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Shetland Amenity Trust Hosts UK Maritime Heritage Forum

Published: 21 May 2013

Delegates attend evening reception at Shetland Museum and Archives Delegates attend evening reception at Shetland Museum and ArchivesZoomShetland Amenity Trust hosted the 2013 UK Maritime Heritage Forum annual meeting at Shetland Museum and Archives last week.

Thirty delegates from a diverse range of organisations attended, including the Royal Museums Greenwich, SS Great Britain Trust, Excelsior Trust, RNLI Grace Darling Museum, and the Museum of Knots and Sailors' Ropework. Discussions and talks were held on a variety of subjects, with the main focus being on the conservation of traditional craft, and the passing on of maritime skills.

The Forum got underway on Thursday with talks from local speakers Duncan Sandison and Dr Ian Tait on Shetland's traditional boats, and the restoration of the Museum's small boats. This was followed by meetings of the UK Maritime Collections Strategy Group and Maritime Curators Group.

Friday 17th May saw a full day of lectures in the auditorium, beginning with Captain George Sutherland – Shetland Amenity Trust's Vice Chairman and former mariner. Captain Sutherland gave a fascinating and personal look back at his early maritime career, entitled 'Shetlanders and the Call of the Sea'. This was followed by Professor Tom Devine of the University of Edinburgh's keynote lecture – 'An Historical Conundrum: Scotland's Overseas Diaspora' which resulted in much discussion among delegates.

The first Panel Session entitled 'Positioning your Museum at the Heart of its Community saw three speakers give presentations before taking questions. Speakers included Emily Malcolm from the award winning Riverside Museum in Glasgow, Jimmy Moncrieff from Shetland Amenity Trust and Jonathan Griffin from the National Maritime Museum Cornwall.

The second session focused on passing on maritime skills and included presentations on boat handling skills, boat building apprenticeships and vocational skills training. Speakers for this session included local man Brian Wishart, Shetland Amenity Trust's Deputy Manager, Alan Blain, and Yvonne Green from the Lyme Regis Boat Building Academy.

Excursions on Saturday took delegates to Shetland Islands Council's Port Control at Sella Ness and the Sullom Voe Oil Terminal where they were able to see modern commercial maritime operations, which will become the heritage of future generations.

The event concluded on Saturday evening with a highly entertaining sell-out public lecture by marine archaeologist, Christopher Dobbs of the Mary Rose Trust. 'From Kennemerland to Mary Rose' chronicled Chris' career from diving on shipwrecks off Out Skerries in the 1970's to his current position as Head of Interpretation at the Mary Rose Trust, who are about to open their new museum in Portsmouth on 31st May.

Delegates travelling home after the conference were enthusiastic in their praise for the event, and the facilities and welcome they received in Shetland. Kevin Fewster, Director of the National Maritime Museum commented; "We are all hugely impressed by what you have created. Not only are the exhibits and programmes truly first-rate, there is a unity to everything one sees - the architecture, fitout, exhibition approach, even the shop and restaurant - which is inspirational. One very rarely sees this in any museum, regardless of size. We all leave the Shetlands hugely impressed by what you're doing."

Local delegate, Sandra Laurenson, of Lerwick Port Authority also found the event worthwhile. She said "It was good to meet some interesting guests from other Maritime Heritage sites and they were all very positive about their visit to Shetland."