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Community / Museum to remain closed until at least mid-February

The trust runs the Shetland Museum and Archives on behalf of Shetland Islands Council. Photo: Shetland Amenity TrustShetland Museum and Archives. Photo: Shetland Amenity Trust

THE OPERATOR of the Shetland Museum and Archives hopes to reopen the building “as soon as it is appropriate to do so”.

As it stands the building will remain closed to the public until mid-February, in line with schools and leisure centres.

Interim chief executive of museum operator Shetland Amenity Trust Sandy Middleton said the organisation was also keen to align with the NHS Shetland message of “stay at home”.

“Officially under tier three museums can reopen and we do have a lot of measures in place to enable that, we just didn’t feel it was appropriate at this time,” Middleton said.

“We will look to reopen as soon as we can, and as soon as we think it’s appropriate to do so. But at the moment it just didn’t feel right to do that.”

She added that the “numbers [of coronavirus cases] are going down so hopefully we’ll be able to reopen soon.”

Although the museum would be generally quiet in winter, yesterday – Lerwick Up Helly Aa – “would have been one of our busiest days of the year”.

The amenity trust, meanwhile, has secured over £60,000 in funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise to improve outdoor spaces at some of its sites in light of the Covid pandemic.

Middleton said it will include putting benches and tables at Sumburgh Head, the museum and the Viking longship in Unst to “improve the outdoor spaces for folk to come and enjoy them”.

It comes after the trust was awarded nearly £74,000 from the historic environment recovery fund for preparing the Sumburgh Head lighthouse for the 2021 season.

Part of this was to prepare a new business plan and Middleton said this included making sure the offering at the visitor centre will attract locals and cover its costs.

“Sumburgh Head doesn’t have any public funding in it, so it’s got to cover its costs with ticket sales, donations, events and so on. With the local market, that becomes increasingly difficult,” she said.

“What we’re trying to do is just make sure we’re got a really good programme of engagement for this coming summer, very aware that it’s going to be a predominantly Shetland market.”