The Writing the North exhibition explored two hundred years of writing from Orkney and Shetland. Using four themes to structure the show – visitors, myth and legend, life in the isles, and sounds – the show combined rare archival items, many of which have never been on public display, with related objects and artefacts.
The exhibition was the most ambitious ever undertaken by the Shetland Museum and Archives. A primary feature of the show was the recreation of a Victorian, wood-panelled study, which viewers were directed into as they entered the gallery space. In the study, visitors could look at a large scrapbook of literary material, and could use a specially designed typewriter to access poems from the northern isles and email them to friends as virtual postcards.
Leaving the study are led viewers into the main display area, in which they could look at eight display cases, including cabinets about Walter Scott, female writers, and the use of dialect in local literature. A number of portraits were on display, including ones of Walter Scott, Hugh MacDiarmid and George Mackay Brown, and viewers were able to enjoy an animation which took an irreverent look at Walter Scott’s 1814 tour of the northern isles.
Moving through the four themed galleries, viewers were introduced to many writers and books they perhaps hadn’t heard of before. The Writing the North exhibition gave people a new and exciting look the literatures of Orkney and Shetland.