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Exhibitions

MOST OF OUR EXHIBITIONS consist of original artefacts and interpretive panels giving details and a photographic display. Click here for more details of each of the exhibitions.

jug dating from the 19th century, part of the Brough Lodge chinaA jug dating from the 19th century, part of the Brough Lodge china.

An introduction to Fetlar's History, Archaeology and Folklore
Fetlar has been settled since prehistoric times, and is home to some of Shetland's oldest archaeological remains, such as the Haltadans, a mysterious stone ring which is probably a Bronze Age burial cairn, but which local legend says was formed when the Trows (little people) continued to dance after sunrise and were turned to stone, along with the fiddler and his wife in the centre.

Fetlar Interpretive Centre has a broad collection of local archaeology, including including Norse steatite bowls and decorated loom and fishing weights from a Norse house at Gord in Fetlar, discovered accidentally in 1993 by a man digging his garden. The site was recently excavated by the popular TV series, Time Team, to reveal a wide range of steatite tools and other artefacts.

In more documented times, Fetlar is reputed to be the first place Norse settlers landed in the west, moving on to other parts of Shetland, Iceland, Greenland and even America. The exhibition contains legends of Norse settlers, and moves on into more recent times under Scots Law when the lairds held a tight grip on the economy through fishing tenures in the 18th and 19th centuries, and evicted many of their tenants during the Clearances in order to make way for sheep.

The exhibition also contains information about the main lairds' houses and fishing stations, as well as the folly-type structures built by Sir Arthur Nicolson of Brough Lodge, one of which is said to be haunted by the souls of those he evicted.

Fetlar has a vast and varied store of folklore. Why not come and delve into the mysteries of trows, njuggles and Finn-men in our folklore exhibit, and listen to some of the stories at the same time.

the late Jeanie Gardner 'flitting ower' with four Shetland poniesThe late Jeanie Gardner 'flitting ower' with four Shetland ponies.

Peat flitting
Until the 1950s, peat was the main form of fuel on the island and since most people lived a fair distance from where it was cut, it all had to be transported home on ponies and in some cases by boat. This whole process of transporting the peats was known as "flittin" and although it was extremely hard work, was the basis for some fond memories and anecdotes among islanders. The equipment was known as a set of "bends" which consisted of special straw baskets called kishies held by ropes on either side of the horses back. The other parts of the equipment are explained in the booklet Flittin Peats in Fetlar which is available from the Interpretive Centre, and a full set of bends is on display within the exhibition which explains the history of the work in photographs.

Ships and the Sea
Shetlanders were known primarily as fishermen with a croft (as opposed to Orcadians who were crofters with a boat), so predictably the sea has provided the Centre with a large display of artefacts, photographs and documents. These range from items rescued from wrecks, to instruments used in sail and rope making, to memorabilia of sixereen builders (sixereens were the six-oared boats used in the haaf fishing) to items taken to and from the Greenland whaling, to a Løder horn which was used for calling between boats at sea in fog.

Exhibits also include a number of photographs of the two Earls of Zetland, the supply steamers which visited the island for much of the 20th century and which were met by flit-boats which transported goods, passengers and animals ashore.

The documents collection in the archive contains stories of wrecks, copies of certificates of discharge from the Greenland whaling, and accounts of tragic storms where many lives were lost. Some of these stories can also be heard on tape, told by the late Jamesie Laurenson of Fetlar.

Education
Fetlar has a long history of education, from the early 19th century school at Urie in the north to the school at Still to the current school. Today there are around seven children at the primary school, but a hundred years ago classes were filled to capacity and the incentives to learn were quite different. At times, even financial incentives from the authorities were unable to entice parents to send their children to school at peak times of year because of pressing work on the croft.

This exhibition shows teachers and classes in Fetlar through the late 19th and whole of the 20th centuries, and on one particular occasion, a large class of schoolchildren gathered at Brough Lodge (the laird's house) for a coronation party when Edward VII was crowned. By the time the news reached Fetlar that the Coronation had been postponed, the Fetlar celebration had already taken place.

part of the general exhibitions where some household items are on displayPart of the general exhibitions where some household items are on display.

Household
The collection of household and agricultural items at the Centre ranges from a home-made neep (swede) sower, to cooking apparatus and irons. Some of the more unusual items include a seed sieve made of sheepskin, a pair of kishies (baskets) made for children, and an early hand-operated dish-washer. This exhibition also contains a number of textiles, including a wedding dress of purple shot silk, which was made for a woman in Fetlar by the mother of Haldane Burgess, Shetland's famous blind poet.

100 years of wildlife
This display contains important photographs of Fetlar's birds from the 1940s, 50s and 60s, and details some surprising facts about local bird populations and how they were recorded prior to the arrival of the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) and the advent of the famous snowy owls in the 1967. The owls bred in the island intil 1974, bringing our around 20 young. The display is complemented by interpretive panels throughout the museum explaining the work of the RSPB in Fetlar and giving details of bird and wildlife populations. This information is also displayed in French, German, Italian and Dutch, and we would like to thank all the RSPB volunteers from these countries who have given their time to translate the information for us.

Crofting
This is mostly a photographic exhibition but also contains the written reminiscences of people who remember the crofting way of life as it was for the first half of the 20th century. The exhibition contains photographs of ploughing, gathering hay and "rooin" (pulling the wool off Shetland sheep by hand - unlike cross-breeds, the wool of Shetland sheep tends to drop off naturally, and can be pulled off at the right time of year).

The history of crofting in Fetlar is very much a product of the Clearances in the mid 19th century, when the lairds evicted large numbers of their tenants to make way for sheep. The multi-media section of this exhibition gives the tragic details of what happened in Fetlar during the Clearances.

Crafts and Knitting
The museum has a wide-ranging collection of crafts and knitwear, including the instruments used in craftwork. Artefacts range from a straw knitting belt to a wooden "cleek" used by old men with no teeth for holding the rope used in making kishies or baskets. Photographs of award-winning items of knitwear complement the exhibition, and the original items can be seen on request.


© Fetlar Interpretive Centre
Beach of Houbie
Fetlar, Shetland, ZE2 9DJ
Tel: 01957 733206 email: info@fetlar.com