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Historic objects open up stories for new Highland museum platform

By John Davidson

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Museum artefacts (clockwise from left) a recruiting poster for the Seaforth Highlanders, the Calf Stone and the Cromdale Brooch. Pictures: Highlanders Museum/Tarbet Discovery Centre/Grantown Museum
Museum artefacts (clockwise from left) a recruiting poster for the Seaforth Highlanders, the Calf Stone and the Cromdale Brooch. Pictures: Highlanders Museum/Tarbet Discovery Centre/Grantown Museum

Museums from around the Highlands have joined forces to provide a new way to learn about the rich history of the area.

A new website provides a platform for people to learn about everything from archaeology and ancient stones, clans and Jacobites, the impact of world wars and everyday life to complex colonial histories alongside stories of historic Highlands people.

The learning hub, known as Museum of the Highlands, centres around an interactive timeline, allowing users to discover over 350 objects from 3 billion BC to the present day.

High-quality photographs along with detailed descriptions provide up-close analysis of each object.

Rosie Barrett, digital learning and interpretation specialist who worked on the project, said: “For anyone new to object-based learning, the concept is simple. The term refers to using physical objects as a teaching aid. We can see, touch, and even smell things our ancestors held and used to learn about the past. This project challenged us to capture and convey these physical attributes for a digital platform.

“My work is focused on exploring objects in ways that help us to grow and develop, including cognitively. I am interested in the untapped potential of using historical artefacts in cross-curricular ways and supporting the whole learner and how we think. Objects from the past can help us make sense of the present and work towards the future. Throughout the project, we share objects in ways that stimulate curiosity and develop thinking."

The recently upgraded Strathnaver Museum.
The recently upgraded Strathnaver Museum.

Available to anyone interested in the history of the Highlands, the website brings together 200 free resources, from fun games to in-depth learning aids.

A Gaelic version of the website will be complete in the autumn.

Fifteen museums from across the Highlands collaborated to create the website, with project management by the heritage network organisation Museums and Heritage Highland. The project has been supported by Art Fund through its Reimagine programme and Museums Galleries Scotland.

Innovation and network manager at Museums Heritage Highland, Nicola Henderson, said: “When the country went into lockdown in 2020, museums across the Highlands, like museums everywhere, looked for new ways to engage with people. Collectively, our network of museums developed the idea of an online digital learning hub sharing collections from across the Highlands. Thanks to funding from Art Fund and Museums Galleries Scotland, this spark of an idea has become Museum of the Highlands.

“We have created an engaging, fun and, most importantly, user-friendly website that supports individuals, families and schools to engage meaningfully with museum collections at home or in the classroom."

The museums involved in the project were: Brora Heritage Centre, Cromarty Courthouse Museum, Dunbeath Heritage Museum, Gairloch Museum, Glencoe Folk Museum, Grantown Museum, Groam House Museum, Highland Museum of Childhood, Nairn Museum, Seaboard Centre, Strathnaver Museum, Tarbat Discovery Centre, The Highlander’s Museum, Ullapool Museum, West Highland Museum.

An additional feature of the website encourages users to contact museums directly to find out more about their collections. Schools and other groups can also arrange virtual or in-person visits.

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