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

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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)

Kickstarting Glencoe Folk Museum

Kickstarting Glencoe Folk Museum

In this month’s blog we have invited Catriona, curator at Glencoe Folk Museum, and Connor, a Kickstart Trainee at the museum, to tell us how the Kickstart scheme has been working for them.

The Kickstart Scheme is perfect for a small museum like ours. At a time when we are beginning to work towards our Redevelopment Project, having another pair of hands to take on ongoing work like covering the front desk, cataloguing our collections and carrying out research has been invaluable. My colleague David and I both made our way into the heritage sector through similar schemes, so we are delighted to be able to give someone else the opportunity to gain the experience needed to start their museum journey!  Connor started with us earlier this year has been a major asset to the organisation. 

Hi! My name is Connor and I am the Kickstart Trainee at the Glencoe Folk Museum. As a Kickstart Trainee, I am working at the Museum for 6-months to get a taste of what it is like to work in a Museum and the Heritage sector. I’m very excited and grateful for this opportunity as I love to study history and I plan on working in museums in the future. 

The Kickstart Scheme is a government-funded programme aimed at 16-24 year olds on Universal Credit who are at risk of long term unemployment.

One of the reasons why I am enjoying this opportunity so much is because I don’t have a set role in the museum. My role can change day to day as I could be greeting visitors one day and cataloguing our collections the next. I’m thoroughly enjoying this as it is allowing me to get a much greater idea of what it is like to work ‘behind the scenes’ of a museum than if I was simply there to greet and direct visitors. 

I hope to find employment in the heritage sector in the future so this opportunity is giving me invaluable experience and a perspective that I wouldn’t have been able to find anywhere else. I still have a long way to go but these 6 months at Glencoe Folk Museum will set the wheels in motion for me.

My favourite aspect of history is that of 19th and 20th Century military history; everything from the uniforms to the kit and weapons. I have a fair amount of knowledge in regards to military equipment and items from that time but what I have the most knowledge in is firearms from that time. That is why I was thoroughly excited to have the opportunity to research and identify old, obsolete firearms from the 1850’s-90’s and a de-activated one from the Second World War that are in our collection. This is one of the best pieces of experience that I have gotten to date as this is the type of history and museum work that I love and would like to work in once I have the necessary qualifications.

Once I have completed my placement at the Museum, my plan is to join the Royal Navy as my main career path. As I have said, I’ve always had an obsession with the military and since I have grown up around boats and a nautical lifestyle, the Navy was the clear choice for me. One of the biggest reasons that I have chosen the Navy as my main career path is due to the education opportunities that are available. When I was in school, I wasn’t a very academic student as I preferred hands on learning to studying for hours on end. This led to me not getting the qualifications that I was hoping for and denied me the ability to enter University straight out of High School. The Navy allows you to study for a degree alongside your military service so I plan to study for a History degree during my service career.

Once I have left the Navy and gained my Degree, I plan to work in military oriented museums such as the Royal Armouries in Leeds, the Imperial War Museum at Duxford and The Tank Museum at Bovington. These particular Museums stand out to me as they often incorporate Re-enactment and Living History events into their displays and this is an aspect of the heritage sector that I think is an incredible idea and is one that I intend to take part in and enjoy.

All in all, I am beyond excited to be working at the Museum and once again I am so grateful to Catriona and David for giving me this opportunity that will give me a taste of, hopefully, what my career will look like in years to come.

MYseum May

MYseum May

Museums across the Highlands are welcoming back their local communities with free (or greatly reduced) entry, inviting them to see new exhibitions and acquisitions first!

To celebrate the reopening of museums, following COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, thirteen Highlands and Islands museums are taking part in a new MYseum campaign which sees them offering free (or reduced priced) entry to local residents for the month of May. 

Starting this Saturday (May 1) The MYseum campaign is designed to encourage residents local to each museum to rediscover the history and heritage on their doorstep and re-engage with their local museums, many of which have remained closed for the past year. 

Local museums, which are run primarily by volunteers, have been hit-hard during the pandemic as they rely heavily on income from visitors, but with support from XpoNorth Heritage and Museums and Heritage Highland many have worked hard during lockdown to reimagine their offering and produce engaging online content to stay connected to their communities – locally and internationally. Examples include Groam House Museum’s ‘Groam at Home’ collection which saw worldwide attendees discover and enjoy the museum’s content and its work to digitise the George Bain Collection, a recognised collection of national significance to Scotland. Highland Folk Museum launched its Badenoch Shinty Memories project and an online exhibition titled ‘Am Baile’ and West Highland Museum created a digital gallery in partnership with the University of St Andrews showcasing 100 objects in its collection.

