Strong support for new agricultural museum at packed meeting

How the museum would look on the outside. Click on image to enlarge.

Ambitious plans to build a new agricultural museum for Shetland met with universal approval during a packed meeting at the Tingwall Hall last night.

A 60-strong crowd turned out to hear proposals for a centre brimming with artefacts that highlight the island’s vibrant agricultural history – and all raised their hands in favour of the move.

The £1.3 million development could go up on land close to the Tingwall airstrip within the next three years, attracting up to 6,000 visitors annually to the 900 sq metre building.

The feedback now paves the way for work to begin on bringing the plans to fruition by securing external funding for the £1.3m project.

Up to seven people signed up to help make the museum a reality – more than enough to form a new committee dedicated to the plans – while an extra two dozen were willing to help with fund-raising activities.

Chairman of the steering group Drew Anderson had been pinning his hopes on a good turn-out, but he need not have worried – extra chairs had to be found for stragglers turning up for the 7.30pm start who struggled to find a parking space outside the hall.

“This is beyond what I thought I would ever see,” he said.

He praised the work of the late Alan Inkster, who came up with the idea to rehouse a collection owned by Jean Sandison, which helped form a previous museum many years ago.

Since then another collection housed at Brindister has also become available for inclusion in the building, while the area’s history group has indicated a willingness to get involved.

“Alan passed away in December last year. He is a great miss to the community,” said Mr Anderson. “His enthusiasm and drive is probably how we’ve managed to get this far.”

Although the plans, on display as people came into the hall, met with widespread approval some raised concerns about the building’s design.

Some thought a more basic building with less glass would cost less, and also help prevent some of the more fragile artefacts from being damaged by harsh sunlight.

The architect who designed the building, Suzanne Malcolmson, insisted there was room for manoeuvre on the design – indeed, initial drawings had featured a much larger glass area at the building’s entrance.

“This is just a feasibility study. There is nothing about this at the moment that is cast in stone,” she said. “Really, we were asked to provide a shed, but we have tried to make it more than just a shed.”

She added that fabric items which could be harmed if left in the path of direct sunlight would be kept away from natural light.

Other questions concerned how the building might be heated. A learning room included in the plans could be hired out, helping to raise funds, while volunteers manning the museum would likely charge an entrance fee at the door.

Mr Anderson said the idea was to heat the building using a ground-source system, which prevents the interior from getting too hot and causing damage to some of the fragile hand-tools. Wind turbines had been considered as a possibility.

Other ideas included an area where crops could be sown to show a more natural side to the museum, and take it beyond the machinery and implements housed inside.

The meeting heard a website will soon be set up to highlight the fledgling project, but there was also a suggestion to take out a page on the Shetland Heritage Association website.

The benefits of showcasing the museum on YouTube and Facebook were also extolled.

Laughs were raised when a call was made for a willing treasurer to step forward, before someone realised Graham Johnston was among the audience members.

“It’s too much for me,” the head of SIC finance, and fan of classic machinery, told the meeting.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Anderson said he had been “very encouraged” by the strong turn-out.

“I feel heartened by it because I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “We’ll probably need to have a meeting every month now, and we will need to get our constitution re-organised.”


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