Shetland Literary and Scientific Society

The papers of the Shetland Literary and Scientific Society – minutes, reports, and letters -- give an excellent insight into the improving Victorian spirit that suffused Shetland, and Lerwick in particular, in the second half of the 19th century.

Founded in 1861, the Society supported a lecture programme, often using local speakers, but also learned visitors. The gentleman marine naturalist J. Gwynne Jeffreys was an early contributor in 1861, after a postponement ‘as his yacht [was] becalmed off Whalsay Skerries’!

The S.L.S.S. organised a small museum, intending to retain artefacts in the islands. It was an endeavour that Shetlanders, then as now, were ready to help with. Donations were more extensive than expected. Sadly the society was unable to finance proper accommodation, and in 1882 they sold the collection to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

The Society’s library was more successful, with donations of books, and a small budget from the membership to buy more. Its reading room, with magazines and newspapers was greatly valued in the town. But by 1947 the Society was in financial difficulties. It disbanded, and the book collection went to the local authority’s library service, where some of it can still be seen.