As lockdown restrictions ease, local museums are eager to welcome visitors back to their venues by extending a warm welcome to local families. Some of the museums taking part in the initiative include Glencoe Folk Museum, which is putting its hugely popular Clan Donald Genealogical Chart on display; Museum of the Isles, Armadale Castle, Skye, which is launching a new outdoor learning space in early summer for Covid-safe family activities and events; Art Fund Museum of the Year, Gairloch Museum which has a new animation on the Gille Dubh, narrated by Sam Heughan, a new exhibition on Botanical Art by Cindie Reiter and a new photography exhibition, Scotland from the Sky to share; Highland Museum of Childhood, which will be unveiling its new main gallery following a lockdown refurbishment; Dingwall Museum, which will be opening with a fantastic new installation of the Conan Pictish Stone; Cromarty Courthouse Museum, which has installed a new digital sound system over lockdown and is launching a new soundscape experience, scripted and voiced by local people; Groam House Museum is launching with a fascinating exhibition, The Book Of Kells, Some Mysteries Revealed, exploring how The Book of Kells has inspired two specific artists and craftspeople: George Bain and Thomas Keyes; Inverness Museum and Art Gallery has created a dog-themed family trail around the museum to launch its latest acquisition: ‘On the Moors’ – an oil painting by Richard Ansdell; and Grantown Museum has a brand new Victorian  gallery to explore, ‘Grantown: 1882’ including 21 gorgeous replica costumes on display ready for its ‘Adventures in Costume’ project to begin. 

Six further museums, Castlehill Heritage Centre, West Highland Museum, Wick Heritage Museum, Brora Heritage Centre, Tain Museum and Nairn Museum are all expected to re-open in June. 

Talking about the MYseum campaign, Nicola Henderson, Heritage Sector Specialist at XpoNorth said: ‘’The independent museum sector has been hard hit during the pandemic with some museums not being open since the end of 2019. However, with support from organisations such as XpoNorth and Museums and Heritage Highland, all have been very agile in finding new ways to engage online and through collaborating with each other on activities such as the beautiful Highland Threads exhibition, showcasing 14 costumes from across the region through video and photography, and the Highland Objects podcast series. Now they are ready to welcome back visitors and they want to start with their local community. Staff, volunteers and visitors will all be nervous as we adjust to visiting venues again so their invitation to the community is to say thank you and welcome back, allowing them to engage with their exhibitions and new objects on display first and to help build confidence for all in this new world.’

Museums are offering free or reduced entry for local residents on presentation of proof of address. Re-opening dates vary. For detailed information on opening times and booking policies, please contact the museum directly before travel. 

-ENDS-

Museum Details 

Glencoe Folk Museum

Reopening 13th May – Thurs-Sunday only, 11-3pm, last entry 2.30pm. 

Free entry to locals

Museum of the Isles, Armadale Castle, Skye

Reopening – 26th April. Open daily 9.30 – 17.30, museum 9.45 – 17.00

Paid entry for all – but significant discounts for locals (Skye, Lochalsh, Mallaig) 

Gairloch Museum

Reopening – 27th April

Free entry for locals from April 27 to May 15 – contact the museum on 01445 712 287 or by email to office@gairlochmuseum.org to arrange your booking. 

Ullapool Museum

Reopening – 30th April – 22nd May for Locals 

Free access for locals, but donations welcome.

Castlehill Heritage Centre 

Reopening – early/mid June  

Entry always free to all – donations welcome.  Fully accessible and ample parking.

Wick Heritage Museum

Reopening 4th June

Free entry to locals for first 2 weeks

Timespan 

Reopens on May 17th, 2021
Price: Adult £4, Concession £3, Child£2, Family£10 (2 adults & 2 children), Group concession (over10 people) £2.65, Group £3.50 (over 10 people), School group £1.75.

Free entry to locals and members.

Opening times: every day, 10am – 5pm.
Please note, the museum and cafe capacity have been reduced to ensure social distancing. You can book a slot in advance by contacting us on 01431 821327 | enquiries@timespan.org.uk

Brora Heritage Centre

Re-opening: End June (date TBC

Historylinks Dornoch

Reopening – Monday 26th April. 

Admission £4 for adults £3.00 for concessions. Members and children are free. We have a limit of 10 people in the museum and this is controlled by a traffic light system. Online booking is available but not essential.

Open day with free admission to the local community on Saturday 22nd May (TBC)

Tain Museum

Reopening – 28th June. Free for locals

Tarbat Discovery Centre

Reopening – 1st May.  pre booked visits only for up to 6 individuals from two households. Please go to https://www.tarbat-discovery.co.uk/booking-formpage to view the available times and book your visit. 

