The Folklife collection spans the period between Medieval and modern times (broadly 1500 to 1800) and encompasses all aspects of subsistence living including fishing, farming and domestic. Artefacts in this collection exemplify the era when Shetland was a place distinct from anywhere else and include ‘classic’ Shetland items such as the kishie (basket), tushkar (peat spade), fourareen (four-oared boat) and hap (shawl).

The artefacts show that Shetlanders were self-supporting people, making everything they used from their own resources. We have been able to amass a strong collection of these unique artefacts because equipment was locally-made.

Shetlanders lived on the land, and grew their crops themselves. We have implements for tillage, making hay and peat production. Grain cultivation involved many processes and tools; harvest, threshing, winnowing and grinding meal.

Families also kept their own livestock. Animals were used for hauling ploughs, harrows and for transporting peats by pack-saddle. We have examples of all these tools, as well as items used in milk processing, such as churning and butter-making. Other aspects covered in our collection include slaughtering and keeping poultry.

The sea was part of everyone’s life. The typical diet included fish, shellfish, seafowl and their eggs. The Folklife collection includes gear to catch these using lines or net, and fishing from boat or shore. There are numerous types of hand-lines, as well as specialised baskets. We have full-sized boats and models of traditional craft, as well as equipment used in boat handling. Our Floating Collection includes many different traditional boats. The earliest commercial fishing used traditional gear and we have examples of this equipment. Also included are artefacts concerning subsistence whaling and collecting driftwood.

Items from the home include furniture, cooking, weaving and knitting. There are chairs made from driftwood, brand irons (griddles), taatit (tufted) rugs, and joopies (knitted undershirts).

Traditional folklore often concerned everyday objects but we also have some specific artefacts such as a straw masquerade costume.