MINUTES OF THE (ZOOM) MEETING OF THE BOARD OF THE GAIRLOCH & DISTRICT HERITAGE COMPANY LTD
11 Nov 2020
Roy Macintyre; Karen Buchanan; Pauline Butler; Stuart Caddell; Jeremy Fenton; Liz Forrest; Nevis Hulme; Irene Macintyre; Susan Maclean; Anne MacLennan; Allan Templeton; Ben Thomas.
Willie Macrae; Jean Ross.
Alice has written to inform us that she is resigning from the Board, a consequence of the Covid circumstances, but wishes to resume her Gaelic classes and other support for the Museum when this becomes possible. Roy will respond on behalf of the Board. We acknowledged that Alice has given a huge commitment to the Museum over many years.
1. Conflicts of Interest
No potential conflict of interest was declared with respect to the Agenda.
2. Minutes of the (Zoom) Board meeting of 23 September
The minutes of the 23 September meeting were agreed to be a correct record, proposed by Jeremy and seconded by Allan.
Matter arising: David Rae took over the management of finances on 22 October. Dugald is providing guidance and information where necessary.
3. Financial report
Roy reported that the bank balance shows a healthy credit currently. We have received the major tranche of the Art Fund Resilience and Recovery grant for the Events and Outreach Coordinator post, but not yet the prize money for Museum of the Year 2020 (MotY). Simpsons have just submitted their invoice for the foghorn reinstallation and conservation work and we have begun to order furniture for the café.
4. Curator’s Report
Karen presented her Report covering: Building and grounds; Collections; Interpretation and displays; Education and training; Funding; Events; Marketing and promotion; Miscellaneous.
i) We have benefitted greatly, both by reputation and visitor interest, from the increased social media promotion arising from MotY, with additional staffing for this made possible by Art Fund financing. After discussion, it was agreed that we would continue to employ Eilidh for two days each week until the end of November, to maintain the momentum of the additional audience engagement.
ii) The container for large objects is not suitable for inclusion in ‘behind the scenes’ tours.
iii) Although an issue which arises quite often, there is no consensus amongst Highland museums as to whether or not there should be an agreed fee for responding to research enquiries. As almost all our genealogy and local history information requests are dealt with by a volunteer, we agreed that we would continue to request donations rather than impose set charges.
5. Art Fund Museum of the Year 2020: opportunities arising
Pauline invited initial ideas as to the opportunities we might consider for audience development (in person and remotely) and to expand partnerships with stakeholders as a consequence of the highly prestigious MotY Award. A wide-ranging discussion ensued which included:
the possibilities of promoting what we offer more strongly with NC500, clan organisations, Visit Scotland, Visit Wester Ross, and the Highland travel trade
taking advantage of MotY status and credibility which might bring funding and other benefits from engagement with business and learning organisations such as Arts and Business Scotland, UHI (through graduate placement schemes perhaps), and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig (to take forward our Memorandum of Understanding)
contributing our local stories to wider projects such as ‘Spirit of the Highlands’ (Inverness Castle-based) and ‘Coast that shaped the World’ (WHC). Karen is aware of these initiatives already.
Nevis expressed his ongoing regrets at what he sees as a deficiency to date in our commitment to local Gaelic culture, particularly the absence externally of Gaelic signage, until installation of the recent MotY sign. Karen and others felt that our Gaelic heritage was recognised appropriately throughout the displays and reminded that other developments we had intended had not happened owing to having insufficient Gaelic-language capacity amongst our volunteers to use funding that had been made available. For the future, the ‘Bard’ theme for the café offers another opportunity and there is considerable scope for projects to digitise our oral Gaelic resources. Ben suggested there might be funding avenues for this from HES, particularly if there is community engagement.
Pauline will collate the suggestions and then propose a meeting when those interested might consider what we might realistically take forward, given our financial and personnel capacities. There may be a role for our future Events and Outreach Coordinator to progress some of these opportunities.
6. Funding applications and project planning
Pauline has circulated a summary of the applications which have been successful so far this year:
Covid-19 related ‘emergency’ funding (from both NHLF and MGS)
for the Outdoors Museum project (3 trusts have now committed their support)
towards ‘resilience and recovery’ (Art Fund and MGS).
The original ‘emergency’ funds have now been spent and the consequent reports, invoice evidence and evaluations are either completed or in progress. Given the more recent successful funding applications, we are in a position to make decisions as to how and when to progress the three elements of the Outdoors Museum project, the appointment of a freelance Events and Outreach Coordinator (with digital expertise) and the café fit out with furniture, equipment and acoustic display panels.
Taking into account the funds already secured or pledged, the Board resolved that we would commit the monies required to fully fund the Outdoors Museum work from our own reserves (£10,000) and from the MoTY prize (£23,500), with the expectation that donations coming from the targeted community fund-raising campaign that is in preparation will ‘pay back’. This would enable us to award contracts so that the external domain work could commence as soon as possible with the hope of completion before the 2021 tourist season. Although the direct admissions income might not be great, it was recognised that there were benefits in improving community access to the archaeology trail and the seaward site and in the external appearance of the building within its landscape context. Nor should we underestimate the encouragement to visitors to linger longer, with the likelihood of some coming in to the Museum galleries and shop and, more broadly, supporting the sustainability of local businesses.
We agreed also that we should advertise the new post as soon as possible and that expenditure on the café should be progressed so that it is ready to open in the spring. How it is to be managed and staffed remains unresolved, given the withdrawal of a promising expression of interest owing to pandemic circumstances.
