And they’re off – operation to move exhibition artefacts gets under way

The removal van arrives in Stromness for the first of the day's tasks...  (📷 Norna Sinclair)
The removal van arrives in Stromness for the first of the day’s tasks… (📷 Norna Sinclair)

By Anne Mitchell
Finds supervisor

Loading the plinths.  (📷 Norna Sinclair)
Loading the plinths. (📷 Norna Sinclair)

Yesterday morning it rained a lot in Orkney. Wednesday, by contrast, was a beautiful day.

Inevitably, yesterday was the day local removers McAdie & Reeve began moving our material to the Orkney Museum, ahead of the May 4 opening of this summer’s exhibition, Ness of Brodgar; Past, Present and Future.

The job began at 8.30am, collecting plinths and shelving from one of the exhibition team, Norna Sinclair. Then it was on to Ness of Brodgar HQ to collect 40 boxes of artefacts – pottery, flint and lots more.

This included some of the most striking of the art from the Ness of Brodgar – a tough removal job! The art is incised into sizeable, and very heavy, blocks of stone. And awkwardly shaped too.

It’s also unique and precious and we’re very glad to put its transportation into professional hands. 

Of course, as it all needs loaded (supervised by Nick Card, at Brodgar), it then has to be unloaded at Orkney Museum, overseen by curator Siobhan Cooke -Miller and exhibition team member, Katy Firth.

Fortunately (it has all been beautifully thought through) those big pieces of rock, will be on display on the ground floor of Tankerness House.

Meanwhile, lists after list, detailing every find and every box, are sent between removers, curator, Siobhan, and myself.

Artefact boxes ready to go.  (📷 Anne Mitchell)
Artefact boxes ready to go. (📷 Anne Mitchell)

The 40 boxes moved yesterday are part of a display in the first-floor exhibition space.

They were joined by another 40 boxes, from the UHI Archaeology Institute stores, mostly containing bone but also “foreign” and incised stone.

I’m not saying any more about how they’ll be used – that can be a surprise for everyone, whether you manage to visit in person, or via an online video of the exhibition.  

Putting together an exhibition is a major undertaking. We’ve had the thrill of being part of the British Museum The World of Stonehenge exhibition in 2021, and also doing smaller shows at the Orkney and Stromness Museums and the Maeshowe Visitor Centre. But this summer’s one is our biggest undertaking ever.

Words have to be written, finds photographed and selected. Photos must be chosen and attributed to the correct photographers and cases and displays set up – and for this exhibition, many were specially made by Norna and husband, Bruce; Katy’s dad, Jim Chalmers, and Orkney Museum technician Mark Scadding.

Labels need to be made, written and fact-checked. Information panels designed (Iain Ashman) and checked (all of us, with particular proofing skills on display by Tom Muir).

Ness of Brodgar: Past, Present and Future Book Cover

Post-excavation specialists need to be conferred with and agree every word about their work. And then there’s our new book, written by Mark Edmonds, which is a free-standing volume but will accompany the exhibition too. It has now left the printers and is on its way north.

Everyone who has helped in any way from funding to finding their way to the exhibition needs our thanks, on the acknowledgements panel. And, oh, the horrors of that night when you wake with a start, remembering a vital but omitted cog from that particular wheel!

It’s hard work but we’re getting excited to see it all come together over the next two weeks. We’ll report in again as that progresses, and then, with a fanfare, Orkney Museum will open its doors to you all.

We hope the exhibition thrills and fascinates you, as the Ness has us for the last 20 years.

The artefact boxes have arrived at their destination. The set-up begins. (📷 Anne Mitchell)
The artefact boxes have arrived at their destination. The set-up begins. (📷 Anne Mitchell)

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