Marine / Maritime heritage to be celebrated at museum this summer

Meanwhile the suspended boats – taken down over safety concerns – are due to return to the museum after the summer

A mural by S2 Aith Junior High students.

MARITIME heritage will be at the heart of Shetland Museum and Archives’ summer programme, with a series of themed exhibitions, displays and workshops each highlighting the isles’ seafaring history.

The museum, which is managed by Shetland Amenity Trust and set within the historic Hay’s Dock area, will bring boats out of its storage collection during the Tall Ships this coming week and visitors will be able to get up close to classic Shetland craft including fourareens, sixerns, and the restored lifeboats from the Oceanic and St Sunniva.

Five of the vessels will be familiar to regular museum visitors as they are the traditional Shetland boats that were suspended from the museum building’s ‘sail’, the boat hall.

Due to planned external and internal building maintenance and safety concerns the boats have temporarily been removed but they will be rehung after the summer season.

On the ground floor inside the museum is a new display of Peerie Boats model ships.


This is a display of a selection of ship models from the Shetland Museum’s collection ranging in size and quality of construction.

Most have been created by Shetlanders and reflect their experience of ships and shipping, fishing and trade.

In the foyer space will be a display of ‘Nordwind: Fine Lace Sail’. Nordwind is a restored model schooner, built in the early 1940s by Thomas Bruce of Skaw, Whalsay.

Mari Anderson (left) and Ailish Goodlad (right) have plenty of nautical themed activities planned throughout the summer at the Shetland Museum and Archives. Photo: Shetland Amenity Trust

She was named after a ship that was wrecked on the east banks of Skaw and is most likely made from wood from her wreckage.

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Angela Irvine, granddaughter of the model maker and a talented Shetland lace knitwear designer, took a keen interest in her grandfather’s yacht and commissioned her restoration as a family heirloom.

The Nordwind was restored as a two-mast schooner, while Angela hand-knitted Shetland fine lace sails in sea-themed traditional patterns to complete the restoration.

In the museum’s stairwells and learning room will be a sea of colour with vibrant tall ships inspired artwork from primary and secondary students and includes group murals, lino prints and three dimensional model tall ships, exemplifying the quality and diversity of artwork and teaching being accomplished in Shetland schools.

‘Saatbrack’ music will be heard from the boat hall – an immersive piece of sound-art music by Jenny Sturgeon, Renzo Spiteri and Tall Ships Ltd – drawing inspiration and raw material from the maritime world.

The ‘Fisherwomen’ exhibition by award-winning photographer Craig Easton has also extended until 30 July.

Angela Irvine next to the restored model schooner Nordwind with hand-knitted Shetland fine lace sails which will soon be on display in the museum. Photo: Shetland Amenity Trust

In the upper galleries is ‘To the End of the Days of Sail’, an exhibition by Laughton Johnston about tall ships and the Shetland sailing era, showing a selection of notable Shetland sailing masters and their vessels from 1840s to the 1920s.

Shetland Amenity Trust’s cultural heritage manager Jacqui Birnie said: “We are delighted to be bringing Shetland’s rich maritime heritage to the fore of our displays this summer and we are keen to explore ways to improve how we share Shetland’s distinctive boating heritage.


“We acknowledge that there has been a lot of interest in the museum’s boat collection over recent months and as part of our ongoing care and management strategy we are reviewing how to display the boats in the collection and how best to maintain them.

“Together with Marc Chivers, an experienced maritime ethnologist, boat builder and co-founder of the local heritage group Moder Dy, we have completed a comprehensive survey of the boats in the collection.

“We are now working towards plans for the boat shed at the museum to be used for the maintenance and restoration of all the boats. We will be launching an online survey to gather community input on ways to celebrate Shetland’s maritime history later in the summer. In the meantime we look forward to sharing our boat collection during the Tall Ships celebrations.”

In addition to the displays there will be a series of family activities and tours taking place throughout July and August. Visitors will be able to choose from maritime workshops including signal flag crafts, chart making, lino printing, scavenger hunts and more.

Full details can be found on the Shetland Museum website.

The Shetland Family History Society will also be located outside the archives during Tall Ships and volunteers will be there to answer any questions.

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