ON the trail of heritage centres, museums, cultural exhibitions and history groups you will discover the magical story of Shetland, its history, its people and traditions. The network provides an insight into the lives and livelihoods of the islanders from prehistoric times to the present day. From static displays and interactive presentations to live dance, music and craft demonstrations you can sample the Shetland story at venues throughout the islands. Also browse the recently launched website, www.shetlandheritageassociation.com, which contains a wealth of interesting information.
Managed by Shetland Amenity Trust, Shetland Museum and Archives represents a museum of international significance, and is an informative and important cultural hub.
Shetland Museum and Archives tells Shetland’s story, from its geological beginnings to the present day, and is an inspirational starting point for exploring many other key sites, visitor centres and collections on the islands.
Set in a restored 19th century dock, the building boasts a unique location, stunning views and a wide range of facilities, including two floors of displays, learning and research rooms, exhibition gallery space, auditorium, shop, café restaurant and boat shed.
Over 3,000 artefacts from both the museum and archives collections have been brought together to tell Shetland’s story in the most complete and accessible way. Highlights include the three-storey high boat hall with restored boats suspended in the air, world-famous textiles and a model of Shetland’s famous and now extinct native pig.
The building also houses a state-of-the-art archive facility, which contains written records of Shetland’s past from the 15th to the 21st century, and the fourth largest collection of archive photography in Scotland.
Hay’s Dock Café Restaurant serves fresh local produce, simply prepared and beautifully presented, in a stunning setting to complete the experience.
Two major exhibitions are planned for 2011. The first, running from 22nd January until 27th March, is an exhibition of the world-famous Lewis Chessmen. These amazing and intricately hand-crafted pieces will be displayed in Da Gadderie as part of a national tour co-ordinated by National Museums Scotland. The main summer exhibition will be held in recognition of the Tall Ships visit to Shetland. From 12th June until 25th July, a celebration of tea clippers and their precious cargo will include displays of crockery and associated tea-brewing tools in addition to photos, stories and archive materials about this well loved commodity
The Shetland Museum and Archives is open daily from 10am and entry is free. For further information call 01595 695057.
The Crofthouse Museum in Dunrossness is part of the Shetland Museum and Archives service run by Shetland Amenity Trust. The house is a typical thatched crofthouse of the 19th century, restored with traditional materials, and will give you a good idea of how many Shetland families lived at that time. A warm peat fire and a welcoming custodian ensure you will feel at home.
A typical family unit included grandparents, parents and children. The sea was the main provider, not the land, and the crofter was a fisherman, seaman or whaler. His wife and family would tend to the land while he was away.
Due to the nature of the building, it is not suitable for wheelchair access. Please also be aware of low doorways and uneven floors. Open from 10am to 1pm, and 2pm to 5pm every day from 1st May to 12th September.
Admission is free, but donations are welcomed to help maintain the house. Contact the custodian if you need help or advice on 01950 460557 or call Shetland Museum and Archives on 01595 695057.
Quendale Watermill, built in 1867, is two miles off the Sumburgh to Lerwick A970 road at Quendale Farm. The mill is in the middle of the working farm so visitors are asked to drive with due care for animals and farm traffic.
This 3-star Visitor Attraction and category A listed building was opened in 1993. It houses displays of agricultural tools, machinery and photos. Recent additions to the displays include beautifully hand-made model carts; carpenter’s and stone mason’s tools; and cooper’s barrel making tools.
Items of local historical interest, including the original pulpit from Dunrossness Baptist Church, are exhibited and there is a short DVD film featuring local folk demonstrating the milling process. Copies of the DVD are available to purchase.
The reception area has a small craft shop (free admission), with a good selection of quality goods at affordable prices. Hot and cold drinks are always available and the toilets are suitable for people with disabilities.
In the courtyard are examples of restored machinery of yesteryear. A short walk up along the burn to the dam can give good views of the bird life in the area, with the occasional rarity not unbeknown.
This is also a Promote Shetland ‘iPoint’ offering comprehensive information for visitors, including public internet access. Opening hours are 10am to 5pm daily from 18th April to 16th October. Admission to the Mill and static displays is £2 for adults; £1 senior citizens and 50p for children 3 years and over. Contact telephone is 01950 460969 or you can visit any time by logging on to the website.
Situated in the picturesque hamlet of Hoswick in Sandwick, the Hoswick Visitor Centre is open from May to September. Easily accessible, this is the ideal place to stop for tea or a light lunch.
The Promote Shetland ‘iPoint’ and public internet access is useful for visitors and you can browse through copies of documents such as local censuses and stories of significant local events.
