The Shetland Isles are one of the most magical places in Scotland and hold an immense wealth of historical importance and fascinating stories for you to discover. Although travelling to these far-flung isles is an adventure only for some, visiting the Shetland Museum & Archives while you’re here is an absolute must. Discover how life thrived on such a remote Isle and more at the Shetland Archives.
The archives building is a treasure horde of information, not only about Shetland life but the geological origins and evolution of industry on the island as well — learn what it takes to build and sustain an island of people and how it all started at the Shetland Museum & Archives.
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Important Details to Know
The Shetland Museum and Archives are extraordinarily accessible and friendly places to visit in Lerwick, with wheelchair-level access and parking available. There is a lift that can take mobility-impaired visitors to the top floor of the Museum, and wheelchairs can be provided for those who need them.
Baby changing facilities and public toilet facilities are available on the premises for families with young children.
Unfortunately, no pets are allowed on site.
How to Get There
The Shetland Museum & Archives are a unique destination, to say the least, sitting north of the Scottish Mainland — even past the Orkney Isles. So, you’re unable to reach the Isles by car, train, or bus, and have to rely on a ship or plane instead.
The Archives sit only a mile away from the Holmsgarth Ferry Terminal within the town of Lerwick, so taking passage on a ferry is likely the easiest way for many visitors to reach the Shetland Isles. Aberdeen and Kirkwall are two major port cities that offer ferry passage to Lerwick, with trips taking about 10 – 12 hours from Aberdeen.
If you plan to hop over to the Shetland Museum and Archives via plane, you have many options available. Scotland’s major cities have at least a couple of flights each day leaving for Lerwick, with Aberdeen offering up to 5 flights each day.
Travel time to the Shetland Isles via plane may vary, but it will be up to two hours if you fly from a Scottish airport.
The Shetland Museum opening times vary throughout the year. During the winter months, between 1 November and 1 April, the Museum & Archives are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. For the rest of the week, however, the exhibitions are open between 10:00 to 16:00 (Sunday is open from 12:00 to 17:00).
During May and October, the museum is open throughout the week at a similar opening time, 10:00 to 17:00 (Sunday is still 12:00 to 17:00).
Entrance into the Shetland Museum & Archives is free!
Donations are appreciated and are managed between the Shetland Amenity Trust and the Shetland Islands Council to create a better Shetland Museum and Archive.
Attractions to See
The Shetland Museum has several unique attractions that touch on every part of the culture and history of the Shetland Isles. If you want to attend every visitor attraction, then make sure to consult our list of top attractions to see in the Archives. Shetland Museum is known for using temporary exhibition space, meaning only some of the attractions we list may be the same when you visit.
Discover the Shetland Museum Photo Archives
The Archives at the Shetland Museum contain rich and detailed records that date back centuries. If you suspect you have ancestry that lived in Lerwick or the surrounding area, why not explore the available bountiful collections? Books, crown and church records and records of people are welcome to find their ancestry at the Archive’s Search Room.
If you’re more of a visual learner, stop by the Shetland Museum’s photo archives. There are over 60,000 images that show off the diversity and heritage of Highland life of the Shetland Isles from the present day back to the 1800s.
See the Natural History of the Shetland Isles
Nature lovers will delight in the small natural history collection available at the Shetland Museum, focusing on the geology and botany found on the Isles. The folks at this collection work intimately with the Shetland Amenity Trust to bolster their natural collections.
From eagles to precious stones, come and learn how the ground and wildlife made the Shetland Isles what they are today.
Learn about Shetland’s Industries
From the stone and animals came people and, with them, industry! Shetland’s Industrial collection allows visitors to learn about how the development of various industries on the Shetland Isles was crucial to supporting the life of the islands.
Fishing, crofting, carpentry, and shipbuilding were all integral parts of Shetland’s local history, and you can see artefacts of each trade at the Industry Collection at the Shetland Museum.
Stroll Past the Museum’s Floating Collection
That’s right, the Shetland Museum has its very own floating collection for you to see! This Floating Collection is keeping the traditions afloat, literally, with several traditional boats located at Hay’s Dock outside the ground floor of the museums.
Each ship has its unique characteristics and how it evolved over time. If you want to see newer completed works, some completed examples hung from the ceiling within a three-storey boat hall.
Immerse Yourself in Shetland’s Heritage
The Shetland Isles’ heritage is on full display, and you can see amazing attractions like the world-famous Lewis Chessmen and classic items like a kishie, tushkar, and hap. If you want to learn what all of those are, then the Shetland Crofthouse Museum and Archives Folklife collections are the place to be.
More Scottish Museums to Visit
- Black Watch Museum
- Camera Obscura & World of Illusions
- Edinburgh Writers Museum
- Glasgow Science Centre
- Highland Folk Museum
- Museum of Childhood
- Museum of Edinburgh
- Museum of the Isles
- Museum on the Mound
- National Mining Museum
- National Museum of Flight
- National War Museum
- People’s Palace
- Riverside Museum
- Royal Yacht Britannia
- Scottish Maritime Museum
- St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art
- Surgeons’ Hall Museum
- V&A Dundee