Highland Museum of Childhood

Reopening – Thursday 20th May and will be open Thursday to Saturday, 11:00-16:00 and Sundays, 12:00-16:00. 

Free access to all for May.

Dingwall Museum

Reopening – mid May, exact date TBC. 

Free for all

Cromarty Courthouse Museum

Reopening on Saturday 29th May, our 2021 season will run to Thursday 30 September.

Opening hours: 12.00am – 4.00pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays plus Bank Holiday Mondays. Closed on Mondays and Fridays.

Free admission to all.

Groam House Museum

Groam House Museum, High Street, Rosemarkie IV10 8UF
https://groamhouse.org.uk

Reopening 1st May – weekend afternoons only. Additional opening over the summer. Please book via our website or at the museum.

Entry to the museum is free. 

Inverness Museum and Art Gallery 

Reopening – 27th April. Entry by donation. Booking is advisable (as we have a maximum capacity) but not essential. 

Tuesday – Saturday: 10.00-13.00 and 13.45-17.00  (last booking at 16.00)

Sunday & Monday: CLOSED

Highlanders Museum, Fort George

Reopening – 30th April, everyday from 10am. Entry to museum is free, but you do have to pay to enter Fort George – unless you become a member of the museum (£10 a year) then you can get full free entry. https://www.thehighlandersmuseum.com/

Nairn Museum 

Reopening – start of June (TBC Thursday 3rd) Limited day of opening,  Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 11-3pm

Grantown Museum 

Reopening – 1st May, everyday apart from Tuesdays. Free access to all in May

Highland Folk Museum 

Reopening – 5th May, entry by donation.  7 days 10am – 5pm

Collaborative Project links:

Highland Threads – www.HighlandThreads.co.uk

Highland Objects – https://highlandobjects.wordpress.com/

Thanks to Gairloch Museum for the picture – featured are the Front of House team Eilidh Smith, Beryl Seaman and Barbara Mackenzie

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

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

 

Historylinks – the journey to reopening and beyond!

Historylinks – the journey to reopening and beyond!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.historylinks.org.uk

www.historylinksarchive.org.uk 

Re-opening Gairloch Museum – A familiar journey

Re-opening Gairloch Museum – A familiar journey

Almost exactly one year ago, staff and volunteers at Gairloch Museum were putting the final touches to their new museum before its official opening. Scroll forward a year and the picture is a similar one.  After a very successful first nine months, during which it welcomed more than 10,000 visitors, the museum was forced to close for almost four months due to coronavirus.  Staff were furloughed and only returned to work at the beginning of July, after the Scottish Government announced its accelerated timetable for restarting tourism.  Since then it has been all hands on deck to get the museum open.  It has taken three weeks but we are almost there.

The first stage of the process was to set up a task force for reopening.  This has been led by Curator Karen Buchanan and includes front of house staff and volunteers with responsibility for retail and maintenance.  A risk assessment identified that the museum could reopen subject to some changes, the majority of which were in the areas of ticketing and cleaning.  It was also necessary to review display areas taking into consideration the risk of spreading Covid-19 through touch.

In order to reduce contact between visitors, it was decided to assign groups of visitors (e.g. families or couples) to slots and to introduce a one-way system for their circulation.  The display areas can accommodate a maximum of one group in each of the five galleries at any one time.  Using this system, groups should not come into contact with one another other than at pinch points such as the entrance and staircase.  Here barriers and passing places have been used to separate two directional traffic.  Consideration was also given to how to ensure only one group is using the toilet and shop at a time.

It was decided to use the Art Fund’s ‘Art Tickets’ booking facility for advance booking of slots.  This option was chosen as it is free for museums to use, and was a system we had already considered being involved with.  Art Fund have been overwhelmed with new users of Art Tickets, but have done a fantastic job getting us onto the system quickly and signing us up for training webinars.  As we open, we will be taking telephone and email bookings, but hope to transition soon to Art Tickets when we are more confident in using it. We will try to accommodate those who have not pre-booked and turn up on spec and they will need to supply the details required for Test and Protect.  From 9-10am we will only allow 2 groups in and reserve these slots for members and vulnerable people.

We have gone for a two prong approach as regards touching objects. We have signed just about everything.  Either it is OK to touch a display (this applies to interactives), or it is not (e.g. open display objects).  We have made it clear that touching interactives is at visitors’ own risk, and provided sanitizing wipes, hand sanitizer and bins next to them.  We feel that the signage we have used is user friendly and well designed in communicating the rationale to the visitors.  In one area where there are a lot of open display objects, barriers have been placed in front of the displays and new labels attached to the barriers.

