Day 19: Sites on South Ronaldsay, Orkney Fossil Museum and Heritage Centre, Pier Art Centre

Day 18: Fieldwork at Hammars Hill wind farm, SME, Scotrenewables and Orkney College
October 13, 2016
Day 20: Flotta Island and Ecology field trip
October 14, 2016

Day 19: Sites on South Ronaldsay, Orkney Fossil Museum and Heritage Centre, Pier Art Centre

Group 1 Summary

Today we took a bus from Stromness to South Ronaldsay Island which is about 57 km to visit Tomb of Eagles, also known as Ibister Chambered Cairn. This site was found in 1958 by Ronnie Simison, a farmer, on his farmland when he noticed a stones exposed near the cliff and excavated in 1976. In visitor centre, we met Freda, Kathleen and Jo to see Tomb of Eagles museum collection. This museum museum was built by community. The museum was setted up by era theme, start from mesolithic, neolithic and bronze age of Orkney. In this museum we have a hands-on experience where we can handling the replica and some original artefacts. This method is rare in a common museum. Freda explaining about the Orkney condition on mesolithic age, 9000 years ago, where people already using simple tool to hunting, cooking and fishing. Kathleen explain about Tomb of Eagles, the tomb that used 5000 years ago in neolithic era, then followed by Jo told about the Bronze age site, The Burnt Mound from 3000 years ago. Then we go walk about 1,5 km from visitor centre to reach the Bronze age and Tomb of Eagle site. Passing through the rain and wind, we went back to the bus to get to Hoxa tapestry gallery.

Hoxa tapestry gallery is a family gallery that make  tapestry, painting and rug by hand. This gallery also sell their work. Then we moved to Burray Island to met Tamsin Bailey at Fossil and Heritage Centre. Fossil and Heritage Centre is a museum combined with cafe and a gift shop that built by community. The funding of this museum come from goverment grant. The first fossil collection start when Leslei Firth, a local builder, found a fish fossils at Cruaday Quarry. This museum was divided into two parts, first is fossils, gems and geological collection, second is heritage and Churchill barriers. Majority of fossils collection in this museum are fish fossils, wood fossils, amonites, rocks, crystal and mineral. The heritage collection on this museum are items from First and Second World war that collected or retained by local community and history about the construction of Churchill Barriers, now is use as bridge to connect mainland and Burray Island. The interior of this museum was very catchy and colourful. The lighting that used in this museum is harmless to the collection because using LED lamp that emits less heat. This museum have no problem in maintain their collection, because of the cold temperature help them preserve the collection. This museum also gave the visitor a hands on experience to several collection.

Next stop is Pier Arts Centre in Stromness where Andrew Parkinson has been ready to welcome us. Andrew is curator of this museum and gallery. This museum and gallery was founded by Margareth Gardiner in 1979 with 67 collection and now in 2016 they have 191 collection. Establishment and maintenance of this museum and gallery was done by community. This museum also held an event to attract visitor such as annual pavement artist event where the visitor can draw the pavement on Pier Arts Centre, annual exhibition, pier group, study group, etc. The funding for this museum was came from Creative Scotland.


Group 2 Summary: Thursday, October 13th, 2016

Field trip Tomb of the Eagles (09:30 – 11:15)

We visited Tomb of the Eagles, one of Orkneys’s top archeological site. The display and exhibition in this museum is set by time line. We guided by Freda in the first room who talked about the beginning of the story in Mesolithic Age. The room is showing Orkney Islands in the Mesolithic age. On that time of every part of the animal were used. Next room we meet Kathleen who talked about Neolithic Age. His father discover the site accidentally and start the expedition on 1976. Excavation at the site led important discoveries about how people lived and worked in Orkney. After Neolithic Age we move to Bronze Age guided by Jo. She talked about mound which found in sites and how it was located near to freshwater source.

In this field trip we learn how the community run and manage the museum. The displays and how they make time line of the story is very nice.


An attractive display in the Neolithic Age room


Kathleen explaining about Neolithic tools


Display of a mound of burnt stone and remain stone building from Bronze Age

Field trip to Hoxa Tapestry gallery (11:40 – 12:10)

Hoxa Tapestry gallery is family business based gallery. The gallery run by Leila Thomson and Johan Thomson as artists. Leila focus on tapestry and rug art inspired by the rhythm of life and landscape of Orkney. While Johan more to painting. It was not allowed to take a picture in the gallery due to intellectual properties. The gallery lighting is very sophisticated, the light always pointing in one art collection.