7. Commercial and retail operations
i) The notes from the COG meeting of 4 November have been circulated. After excellent trading in October, (better than 2019), footfall has declined significantly in November, given all the new UK-wide restrictions. The current four days per week opening will be kept under regular review. Now that there are fewer tourists, we will use social media to encourage local people to return.
ii) As our opening hours decrease, we need to review our staffing requirements through the winter months.
iii) There have been very pleasing sales of both the current and the previous exhibitions’ paintings. We have renegotiated the display of Scotland from the Air, postponed owing to lockdown closure, and it will be in the ground floor gallery next Spring. The next meeting of the Exhibitions Group is scheduled for 17 November. Allan would welcome new group members for both this and COG, be they Board members or volunteers with relevant interests from the community.
8. Date of next meeting
There being no other business, the next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday 13 January at 4.30 pm.
The meeting ended at 6.10 pm.
CURATOR'S REPORT 11.11.20
Building and Grounds
I have had no update on the ventilation and heating issues but have emailed LDN to enquire about progress.
The foghorn seems to have now been painted with another undercoat and at least one top coat. I was not here when the painter came and am trying to find out exactly what work was done.
I believe the utilities issues have now been resolved. The meter is connected to the internet and sending an automatic reading. We are in credit to SSE. EDF Energy have cancelled the debt they claimed we owed them.
We have a new sign on the opposite of the road, which was installed by Willie Macrae and helpers. It was funded by Art Fund. The Art Fund MOTY plaque was kindly installed on the exterior of the building by a volunteer who is new to the community.
A container has been placed in the rear corner of the premises. It is for the use of large objects and should be treated as a museum store. It is kept locked and keys are with me.
Two large objects require to be moved into the aforementioned container when we can organise it and the weather is dry.
We have had a number of interesting accessions, including the Mellon Udrigle school log book and register. An accession backlog has built up in the period since furlough ended due to pressure of other activities. This is now a priority. There is still an enormous amount of work to be done in the library and archive. This must take priority as far as collections work goes over the next couple of years.
Archive enquiries increased in number due to our raised profile as MOTY. Dorothy has been doing a great job fielding these.
Interpretation and Displays
The Interpretation Team will need to meet to discuss the forthcoming interpretation projects for the café and the outdoor museum. [Action}
Towards the end of the month, some of our Gairloch pattern objects will be mounted and photographed as part of an online exhibition of Highland Costume named ‘Highland Threads’.
It has been necessary to remount some aspects of the Munros exhibition, which is providing popular. Additional wires and hooks have been procured for the hanging system in the downstairs exhibition space.
Education and Training
I have attended virtual training events in the following topics:
Supporting remote and virtual learning
I am also participating in the MHH Heritage Cafes every fortnight to keep in touch with the other Highland Museums.
Communicating Heritage with Digital Audio Participation
Introduction to Google for Nonprofits
Using Technology to Aid Visitor Experience in the age of Covid
I attended some sessions of the Museums Association annual conference (World Turned Upside Down) and presented a virtual tour of Gairloch Museum as the first event of the conference. It was attended by around 50 museum professionals who were very kind with their feedback.
Our application to the MGS Recovery and Resilience Fund was successful. We will shortly produce a press release to announce this and the Art Fund R&R award.
We held a very successful week of online events after the announcement of the MOTY award. This included a live archaeological dig, run by Tom Gardner with volunteers from the local community. Thanks to Jeremy who was on site for the museum every day during the dig.
Jeremy also gave a talk during the week on his book ‘Escaping Isolation’ which was attended by more than 70 people. An online talk by Andy Drummond on his new book ‘A Quite Impossible Proposal’ was attended by 45 people. Our next online event will be on 1st December and we already have around 20 people signed up.
We now have the funds to appoint and Events and Outreach Coordinator (freelance) and will advertise this as soon as possible.
Marketing and Promotion
Our social media platforms have been heavily subscribed in the wake of the MOTY announcement. We need to be responsive to this activity and Eilidh Smith has continued to support our social media activity since the MOTY announcement. The board should discuss how long this can be funded. There is an argument that this has become an essential role, particularly as we go into deeper lockdown and winter hours when our face to face contact with our audiences diminishes. [Action]
We have set up a YouTube channel which we are gradually populating with film content. The media attention from MOTY was outstanding and I have circulated to board members a summary of this. As well as the award, the Gille Dubh received attention in the Scottish press. There have been some follow up magazine publications for example in the arts section of The Tablet and Homes & Antiques magazine.
I have requested that the Front of House staff ensure that our opening hours are up to date on the various platforms where they are advertised (Google, Tripadvisor, Facebook etc.). The more often we change these, the more of a task it becomes.
We have had a good presence in the G&DT recently. Jeanette Whitaker continues to assist with setting out the page and forwarding it to Kevin McGinty.
I have emailed all our members and funders about the MOTY award and thanked them for their involvement.
We have been approached by FilmG to work with them on a Gaelic language film for their next competition.
I have been dealing with the complex copyright issues surrounding the Gille Dubh animation and stills as we have had requests from inter alia BBC Alba to use the Gaelic language version in their schedule.
I have written a blog at the request of AIM for their next newsletter on what our MOTY win means to us.
I have been in discussion with Nevis about how to make the work he is doing on digitising Roy Wentworth’s place names research. This might form the basis of an aic Freumhan Coimhearsnachd application.
With assistance from Jim, Nevis and Pauline I have been working to update the website. Nevis has written a piece on Roy Wentworth’s research and Pauline on the history of the AAOR. We also now have selected clips from John English’s film visible on our website. Sound files from the listening posts will follow.
Karen Buchanan (Curator)