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Shetland heritage conference – shaping the future together

Published: 15 February 2023

The one-day event is aimed at anyone who would like to become more involved in heritage initiatives as well as people who are already working, volunteering in, supporting or engaging with Shetland’s heritage. It will be an opportunity for like-minded folk to come together to learn from each other, discuss project ideas, find out how to get involved in heritage activities and help determine future priorities. It is free to attend and will be packed full of discussions, learning and lively debate.

Guest speakers Neil Ogilvy from Museums Galleries Scotland and Audrey Wilson from the Scottish Council on Archives will share their experiences of supporting heritage networks and community-based projects through Scotland. In a virtual presentation, Neil will describe his role working with museums forums across Scotland, enabling connections between regions and providing training and advice. A conservator by trade, Audrey’s role is to help widen participation and engagement, working closely with community archives and local history groups. In her first visit to Shetland, Audrey is looking forward to meeting staff and volunteers, learning about our collections and sharing her knowledge about collecting and caring for oral, written and digital records.

Joint organiser, Eileen Brooke-Freeman from Shetland Amenity Trust said: “Our heritage conference is the first step in engaging and re-engaging with a Shetland-wide community. We want to inspire folk to get involved in heritage and find out what support existing volunteers need. We are delighted to welcome key speakers from Scottish museums and archives organisations who are coordinating exciting projects across Scotland and are keen to extend their support to community heritage in Shetland. We hope that as well as existing volunteers, folk new to Shetland and those who haven’t had the opportunity to interact with their local culture and environment, come along to share their ideas and discover more about the wide-ranging opportunities and benefits of engaging with heritage.”

Pat Christie, chair of Shetland Heritage Association said: “Following several years where connections have been mostly virtual, we are delighted to host an event which will bring together those already working in or volunteering in heritage together and people who would like to get involved for the first time. We see it as a way of strengthening and making new connections both locally and in a wider Scottish context. It will be a fine informal day with plenty of opportunity to network and learn from each other.” 

Participants will be able select from six discussion groups covering digital, living, built and natural heritage, oral tradition and telling Shetland’s story. This will include considering the stories we are not recording, the benefits and challenges of digitising photographs, why caring for our rare plants and breeds is important and how to care for and interpret our landscape. The theme of access to heritage, both physical and intellectual, will underpin each discussion. There will also be opportunities to learn about traditional straw crafts and see behind the scenes in the Shetland Archives.

Eileen added: “We hope the day stimulates good discussion and helps us identify what the heritage community wants and needs to better care for, develop, access and promote our unique heritage. Working together with the Shetland Heritage Association and other agencies, we aim to build on the conference through future workshops and events online and throughout the isles.”

The event is free, but booking is essential through Shetland Museum’s Little Box Office.

The Heritage Conference is supported by the Scottish Government funded Island Heritage and Culture project, which sought to lead the development of local projects directly linked to the heritage and culture of Shetland.