From Shetland Life, July 1986, No.69
(extracts from) Shetland Amenity Trust: The Future
By Gordon Mann and Alastair Hamilton
It is perhaps only natural that at a time of rapid change in Shetland society, people have become more concerned about their heritage of buildings, artefacts, language and customs. Several community history groups have been formed in the last few years, often starting by holding a local history exhibition. These groups have looked to the trust to provide financial assistance and professional advice. In responding the trust has taken care to ensure that each group is properly constituted and that their proposals will not duplicate the work of any other group. In this respect the report prepared by the council, ‘Interpreting Shetland’, has provided the framework for all this work; this has been developed by the council in the tourism development plan. All of the centres supported have been recommended for support by the council in the tourism development plan. With the development at Quendale mill in the South Mainland and the arts trust’s proposals for Weisdale mill, the pattern of local museums and visitor centres will be complete. There is of course a well recognised need for a new central museum to provide the core facilities with central professional staff.
In the late summer of 1985 the local groups decided to set up the Shetland Museums Forum in order to get together to discuss their overall strategy and to avoid duplication. Membership is open to all organisations or individuals who operate a heritage centre, visitor centre, display exhibition or similar facility. One of the forum’s first tasks was to publish a leaflet giving information on all the centres that are now available.
For some time now the trust has considered that an archaeologist is required in Shetland, initially to develop a sites and monuments record. The rate of development is such that some important sites have been put at risk and in addition changes in agricultural practices are resulting in the old field systems being lost. These require to be marked and recorded before it is too late. There is already a good record, built up over many years, of all the known sites in Shetland, but there is a need for a full and systematic survey, not only to ensure that they are properly evaluated but also to identify sites which have previously slipped through the net. As in Orkney the archaeologist would be able to encourage universities and the SDD to carry out rescue excavations such as the one currently under way at Kebister. It will also be part of an archaeologist’s duties to help with the interpretation of sites and to add to their attraction for visitors.