Unlocking the treasures that tell the story of the Highlands

From a 5,000-year-old whalebone figurine to a set of duelling pistols and a “secret” portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie, the items take us straight to the heart of life in the Highlands over time.

From left to right: A secret portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie, a whalebone figurine from Orkney which dates from 2,400BC to 2,900BC; a silk dress made in London and worn to a ball of Jacobite supporters and a pair of duelling pistols that belonged to a merchant from Ullapool. PICS: West Highland Museum, Stromness Museum, Historylinks Museum Dornoch, Ullapool Museum.

Now, a new campaign has been set up to bring the treasures of the north to audiences around the world, despite the lockdown.

Highland Objects has been launched to open up the collections of the small independent museums in the Highlands, which are now facing a very uncertain future given the impact of the pandemic and the loss of vistitors from around the world this year.

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7 Jacobite relics still found in the Highlands
Compiled in 1814 by John Brown, genealogist to HRH the Prince of Wales, this genealogical tree charts the various branches of Clan Donald from Somerled, to the Lords of the Isles and onwards. It is beautifully illustrated, and features famous names such as Robert the Bruce and MacIain, the 12th Chief of Glencoe who was murdered during the infamous Massacre of 1692.

Running online, museums in the Highlands have been asked to put forward their favourite objects with the public to vote on their most loved out of a group of six.

A podcast will then be made about the most popular pieces with a new archive of audio documents to be created and accessed around the world.

Nicola Henderson, heritage manager for XpoNorth creative industries conference, said the Highland Objects campaign built on work already being done before the pandemic to support the fragile museums in the Highlands.

She said: “Museums before Covid were already looking at quite severe statutory grant cuts, with funding cut from around £15,000 to £6,000 year,

Grantown's Orphanage Clock - Sir James Grant, the founder of Grantown, encouraged his wealthy relative to invest in the Highland's very first orphanage hospital in the town in the late 18th Century. The institution lasted almost 200 years. PIC: Grantown Museum.

“We were looking at ways the heritage sector could link into the creative industries as a lot of the museums have great ideas and know what they want to do, they just often don’t have the capacity.

“A lot of them are run by perhaps just one member of staff and a team of volunteers – there are around 600 volunteers supporting the Heritage sector in the Highlands.

“Many of these museums are very vulnerabe and we don’t see how many of them can be openig this year at all

“These people are very passionate about their collections and what they mean to their communities and everything they do is fundamentally about their collections and looking after these objects and the stories behind them.

This hoard of coins was found near the site of the Battle of Carbisdale, fought in Sutherland between Royalist leader James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose and Scottish Government of the time, dominated by Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyll . The Easter Ross Clan's of Ross and Munro helped to defeat Montrose, who led forces on behaf of King Charles II. PIC: Tain Through Time.

“So what we are doing is supporting the museum in connecting audiences locally, nationally and internationally to tell the stories of the Highlands.

“The object are very different and there are so many stories behind them, from how they were made to some very personal and moving tales. There are a lot of unknown treasures coming through ad it is about telling people about these treasures and linking them back to the people and places behind them.”

To see the full range of items being put forward by museums, visit @HighlandObjects on Twitter

A message from the Editor:

The original Noss Head Light, with all its working parts, is one of the most important displays was designed and supervised by Alan Stevenson, uncle of Robert Louis Stevenson, and completed in 1849 by Robert Arnot of Inverness. The Fresnel lens is around 6ft wide. PIC: Wick Heritage Museum.

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This Dogskin Buoy was found in the wall of a house in Melness alongside a ladies boot and an empty whisky bottle. Uncovered during renovation work, it is still not clear whyit placed there and what was it used for.