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Highlands and Islands Museums Forum Museum Directory Launched

8th May 2009

Photograph of Highlands and Islands Museums Forum Museum Directory Launched

The Highlands and Islands Museums Forum (HIMF) worked in partnership with the Highland Council to organise 'The Past Presents' on May 4th at the Highland Folk Museum Newtonmore especially for Show Scotland 2009 weekend. The event, which was free and open to all, officially launched HIMF's new directory. The booklet contains information from over 25 museums and archives in the Highland region. It has been produced to promote museum collections, exhibitions and activities during this The Year of Homecoming. The project has been supported by The Highland Council and Museums and Galleries Scotland. For Caithness Wick Heritage Museum and North Highland Archive based at Wick Library are included in the new guide.

'The Past Presents'
The day began with a lecture by Dr Paul Basu, anthropologist and author of 'Highland Homecomings', published by Routledge, which discusses genealogy and heritage tourism in the Scottish Diaspora.

Paul gave an insightful and stimulating talk. He explored the relationship between those who return to Scotland seeking out their ancestral connections and the more commercial aspects of this part of the tourism industry in Scotland.

It was suggested that these 'Homecomers' do not consider themselves to be tourists at all. A more appropriate moniker may be that of 'pilgrims', defined as such by the very personal journey, full of symbolic and real actions, these people make when returning to their homeland.

On reaching ancestral lands, these pilgrims can benefit enormously from the support provided by local history museums. This is where Highland museums can make a real difference to the experiences these people have and the memories they go away with. Museums act as the conduits, the connectors and the museum staff and volunteers can help to fill in the last pieces of the puzzle by providing an opportunity to share and exchange information.

As museums strive to survive and develop in 2009 and onwards, they will continue to support these pilgrims. Everyone should be encouraged to make their own journey of discovery and experience being part of the learning, sharing community found at the heart of all local museums. There is a space in this community for every person who visits, wherever they may be from and whatever clan or tribe they may associate themselves with in the 21st Century.

Highland Museums were represented on the day by Mallaig Heritage Centre, The Museum of the Isles, Ullapool Museum, Historylinks Museum - Dornoch, Tain and District Museum, Timespan -Helmsdale, Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, Groam House Museum, the Clan Macpherson Museum and Tarbat Discovery Centre and the Highand Museum of Childhood ; all of whom provided exhibitions including printed material, films and hands-on activities. The old style games and toys supplied by The Highland Museum of Childhood, delighted both children and adults. Inverness Museum brought along a stuffed badger, which after some gentle encouragement from the Curator, attracted many little hands to give 'Eric' a tentative stroke. The other museums presented a plethora of information on current exhibitions and activities, Museum staff and volunteers were on hand to discuss their collections with the many people who filtered in and out of the Leanach Church.

Even more activities and entertainment were provided by Arthur Dutch, Tinsmith and Bob Pegg, Storyteller, both of whose activities were supported by their extensive collection of accoutrements, utilised throughout the day to great effect. It was deemed a very successful day by all, despite the squally showers. It is hoped that there will be future such events. Please keep in touch with HIMF activities by checking the blog at http://himf.wordpress.com

HIMF and The Highland Council hopes that the new directory will succeed in aiding and encourage many visitors to explore and access the wealth of resources to be found in museums across the region. The Directory is available in local museums and other distribution points in the Highland Region. If you would like to have copies to distribute please contact us to discuss at himf[AT]hotmail.co.uk or contact Lorna Cruickshank Highland Council Independent Museums Support Officer 01349863441 lorna.cruickshank[AT]highland.gov.uk

Please also see http://himf.wordpress.com/news to download a copy electronically.

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