The extensive display of historic radios and the weaving looms are particularly notable. In the extension to the centre new displays, including the Hoswick Whale Case of 1888, give a snapshot of the land, the sea and the people of that time.
More details are available by contacting 01950 431406 or 431405, or by email email@example.com.
Böd of Gremista and Shetland Textile Working Museum
This 18th century fishing böd, located on the edge of Lerwick, is run by Shetland Museum and Archives and is the birthplace of Arthur Anderson, co-founder of the P&O shipping company. Two of the rooms have been restored to show how they would have looked 200 years ago during Arthur’s childhood and also contain displays depicting the history of the whitefish industry. This industry would have been booming at the time, and the böd would have been used as a fishing station house and warehouse.
In addition to the whitefish history, the böd now hosts the Shetland Textile Working Museum which is home to a unique collection of woollen clothing and textiles from Shetland and its associated islands, including Fair Isle. The collection illustrates the development of traditional styles and techniques which have been used in the area. The museum offers regular workshops and demonstrations and includes a small reference library. The museum is administered by the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers, which was formed in 1988 with the aim of preserving and extending these traditional skills.
Due to the nature of the building, wheelchair access is limited to the ground floor and the steepness of the stairs may limit access to people with disabilities. For more information telephone 01595 694386 or 01595 695057. Open 1st May to 12th September, Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm. Entry is free, donations welcome.
Bressay Heritage Centre (01595 820750), beside the ferry terminal, is open from May to September (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10am to 4pm and Sunday 11am to 5pm). It houses information and displays on many aspects of the natural and cultural heritage of Bressay, including an exhibition documenting the innovative and exciting Bronze Age Bressay project.
Cruester burnt mound, an unusual Bronze Age monument, was rescued from destruction by the sea and rebuilt, stone by stone, beside the Heritage Centre. The site is open to visitors at any time and will be the focus of some fun and fascinating experimental archaeology during the summer months, as Bressay History group and PhD student Lauren Doughton investigate just what it may have been used for.
For more details contact Lauren.Doughton@postgrad.manchester.ac.uk.
The centre is also a regional Promote Shetland ‘iPoint’ and staff can offer advice and information on the local area.
The Scalloway Museum presents a picture of life in this part of Shetland over the ages, with a strong emphasis on fishing.
It also has a permanent exhibition featuring Scalloway’s unique role in the Second World War. From 1942 to 1945 the village was a secret base, used by Norwegian patriots who regularly crossed the North Sea in fishing boats – later in sub-chasers – to land saboteurs, ammunition and radio sets and to bring back refugees from their German-occupied homeland – an operation which became known as ‘The Shetland Bus’. The exhibition covers the full story of this almost forgotten aspect of the war with a list of all the missions carried out by the fishing vessels, many of which were lost, either by storm or enemy action, and the proud record of the Hitra, Hessa and Vigra, the three sub-chasers which were so well armed that no self respecting German pilot would come near them! There is a wide selection of photographs and among the exhibits is one of the radio sets that was actually used to send information to this country.
The museum is very popular with Norwegian visitors, but has many items of interest to all nationalities. Open from May to September, Monday to Saturday, 10am to12noon and 2 to 4.30pm
The varied, interesting and extensive collection at The Cabin Museum in Vidlin, started off in the early 1990s with Andy Robertson’s collection of cap badges. This ‘museum with a difference’ has now moved to larger premises at Wirlie, Vidlin, and you can browse the now extensive display of exhibits which tell some of Shetland’s history, from the whaling days to the coming of oil and two world wars in between. Photos, books, medals, uniforms, museum pieces and much, much, more can be seen.
The Cabin is one of twelve ‘iPoints’ provided by Promote Shetland and is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 5pm, April to September. Out of hours opening by arrangement, telephone 01806 577232 or 01595 694891.
Tangwick Haa Museum is in Eshaness, the north-west corner of Northmavine. The Haa was erected in the late 17th century for the Cheyne family, who owned land in different parts of Shetland, including Tangwick. The building fell into disrepair during the 20th century, but was restored as a museum by Shetland Amenity Trust and officially opened in 1988. The museum is run by Northmavine History Group in conjunction with Tangwick Haa Museum Trust.
The exhibitions illustrate various aspects of Northmavine life and culture through the years. On the ground floor visitors can usually see artefacts and photographs relating to the basic industries of crofting and fishing. A microfilm viewer is available with census and parish records. Postcards and souvenirs are on sale.
Upstairs, the main room is usually given over to an exhibition on some major theme. The smaller room, often referred to as ‘the laird’s room’ shows what a ‘ben room’ or parlour might have looked like in bygone times.
