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Museum Artefacts

Artefacts from St Kilda can be found in a number of museums and institutions in Scotland and elsewhere, but the largest collection is housed in Glasgow Museums. The collection is unique and must be one of the most important ethno-archaeological collections in Britain if not beyond. It consists of the museum's own collection and those of The National Trust for Scotland (which are on long-term loan to the Museums Service). Some of the more interesting items include snares made of quill and hair for catching seabirds, St Kilda wren eggs collected by William McQueen (a native St Kildan), woollen stockings and tweed, a whalebone scoop, a St Kilda spinning wheel, and a mail boat. There is even the original jolly boat (tender) from SS Dunara Castle (which made regular sailings to St Kilda from the 1870s). There are also many original letters and other archives.

Horizontal spinning wheel from St Kilda
Photograph: Glasgow Museums

Glasgow Museums have organised temporary exhibitions about St Kilda, most notably St Kilda, Past & Present in 1980 and St Kilda Explored in 1995-96. The latter exhibition also toured to several venues in the west of Scotland during 1996-97.

No St Kilda items are currently on display, but there are plans to have a semi-permanent display about St Kilda in Kelvingrove Museum in 2004, following the building's closure for total refurbishment from autumn 2002.

Interactive displays in St Kilda Explored exhibition
Photograph: Glasgow Museums

'St Kilda Mailboat'
Photograph: Glasgow Museums

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Sherds of pottery found in archaeological excavations
Photograph: Glasgow Museums

Letter from Donald Ferguson, House 5, ordering tar and felt to repair the roof of his house
Photograph: Glasgow Museums

Transcript of archive letter:                St Kilda 15th July 1897

Dear Sir,

Please send us a hogshead of coal tar, we only got two barrels & 4 lbs 2 inch nails. You must also send 28 slaps for the house & 7 yds of felt its empty on both sides of the chimys. The bull is of no use we are sending it back by the Dunara. please send for my mother 20 deals of groved wood to cover the walls inside 21 feet long inch thick.

I hope that you got everything send you by the Dunara quit safe, I have three casks of oil ready. Our weather is fine & warm. I'll have fish to send by the Dunara. I received your letter at present & got the book all right. Norman Gillies cow had her first calve last May.

Yours faithfully

Donald Ferguson

Further information can be obtained from:

Art Gallery & Museum
G3 8AG
United Kingdom.
Tel: (+44) 0141 287 2699
Fax: (+44) 0141 287 2690

Glasgow Museums are part of the City of Glasgow's Cultural and Leisure Services Department

© The National Trust for Scotland