It is fair to say that this season has been an absolute joy, and has reminded us all of why we love working in the tourist industry. After a couple of years of travel restrictions and lockdowns, it was lovely to finally be able to welcome international visitors back to the museum and relax some of the Covid-19 precautions that we’ve had in place since 2020.
It was a very busy year for us all here at the Museum in all aspects of our work. We just about matched our 2019 visitor figures (which was a relief after 2 years of vastly reduced numbers!) and had our two busiest days in at least a decade.
We’ve also been busy behind the scenes working on the Development Phase of our Redevelopment Project. We were excited to welcome Peter Drummond Architects and Mather & Co Design on board last year and have been working alongside them to create exciting exhibition ideas and an ambitious extension to our current museum. This culminated in us being successful in obtaining planning permission in October – bringing us one step closer to securing the funding we need to make our dreams a reality! We also began an Oral History project, chatting to local people about their memories of work, growing up, Gaelic and general life in the area so that we can share community voices telling their own stories in the redeveloped museum. We can’t wait to continue this in the new year!
Our events programme has also been the busiest and best it’s ever been thanks to our Learning & Engagement Officer Parris, who joined the team at the end of last year. Since starting, Parris has engaged with over 200 school pupils either through outreach or onsite visits, and over 200 adults and 150 children have participated in the events and engagement programme. Highlights included: hosting an intimate evening event with Susan Fletcher, author of ‘Witch Light’, who discussed her book inspired by the Glencoe Massacre and Corrag the witch; researching and delivering a guided walking tour of Glencoe for Doors Open Day; working with local primary schools and getting them engaged with their heritage using objects from the collection; having Dr Hunter, Principal Curator at National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh, give a talk on The Ballachulish Figure; installing a Harry Potter themed trail in the Museum for all ages to enjoy; delivering multiple holiday themed crafts sessions for families but especially our Halloween crafts which saw repeat visits from locals.
Parris also organised two online events to allow our audiences from across the world to delve into and celebrate Glencoe’s rich heritage, and we were delighted to have people based in North America, across Europe and even as far away as Australia join us. Parris has secured funding to create loans boxes, buy materials for school programming as well as pay for professional writers to do events with the museum in 2023. One thing in particular that struck Parris was the amount of people who came to her events who said “I’ve lived here for ages but I’ve never been here before…” to which she always said “well there’s a first time for everything, so I’m really happy you decided to visit our wee Museum this time.”
There have been so many other things going on this year as well, making the Museum feel vibrant and thriving. We joined a project created by Museums & Heritage Highland to bring collections from Highland Museums together in one accessible, digital hub. As part of this, photographer Jim Dunn returned to the Museum to take photos of our collections. Long-time Scottish Museum workers Michael McGinnes and Lesley Botten also volunteered some of their time earlier in the year to digitise objects for us.
We created lots of new, bespoke items for our gift shop - including poster copies of our popular ‘Clan Donald Genealogical Chart’ and ceramic ‘Museum Bothies’ – and stocked local creators including Discover & Draw and the Glencoe Candle Company. We’ve forged partnerships with local groups, accommodation providers and heritage sites. We welcomed volunteer Marketing Advisor Carla and Fundraiser Katie to the team. We submitted funding bids for the conservation of some of our objects, including the Coffin Boat and a beautiful painting of Glencoe by Horatio McCulloch. We’ve hosted large tour groups, Museum Trustees, MHH members, researchers, writing groups and specialists in their fields. We’ve written blogs, conducted research, catalogued objects, made social media reels, attended a First Aid course, identified possible match-funding…Project Director David even found time to get married!
As always, we have to thank our wonderful volunteer Jimmy ‘The Bush’ for all his help on the front desk, his enthusiasm, local knowledge and the warm welcome he gives our visitors. We were so pleased to welcome our long-serving Museum Assistant Linda back this year as well after a two-year hiatus and look forward to seeing much more of her next year.
Finally, we just want to thank everyone for their continued support- for engaging with our social media posts, for reading our blogs, leaving lovely reviews and of course for visiting our little museum.
We hope to see many of you in 2023!