The multi-million-pound refurbishment of Orkney’s Scapa Flow Museum has taken another step forward with work beginning on the site’s brand-new exhibition space.
Experts from around the UK have travelled to the museum at Lyness in Hoy over recent weeks to tour the new look building and get a feel for the space they have to work with.
The Scapa Flow Museum tells the story of the vitally important naval anchorage in Orkney during the First and Second World Wars. It’s hoped the £4.4m project to extend the museum and refurbish the historic oil pumphouse will be completed in time for the doors to officially open once more this summer.
Seven specialist firms are involved in bringing a new redesigned exhibition to life, including Studio MB, who have been working on the project since 2015, Belfast-based Marcon, who specialise in outfitting exhibitions and cabinet building, and Rocketbox Design Ltd, who will be putting together graphics and artwork for the exhibition panels.
Also involved in the project are specialist scriptwriter, Allan Carswell, who will be devising the flow of the story told by the museum, and Colin Lindley and Kate Silverston, who will be building custom-made supports to display and show some of the artefacts.
They’ve recently been working on removing the nameplate letters of HMS Royal Oak from their previous mount in preparation for a refreshed display. On 14 October 1939, Royal Oak was anchored in Scapa Flow when she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-47. Of the ship’s complement of 1,234 men and boys, 835 were killed that night or died later of their wounds.
The letters were illegally removed from the wreck of HMS Royal Oak in the early 1970s by an amateur diver on holiday in Orkney, before eventually being handed back to the Royal Navy in 1994.
As well as the refurbishment of the museum and exhibitions, audio-visual specialists Ay-Pe are developing a series of short films on Scapa Flow for the project, and Orkney Islands Council’s Museums team has also been working with the University of St Andrews School of Computer Science on a Virtual Reality display – the first time VR has been developed for a museum in Orkney.
Nick Hewitt, Team Leader for Culture at Orkney Islands Council, said: “These visits represent a real milestone in the Museum’s redevelopment. It marks the start of moving from a construction focus, to one that every Museum professional loves – that is, the work of building in the layers of detail which brings a collection alive and draws the stories of its artefacts to the fore.”
As well as charting Orkney’s military involvement in the First and Second World Wars, the museum provides a safe home for a major collection of wartime artefacts, many of national and international importance.
When complete, the Scapa Flow Museum will open all year round for the first time in many years, encouraging more people to visit Hoy and boosting tourism throughout the island and Orkney.