Visit our Museum Galleries

The galleries integrate Shetland Museum and Archives collections to tell Shetland’s story in the most complete and accessible way.

In the lower gallery you will discover Shetland’s journey from its geological beginnings to circa 1800. Explore the upper gallery to discover Shetland from circa 1800 to the present day.

The galleries contain twelve themed zones; find out more about these zones by clicking on the links below.

Inside Galleries

Early Beginnings

The early beginnings section introduces the main factors that have produced the Shetland environment as we see it today - geological history, geographical location, climate and the sea.

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Early People

In the early people zone you can learn about human settlement from the Stone Age to the end of the Medieval period, around 4500 B.C. to A.D. 1500.

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Home and Land

The home and land section of the gallery explores domestic life and subsistence agriculture from 1500-1800. This was the way that most Shetlanders lived their lives for centuries.

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Customs and Folklore

The customs and folklore zone is marked out by a circle of Shetland dialect words. Visitors can try to guess what they mean while listening to the folklore stories in the traditional chairs – one of which will explain the meaning of each of the words.

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Harvest from the Sea

Pass through the harvest from the sea zone to discover the many resources provided by the sea. The sea prevented starvation, and islanders ate many kinds of fish and shellfish, each having its own specialised method to catch them. Find out what seaweed and driftwood were used for, and why whales and birds were hunted.

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Changing Culture

Changing culture is the first zone in the upper gallery. This explores Shetland’s story from 1800 to the present day – during which time there have been massive changes in its society.

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On the Move

Visit the on the move section to the galleries to explore how Shetlanders travelled around within the islands, and how they came to abandon rural life for urban life.

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Power and State

Since 1800, the state has increasingly intervened in life in Shetland. In this zone, visitors can find out about the positive and negative effects of this on the islands and islanders.

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Maritime and Fisheries

Visit this zone to follow fishing through times of boom and bust, and discover how Shetlanders relied on wages from work on merchant ships to support their families.

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Trade and Industry

In the trade and industry zone, discover the dramatic changes in agricultural practices, the impact the oil industry has had on the local economy and how the tourist industry moved Shetland from obscure islands to a desirable destination.

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Shetland is internationally renowned for its textiles and this zone follows developments from a barter system to a world-wide industry that has experienced many highs and lows.

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