National Fund for Acquisitions, the Art Fund and a very generous local donor.  We are most grateful to everyone who has contributed to make this purchase possible.  The final price for the snuff box at auction was £9,750.’

Bonnie Prince Charlie picture on snuff box

More Than Just A Label

More Than Just A Label

What do you think makes a good museum label? MuseumNext has an interesting article on the subject.

The best museum labels do more than just provide information. A great museum label takes its reader on a revelatory journey, reframing perceptions along the way and provoking a lasting reaction.

By Anna Faherty, 2 September, 2019

Read more on the MuseumNext website.

Making Exhibitions Accessible

Shape Arts Guide To Accessible Exhibitions

Are your exhibitions fully accessible? There are some important points to consider in relation to all aspects of access.

Shape Arts has created a short guide for curators, programmers and exhibition organisers to give an overview of how to ensure that the exhibition you’re putting on is accessible and inclusive of disabled people.

Read the guide and find out more on the Shape Arts website.