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Shetland Museum and Archives

A museum and archive complex at Hay's Dock in Lerwick which utilises old boat-sheds, skillfully extended by Manchester-based BDP architects to incorporate a striking timber-clad three-storey Boat Hall, housing traditional boats suspended up to 14m (46 feet) high. Opened in 2007, the museum is intended to provide a heritage hub for local people as well as attracting visitors. The £11.6-million project provides an unrivalled insight into island life, with a collection that includes more than 3000 artefacts, over 60,000 historic images, together with documents, records and a sound archive, which incorporates both oral and musical recordings. This collection embraces archaeology, alongside the natural, social, cultural, industrial and maritime history of the islands, displaying everything from everyday domestic objects and vehicles to local textiles, with a particular emphasis on knitting, lace and Fair Isle woollens.

The museum introduces Shetland's story, from its geological beginnings to the present day, through twelve themed zones on two floors. The zones include early people; home and land; customs and folklore; maritime and fisheries; changing culture; trade and industry; power and state; and on the move. As well as traditional display techniques, these zones offer interactive displays and children's activities, as well as vivid reconstructions - such as a traditional 18th-century Shetland house complete with a likeness of the now-extinct Shetland Pig. The archive contains written records from Shetland's past, dating from the 15th to the 20th century. Its holdings include records of the Shetland Islands Council and its predecessors; court records; and a wide variety of papers generated by individuals, estates and societies. There is also microfilm of local newspapers, parish registers and census records for those interested in family history.

Constructed by local contractor DITT Construction Ltd., the new building extends to 3500 sq. m (37,674 sq. feet) which represents five times the display area that was available to the former museum at Hillhead, and three times the archive storage space. The museum also includes a search room, boat restoration sheds, an auditorium seating 120, a learning room, temporary exhibition space, together with administration, curatorial and conservation spaces, and a café restaurant and gift shop. Ships' timbers found when dredging Hay's Dock have been fashioned into a unique reception desk and shop fittings. Traditional skills are demonstrated by craftsmen in the boat-building shed.

The museum is run by Shetland Amenity Trust, on behalf of the Shetland Islands Council, and was primarily funded through the Shetland Charitable Trust (the islands' oil-fund) and the Heritage Lottery Fund.


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