This is a Promote Shetland ‘iPoint’ and staff can offer advice and information on the local area. Telephone contact number is 01806 503389.
The Haa is open daily, 17th April to 30th September, from 11am to 5pm, but phone if you’d like to arrange a visit outwith these times. Admission is free but donations are welcome.
The Old Haa at Burravoe is one of Yell’s oldest buildings (1672), restored in 1984, and open each summer from late April to October as a visitor centre with displays and artefacts of local interest. It has regular exhibitions of works by local and Shetland-wide craft workers and artists.
The museum, tea shop (with the best homebakes) and craft shop is open on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10am-4pm and Sunday 2pm-5pm. The rear of the Old Haa houses an award-winning walled garden with a path for disabled access as well as a dedicated children’s play area.
The Haa is a regional Promote Shetland ‘iPoint’ and staff can offer advice and information on the local area. Telephone contact number is 01957 722339.
Unst Heritage Trust invites you to take a walk through Unst’s fascinating history, from its dramatic birth with geological upheaval, through Stone Age, Bronze, Iron, Pictish, Viking, Norse and Middle Ages to the present day.
You can find displays and information in various forms at the heritage centre. For children there is a range of activities – dressing-up, games and puzzles. For serious researchers or browsers there is a wealth of information to explore. In fact, there is something here for everyone.
For folk with Unst connections there is the outstanding June Owers’ archive on kin, and her accurate plans and sketches from Unst’s abandoned townships.
The custodian is knowledgeable and always willing to guide you.
There are many Unst specialities: the Muckle Flugga, Shetland ponies and unique fine lace knitwear. On a Friday afternoon you can try your hand at spinning or knitting with experienced ladies who gladly share their knowledge. Many handmade souvenirs and gifts are available from the shop.
The Heritage Centre is also a Promote Shetland ‘iPoint’ and is open May to September daily from 11am to 5pm.
The unique collection of wooden boats in the Boat Haven is effectively displayed on a shingle beach. The historical mural at the far end, depicting the old ‘sixareen’ days, adds to the atmosphere. Most of the boats here have been used in the past for inshore fishing but the ‘sixareens’, like the Far Haaf, ventured much further, sometimes with disastrous results and there are many stories to tell of bravery and hardship. Artefacts, displays, photos and documents all help to tell these stories.
The days of the great herring boom, when Baltasound was the top herring port in Europe, are not forgotten. The vast supporting industry on shore added many hundreds to the population every summer. Coopers constructed thousands of barrels and the forty-nine curing stations required teams of gutter girls to gut the herring and pack the barrels ready for export. All the extra summer workers had to be housed and fed!
If you are interested in Unst’s maritime past you will find historical sections to explore, a quiet room and helpful custodians to guide you. There are also interesting play activities for children.
The Boat Haven is open daily from May to September from 11am to 5pm.
Fetlar Interpretive Centre
Fetlar Interpretive Centre (01957 733206) is at Houbie. This 4-star Visitor Attraction’s exhibition, ‘Sir William Watson Cheyne and Antiseptic Surgery’, won the Educational Initiative award at Scottish Museum of the Year in 2000. It tells the story of a Fetlar man’s involvement with Lord Lister in the pioneering developments of antiseptic surgery in the Victorian era, and includes two interactive computer presentations, one of which is for children.
Fetlar was also the focus for a visit from Channel 4 TV’s Time Team and information and photographs from the digs are available for viewing along with a selection of objects found earlier at the sites which were excavated.
Disabled access is available to the centre which has a wide range of local exhibitions and interactive presentations on Fetlar’s history and wildlife, as well as film of the island dating back to the 1930s. Visitors may like to sit back and listen to recordings of old Fetlar tales told by the late Jamesie Laurenson.
The centre is a Promote Shetland iPoint and staff can offer advice and information on the local area. Open from May to the end of September, Monday to Friday from 11am to 3pm and 1 to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Shetland’s world famous fire festival is held annually in Lerwick on the last Tuesday of January. Smaller celebrations are held in some country districts over the next few months. To experience the festival without actually being there, visit the Up-Helly-A’ exhibition which is held in the Galley Shed at the east end of St Sunniva Street in Lerwick from mid-May to mid-September.
Open Tuesday and Saturday 2-4pm and Tuesday and Friday 7-9pm, there is a film, photos, costumes and a replica galley on show.
The galley shed and exhibition are also included as part of the Up-Helly-A’ Trail guided walk with Douglas Sinclair of Island Trails. Call 01595 692446 or 01950 422408 for more details.