Stromness Museum

Steps to Sustainability was proud to support Stromness Museum in their Inspirational Retail project, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.


Inspiring Retail

Stromness Museum had the idea to generate more income through their shop by creating a bespoke retail offer. Partnering with local creative practitioners in the community, they hoped that their retail offer would become more sustainable. Creative Practitioners were commissioned to develop and create a range of products that inspire ‘Museum Beyond Walls’.

During COVID-19, the Museum was severely impacted. The Museum had no way to generate income, as previously, it was all generated by visitor admissions, donations and shop sales – all of which required people to enter the Museum. The building became a barrier to connecting the community and the collections.

The Steps to Sustainability project allowed the Museum to bring the collections outside of the Museum walls with their retail offer and generate income for sustainability.

Programme Impact

We interviewed Janette Park, Curator at Stromness Museum about her experience with the programme.

Janette shared that the project brought together lots of elements that the team at the Museum had been thinking about for a while. The opportunity to focus on some of the ideas and creative input into developing a shop range is something they had wanted to take forward, and Steps to Sustainability came along at the perfect time.

She noted that the modules were really worthwhile, as the programme took you through the journey from the very beginning right to the end. She reflected on the excellent facilitation, and impact of the elements outside of the core programme. They received mentoring from Hannah Clinch, who provided not only guidance, but facilitation for two meetings they had with creative practitioners and board members. The external perspectives that Hannah provided, alongside her experience, allowed them to consider price point and what types of products to introduce. Hannah’s input got them to contemplate how to attract new audiences and be discovered.

The team's stand-out moments from the programme were:

1.Flexibility of the programme

Janette said “Using this as a pilot has been really useful as it has given us a level of flexibility to try different things”. The learning from Steps to Sustainability and the Inspiring Retail project will allow Stromness Museum to work with other local practitioners in the future.

2. External Expertise

The Museum worked with both Hannah Clinch for mentoring support and Peter Holloway for retail support. As a result, the Trustees are going to look at a programme of development for the shop – which never would have happened without the project. They now have the confidence to move it forward.

3. Bringing collections to life

Many elements of the products on sale, like the feathers on the tote bag, brings the opportunity for nature and heritage enthusiasts to come and see the collections. People will be wearing and displaying Orcadian heritage, history and collections around the world.

4. Unexpected Outcomes

Kirsteen Stewart, one of the creative practitioners, gained a spot in the V&A fashion show in Dundee for Scotland Redesigned. She is one of 6 Scottish designers who showcased, and she showed her Museum collection. Stromness’ collection items were strutted down a catwalk. Who knows what will happen next!

The Products & Creative Practitioners

Colin Kirkpatrick

A celebrated local artist, inspired by the collections and the Museum’s Snorkel Safari’s, Colin produced a drawing for the Museum which was used on a t-shirt. This reflects the increasing relevance of the Museum’s collections to the natural world and the environmental landscape.

Mark Newton

Mark made ‘Peedie (small) Buddo keyrings’. Buddo is a human figure carved from whalebone, which was discovered at Skara Brae and displays in the Museum. The Museum already work with Mark to create life-size Buddo figurines which retail at the shop. The keyrings are a cheaper price point, so everyone can carry some history with them!

Claire Kirkpatrick

Claire made a fridge magnet of the Museum. One was a 2D collage, and the other, a 3D printed portrait of the Museum with a magnet on the back.

Kirsteen Stewart

Kirsteen was commissioned to create a series of designs based specifically on the Museum’s Natural History and created a range of bags, scarves, purses and tote bags, inspired by history, art and nature.

Britt Harcus

Britt was commissioned to create a series of designs based specifically on the Museum’s Natural History and created a range of cards and a weekly planner, inspired by the birds and animals of Orkney.

The Launch Night

The Stepping On Funding made a physical product launch in the Museum possible.

The Launch Night saw around 70 members of the community come along to hear more about the collaborations. With a buzzing atmosphere, people browsed, connected, and spent! Sales on the night were excellent, as were the conversations.

Janette Park said “There was a great buzz, it was a really good atmosphere and people were really engaged with the products, and excited to see something new and different. Having the practitioners in the museum and being able to speak to the public about the inspiration behind the products added to the excitement.”

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