2022 collections round up…and a sneak peek at what’s in store for 2023!
It has been an exceptionally busy year for the collections team, with new displays, exhibitions and projects, plus all the work that goes on behind the scenes ensuring the collections are cared for and improved so they can go display and tell the stories they hold. Here, we reflect on the highlights of 2022 and reveal some of the preparations already underway for 2023.
Our big project for 2022 was Health, Wealth and Happiness, funded by a Museums Galleries Scotland Covid Recovery Grant, aimed at improving our medical collections and creating an exhibition. The exhibition was held in 3 venues, featured over 400 exhibits, including 175 loans from other museums, businesses and individuals across the region. It received over 15,000 visitors, while more than 1,100 people took part in the events and activities, and over 10,400 participants engaged with the project online. New acquisitions for the medical collection included titanium hip joints, HIV medication, Glen Wyvis distillery hand-sanitiser and a Covid 19 vaccine vial. Health, Wealth and Happiness will continue to be a theme in 2023 as we will be launching a digital version of the exhibition on our website and there will be a new display in the 20th century section of the museum gallery.
The Foyer Gallery hosted several exhibitions during 2022 – as well as being a doctor’s waiting room in Health, Wealth and Happiness, it saw our collection of Aldourie Pottery and studio ceramics come out of store for Of Earth and Fire, and our Man and the Environment tapestry by Fiona Mathison on display for the first time in 15 years. We also focused on the ancient tradition of the Freedom of Inverness, with a display highlighting some of the recipients, but also highlighting the need for more diversity in future recipients. In 2023 the Foyer Gallery will see our Briggs Harp go on display for the first time since it was kindly donated by the Friends of Highland Music in 2020, while the summer season will feature a colourful array of Caithness Glass from the Graham Cooley Collection.
Behind the scenes, our volunteers have been working hard to support our collections team. Work continues weekly on digitising records and photographs, with great progress being made on our herbarium collection and the MEM Donaldson photographic archive in particular. A new display of artworks, curated by one of our volunteers, was recently installed in the museum gallery. It features eight views of Inverness – all within walking distance of the museum, for those that want to compare the ‘now’ to ‘then’! In 2023 we hope to reinstate our archaeology and numismatic volunteering sessions, which have been on hold since March 2020. Please get in touch if you would like to get involved with volunteering.
Other collection highlights of 2022 included the conservation of an 18th century oil painting of Dr Archibald Cameron of Lochiel, attributed to Richard Aikman. The work was undertaken by Egan, Matthews & Rose in Dundee and revealed that Dr Cameron had himself been subject to injury at some point, resulting in a defined depression in his forehead! In November we received, all the way from Nairobi in Kenya, a beautiful set of framed prints featuring scenes of India by James Baillie Fraser of Inverness. We hope that we will be able to exhibit these in 2023 and extend our thanks to the family of Theodore Allingham Magnus and his wife Violet Everest MacNeil Magnus (née Mitchell), for their generous donation. Our collections also go out on loan to other venues – this year’s highlights include not one but two exhibitions at the City Art Centre in Edinburgh. This first saw Window Visitation, North Uist by Will Maclean featured as part of the artist’s retrospective. The second is GLEAN: Early 20th Century Women Filmmakers and Photographers in Scotland, which is still running until mid-March 2023, featuring images by MEM Donaldson and a contact print from her original glass negatives. Looking ahead to next year, we are currently preparing loans to V&A Dundee for their major exhibition on Tartan which will run from April 2023 to January 2024. We are looking forward to sharing lots more collections news in 2023!
This year, Kari was recognised at the High Life Highland 2022 Staff Awards, winning the “Individual Award” for her lead in the Health, Wealth and Happiness project.