A Shetland diary: Landscape and light

So first they brought the Gunnister man up, and now they’ve brought you?

The bus driver who drove me from the airport through the snow to start my week at work in Shetland gave me a personal tour of the island as he drove.

My job as a Community Engagement Officer with National Museums Scotland had taken me to Shetland in the bleak mid winter on a stormy adventure for two main reasons. The first to collect an important new acquisition, a fiddle made by Fair Isle born maker Ewen Thomson.

This fiddle is going in to a new gallery opening in the re-developed National Museum of Scotland in summer 2011 and will be one of the objects representing Scotland’s rich musical tradition. The second reason was to make recordings of Shetlanders’ stories about the sea. These audio clips will feature in a storypost interactive in a new gallery about Pacific islanders looking at islanders’ complex relationship with the sea, ‘the sea gives and the sea takes away’.

The ferry from Aberdeen to Shetland
The ferry from Aberdeen to Shetland.

Here in the Community Engagement team we promote our collections and the learning opportunities they provide to non-represented or ‘hard to reach’ communities. Our vast collections belong to the people of Scotland wherever they are in the country.

The people I met in Shetland are geographically ‘hard to reach’ from our base here in Edinburgh and this fiddle was a brilliant opportunity to travel north and strengthen our links with Shetland Museum. It was important to celebrate this object with its creator in the place where it was created before it made its journey to the south.

These speakers outside Shetland Museum play the sounds of Shetland and vary according to the strength of the wind.
These speakers outside Shetland Museum play the sounds of Shetland and vary according to the strength of the wind.

I was struck on my first day by how quickly the day light fades at this time of year, Shetland being on the same latitude at St Petersburg and the Southern tip of Greenland. I also watched the ITV weather forecast and laughed at its irrelevance to the locals in Shetland, especially when their islands have to be shifted in closer to the UK mainland to even feature on the map at all.

You can find out more about the Shetland fiddle on our website.

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