What a way to start the day, a trip on the ferry across Loch Linnhe from Oban to the beautiful island of Lismore to visit the Lismore Gaelic Heritage Centre. And all for work!
I had the delight of visiting the museum for their Accreditation verification visit at the end of June. The site of the Heritage Centre is in the middle of the island; the ecologically friendly building opened in 2007 and houses the museum, collections store, office space, shop, café and library. The building itself is stunning, insulated with sheep’s wool, clad in larch and roofed with turf. Next to the Centre is the reconstructed 19th century cottar house. The cottage was rebuilt in the traditional way by local people and made use of reeds from Balnagowan Loch on Lismore, and opened to the public in 2002.
I was there for part of Lismore Museums Accreditation assessment, so met with part of the very enthusiastic team that had been responsible for pulling all the information together for their application. The first stage for me, as an Accreditation assessor, is to look at policies and plans particularly those ones that were not required to be submitted electronically. We spent time going through and talking about the Centre’s emergency plan ensuring that they had covered all aspects of the site, collections and safety of staff and visitors. I was delighted to see that they made use of their strong connections with the island’s voluntary fire brigade on the island. We then looked at the security report compiled by the two police officers that had visit the museum earlier in the year, before moving on to documentation and the dreaded backlog. For Lismore Museum, the collection within the museums is quite small so they have their backlog under control. The museum also maintains the records associated with the ‘Curating in Community’ project. This fanatic project allowed them to gather information about objects still owned within the community and ensure that they are preserved for the future (information was published in MG:Q 16). The catalogue that was created means that these objects are now accessible to the museum and researchers, and strengthen the ties with the community.
Next came the really fun part – looking around the museum and the store! Although small, the museum is great. The displays cover life on the island and the natural history visible all round the Centre featuring modern panels, AV and a variety of different types of objects including the newly acquired horse harness currently in the centre of the display area. The exhibition is changed at the start of very season, so that there is always some different to attract repeat visitors. The store was one of tidiest I had seen, with everything in its place and in boxes with their contents clearly marked on the outside, and a clever use of fluorescent labels to assist in salvage should it ever be required.
I was treated to a very tasty lunch in the café, served with a smile, and still had enough time before my ferry back to the mainland to have in-depth conservations with the volunteers and staff about future developments of the Heritage Centre and how the Accreditation Scheme and MGS can support them – exactly what a verification should be about.