Field trip to Fossil and Heritage Centre (12:30 – 14:30)

We visited fossil and heritage centre guided by Tamsin Bailey. She explained about how the museum developed and the collection they have. The collection of the museum were donated by Leslie Firth, Orkney people and also builder of the Fossil and heritage centre. He has many significant national and international fossil collection. On 2009 the café was built and run by the community. They decorate the café to attract people for coming and look closer to the fossil centre. They put the fossil collections in clear cabinet and put poster next to the cabinet to give an information to visitors. The fossil centre doesn’t has curator, the curatorial thing did by volunteer people.


Clear cabinet with fish fossil collections


Mrs Bailey explaining about the displays and the collections

Field trip to Pier Art Centre (15:30 – 17:00)

The last activity for today was visiting Pier Art Center guided by Andrew Parkinson. In the beginning Andrew talked about the history of Pier Art Centre building and the collection they have. There is special exhibition for this month about an artist called Neville Gabie – he collecting breath about 1111 people and release the breath to produce sound about 20 minutes. The tank and whole equipment was shown in one of Pier Art centre room. The funding for the Art Centre is come from Scottish government agency and local funding Orkney Islands Councils. They manage the Art Gallery with:

  1. Collection development. They put the collection based on theme. Recently they concern about: insurance, documentation, loans collection, storage, conservation and collecting for the future.
  2. Creative program. Occasionally has international profile invited to the Art gallery for sharing with people. They also provide local artist for exhibition – form and function
  3. Engaging with audiences. The audience is made up of local residents and visitors.

The cataloguing is still in paper based, on going to digitalize data base. The display of the exhibition is changing regularly depend on the collection.

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Group 3 Summary


On today, 13 October 2016, at 9.00 am, we arrived at Tomb of the Eagles, located in Liddle, St. Margaret’s Hope, South Ronaldsay, Orkney, KW17 2 RW. We met the guide of the museum such as Jo, Freda, and Kathleen. We conduct a comparative study on private museums. Learn how to display an object collection well. The Tomb of the Eagles is a Neolithic chambered tomb located on a cliff edge in Orkney, Scotland. First explored by a farmer, Ronald Simison. He digging flagstones in 1958 and conducted his own excavations at the site in 1976. The Stone Age tomb revealed an amazing collection of bones and artefacts, placed here some 5,000 years ago. All collections are well persevered.

The second place that we visited is the Hoxa Tapestry Gallery, located in Hoxa, St. Margarets Hope, South Ronaldsay, Orkney KW17 2TW.  The Hoxa Tapestry Gallery opened to the public in June 1996. It is the large and hand woven tapestries which are inspired by the rhythm of life and landscape of Orkney. It has tapestries in private collections worldwide. Some collection of the gallery are tapestry art prints, woven tapestries, cards & postcards, handcrafted rugs, and books.

After that, we visited Fossil and Heritage Center and café for lunch and also look around their collections. Fossil and Heritage Centre located in Burray, Orkney KW17 2SY. We met Tamsin Bailey, a gallery guide. The Fossil and Heritage Center has important information about Battle of Jutland and information relating to the survivors of the HMS Hampshire, about the ‘other’ Italian Chapel on Burray built by Italian Prisoners of War during the Construction of the Churchill Barriers. The gallery has a display that telling the story of boatbuilding in Burray at the boatyard operated by five generations of the Duncan family. The jewel and fossil collections are very beautiful and amazing.

The last place that we visited is the Pier Art Center, located in Victoria Street, Stromness, Orkney KW16 3AA, just in front of the harbour. We met Andrew Parkinson, guided and explained of the gallery. The Pier Art Centre is a Registered Scottish Charity, an Independent Museum, an Accredited Museum, a Collection of National Significance to Scotland, also an Important Community Venue. The Pier Arts Centre was established in 1979 by Margaret Gardiner and contained 67 works of art at that time. There are 191 collections in this gallery now. The important collection of British is fine art donated by the author, peace activist and philanthropist Margaret Gardiner (1904 – 2005). This museum collaborates with cultural partners across Orkney and is connected to networks across Scotland and the UK. The Pier Arts Centre receives regular funding from Creative Scotland, the Scottish Government agency that funds art and culture and also from Orkney Islands Council as one of the council’s Key Cultural Organisations. The ongoing collections concerns are: (1) Insurance of the collections; (2) documentation or digitalization of collections; (3) loans management; (4) storage management; (5) conservation; and (6) collections for the future. The collecting themes are quality of light, colour and landscape.


Group 4 Summary: Visit to Tomb of the Eagles, Hoxa tapestry gallery, Orkney Fossil & Heritage Centre, and The Pier Art Centre.

