The wild landscapes of Staffin provided the perfect setting for Scotland’s first museum without walls, boosting the local community through increased tourism and preserving its natural heritage.
Skye Ecomuseum - which stretches from Loch Langaig to An Stòrr - tells the stories of the past using the landscape and exhibits within it, such as dinosaur footprints, the remains of traditional croft houses and waterfalls.
The project has:
- helped preserve the fragile natural environment of the remote community of Staffin
- attracted more visitors, boosting the local economy
- helped people better understand the history of Staffin as a working landscape
The project was led by the community of Staffin and managed by the Staffin Community Trust (SCT). Staffin is a Gaelic speaking, crofting community where the local people traditionally lived off the land and continue to do so today. Crofting is a system of landholding that is unique to Scotland, particularly the Scottish isles, and is an integral part of local life.
From the beginning, SCT wanted to ensure the Ecomuseum was by, and for, the people – involving the Staffin community in all aspects of the project.
The Skye Ecomuseum received £470,364.96 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to develop the project between 2017 and 2020. This was later extended due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Long may it continue and more find out about it – in the world of diminishing physical activity, it’s a fantastic way to get people to move, and think about where they are at the same time.
The project has:
- extended and improved the historic footpath network in Staffin
- built Skye’s first viewing platform beside a waterfall
- developed the brand of the Ecomuseum and Druim nan Linntean (Ridge of Ages)
- developed innovative and attractive fact panels and signs
- provided a range of activities to enhance visitor experience
- delivered an events programme for the local community
The signage installed at the Staffin site provides a deeper understanding of the working landscape and its importance to its local community. By explaining the relationship between the land and its residents, the local communities have been able to tell their stories, past and present. The signage is written in both the Gaelic and English languages. This dual language approach boosted the understanding of Staffin’s heritage, its people and what they value.
Having a close connection with the local people and a good understanding of their needs, the project was able to provide them with support throughout the pandemic.
Throughout the project, visitors to Sky have increased by more than 50%. New infrastructure created through this project – such as improved pathways – has enabled Staffin to better manage this larger numbers of visitors, while adding to their experience. What was once a quick stop photo opportunity has now become a place where visitors explore and interact with the landscape and discover more about its history.
Visitors have benefited from new printed and online itineraries, which allow them to explore beyond the tourist hot spots.
Local businesses have been boosted through the Ecomuseum’s digital channels and as part of new corporate volunteering packages developed as part of the project.
The Staffin Community Trust offered the following tips for other organisations looking to run a similar project:
- Take time, listen and respond. Understanding the local community and making sure they were involved at every stage helped make the project a success.
- Buy local. Local businesses are more likely to go the extra mile for their local community and become advocates for your project.
- Be clear about the project’s values. When seeking external help with your project, make sure they are fully committed to the values of your project and understand the needs of the community.
- Consider marketing. Bringing in a marketing consultant made a significant difference to the project. Learning key marketing and digital skills can help you bring your project to a wider audience.
SCT has secured further funding to maintain its project manager post and continue development of the Skye Ecomuseum.