We will not be able to allow visitors to use the film theatre in the museum. This is a great shame, as our film is so popular.  But it is 25 minutes long and the room it is shown in is poorly ventilated.  We have obtained permission from the film maker to publish clips from the film on Vimeo and we aim to do this, though it is unlikely to be achieved before we reopen.  We will also produce a large poster to go into the doorway of the film theatre that will advertise the film and have QR codes linking to the Vimeo clips.  We have also considered using QR clips to link to an area on our website which would house the sound clips from our listening posts.  This will take longer to produce and we will work on it once we are open.

Quite a few of our front of house volunteers have chosen not to return to help out at the museum for the time being.  However, we have managed to get enough volunteers to open 4 days a week 9-5.  In fact, it has been a good opportunity to recruit and train new volunteers.  We will have one volunteer on the desk and one upstairs stewarding groups.  Our FOH supervisor will meet and greet.  

One of the significant hurdles to reopening was getting hold of the materials we needed such as barriers and hand sanitiser dispensers.  We eventually got the latter after about a 4 week wait but one of our volunteers eventually had to go to Inverness to pick it up.  Barriers could not be obtained in time so they have been borrowed from a local contractor in the meantime.  We have installed a wall mounted or free standing hand sanitiser in every gallery, at the entrance, in the stairwell and outside the toilets. We have also placed one on the way into the shop and are grappling with instructions to visitors on touching shop produce.

It has been time consuming producing the information that we need to get out to visitors in its various formats and for different distribution channels.  We have had to change our opening hours on all the platforms that people use (e.g. Google Business, Visit Scotland etc.) as well as our own website.  We have dedicated a special page on our website to provide advance information for visitors and have also tried to get this out through social media.  We managed to recruit a volunteer to produce a film for us to guide visitors through the new systems in the museum.  This required storyboarding and recruiting people to take part in the film.  

With hopefully everything in place now, we are looking forward to reopening and to seeing how visitors behave in the museum under these changed circumstances.  We are well aware that we need to be flexible and respond to visitor feedback.  We will use our museum stewards to assess the effectiveness of the measures we have put in place and to feed back to us.  Wish us luck!

Find out about opening times and how to book here – https://www.gairlochmuseum.org/

Nairn Museum Celebrates Funding Award

Nairn museum curator

Museums Galleries Scotland grant awarded for new Family History Centre at much-loved local museum

Nairn Museum has secured a grant from Museums Galleries Scotland, the Scottish Government’s National Development Body for museums in Scotland, to create a new Family History Centre.

The award will be used to extend and greatly improve access and facilities for local historians, family history researchers, professional genealogists, visiting academics, and amateur sleuths in Nairn and the surrounding areas.

The changes will enable Nairn Museum to accommodate and safely store a substantial recent donation of material collected by local author and historian, the late Alan Barron, former Director at the museum – including much in-depth research on local people and families, and a large number of family trees.

The refurbishment will:

Relocate the Family History Centre from the first floor to the ground floor of Nairn Museum, greatly improving access for visitors and enabling volunteers to assist with enquiries

Increase and greatly enhance storage facilities for the museum’s extensive collections of census records, accounts of births, marriages and deaths, valuation rolls, parish registers, local newspapers, etc.

Improve kitchen and toilet facilities for visitors and volunteers.

Melissa Davies, manager at Nairn Museum, said: “We are thrilled to receive this award from Museums Galleries Scotland, and can’t wait to get started on the work. The refurbishment will be carried out by local contractors, and will radically improve the experience for people visiting the museum to find out more about their relatives and ancestors. It will also provide excellent opportunities to build on the skills and knowledge of our dedicated team of volunteers – without whose support there would be no Nairn Museum”.

Lucy Casot, CEO of Museums Galleries Scotland said: “We are delighted to support Nairn Museum with a Museums Development Grant to create an accessible family history resource room. This new space will widen the sharing of the family history collection for the community and visitors through increasing the accessibility of this valuable resource.

Nairn Museum is situated in the historic Viewfield House. It is a fully-accessible, family-friendly museum with a wide range of displays on the town and its local history. There are changing programmes of exhibitions and events, with everything from fine art displays to musical performances, together with special activities for children, families and special-interest groups. The museum is open from April to October each year, but can be visited any time by appointment. Contact Melissa Davies on 01667-456791 (or email: manager@nairnmuseum.co.uk) for further information.

Website: http://www.nairnmuseum.co.uk/