In the morning, we visited Tomb of the eagles visitor centre. This place is located in South Ronaldsay Island. In visitor centre, we entered three rooms, they are megalithic Orkney, neolithic, and bronze age room. Freda Norquay guided us in the first room. She explained about the event between 9000 – 6000 years ago which are called Mesolithic era. In this era, deer was important source of food. She also showed some pottery in there. And then, Kathleen Macleod guided us in tomb of the neolithic room. This room displays many things about tom of the eagles site and artifacts. This tomb is very unique and interesting because the bones and skulls were found in the different part of the room, they were placed separately, and bones and talons of eagle can be found among the human bones. From this condition, we can estimate the role of eagle for the burial process, first the eagle may have played a part in the excarnation process because they can also eat carrion and second they may have represented status symbol for human in that period after human and eagle bones can be found together in the tomb. Tomb of the eagles period estimated to be 5000 years ago or in the event of stone age. In last room, Jo guided us to see the bronze age building which existed 3000 years ago. She showed the miniature of bronze age building in there. This building was unique because there was evidence that hot water was produced in here. The function of hot water in the building is still remain controversial. After we visited visitor centre, we went to the sites of bronze age building and tomb of the eagle which located not far from visitor centre.

After we visited tomb of the eagle, we went to Hoxa Tapestry Gallery. This gallery is located in St. Margaret’s Hope in South Ronaldsay Island. The tapestry is very interesting because it was made from natural resources and handmade. Unfortunately, the gallery can not be photographed and touched because the gallery is intended for commercial purposes.

After visiting Hoxa Tapestry Gallery, we went to Orkney Fossil and Heritage Centre. Orkney Fossil Centre is located in Burray Island. We also had lunch in Orkney Fossil Cafe which adjacent with gallery museum. In there, we met Tamsin Bailey. She guided us as well to see around the gallery. In Orkney Fossil Centre, there are three main gallery, that is Fossil Gallery, Earth Gallery, and Heritage Gallery. The museum have many fish fossil and various collection from second world War period.

The last, we went to The Pier Art Centre in Stromness. Andrew Parkinson guided us to see around the museum. The exhibition room is located in the ground and the first floor, whereas the reference library located in second floor. He also taught us about management of museum in Seminar room which is located in first floor. He talked about some aspect from museum, such as partnerships and funding, annual visitor number, organisational structure, collecting themes, collection concern, creative programme, and many more.


Group 5 Summary


Tomb of Eagle

We visited Tomb of Eagles in Liddle St. Margaret’s Hope Orkney on 9.30-11.30 am. The Tomb of Eagle is one of Orkney’s top archaeological site.  The site discovered by local farmer Ronnie Simison in the 1950, the stone age tomb revealed an amazing collection of bones and artefacts. We got some information about their collection before  moving to the bronze age  and Neolithic chamber of Tomb on the coastal . We meet Freda, Kathleen and Jo. Freda were talking about a brief history of human settlement in Orkney since Mesolithic,Neolithic, Bronze Age, iron age, Roman&Picts, Norse Earls, Scottish earls, AD 1600-1900, AB 1900-2000, 2000-present day. Exhibition about stone age and Bronze age explained by Katleen. She also talk about history of  the Tomb and its setting. We can handle some artefacts found when the sites were excavated.

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Hoxa Tapestry Gallery

Before we get lunch in the Fossil Center Café, we visited to Hoxa Tapestry Gallery for few minute. The Hoxa  Tapestry Gallery is home to Orkney artist Leila Thomson’s unique which are inspired by the rhythm of life and landscape of Orkney. We looked  some collection of hand woven tapestry and handcrafted Rugs.

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Fossil and Heritage Centre

We have the lunch at Fossil Center Café, where the part  of Fossil and heritage Center. Tamsin Bailey  accompany with us, then she explained about the history of the museum and their collection what they haved. The fossil collection was donated to the people of Orkney by local builder Leslie Firth who started collecting after finding fosill at Cruaday Quarry in Sandwick West mainland.  The number of visitor are 13,086 (2014); 13,405 (2015) and 13,725 (2016), so that any increased visitors each year. The café and community contributed to increasing number of visitor.

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The Pier Art Center

In the afternoon we back to Stromness where visited to the Pier Art Center. Andrew Parkinson is curator in this gallery. He explained about the Pier Art Center that established in 1979  donated by the author, peace activist and philanthropist Margaret Gardiner. Housed in a complex of buildings with a rich history, the gallery re-opened in 2007 following a major redevelopment. The Pier Art center is connected to networks across Scotland and the UK. So the center also collaborated with cultural partners across  Orkney. The  Pier Art center is an independent museum, accredited museum and registered Scottish Charity. So that receives regular funding from the Scottish government agency  and Orkney Islands Council that funds art and cultural.

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