April 19, 2022
Heritage at its heart
Whatever form a community’s cultural heritage takes (see People’s Parish above), it plays a central role in shaping local identity and civic pride. Local history groups and museums of all shapes and sizes will be found in most communities. On the Isle of Harris, a remarkable man has spent most of his life recording the lives and family histories of the Hebridean people. Now these unique genealogical records of the Western Isles, celebrating the culture and heritage of its people are to be gathered together in a spanking new visitor centre. A community share offer has just been launched.
Seallam! Hebrides People Visitor Centre is a unique project based in the Isle of Harris, Western Isles (Outer Hebrides) which celebrates the culture and heritage of the people through their genealogical record, storytelling and history. It is owned by the community – Northton Heritage Trust (NHT), a charitable community benefit society (No 8676) which is now planning an exciting future for the project as a major visitor and learning destination celebrating the rich history of this island archipelago.
Bill and Chris Lawson began work developing the records over 40 years ago and they donated their life’s work to the Trust some 20 years ago when funding was secured to build the current visitor centre. Chris is sadly no longer with us, and Bill, at 84 years of age is handing over the reins to the community (Trust) to develop and protect their legacy and to provide a much-needed visitor and learning facility in south Harris.
Northton Heritage Trust (NHT) has prepared ambitious plans to bring all the land and buildings into community ownership (it already owns the centre and car park) and to develop them to enhance exhibition space, provide student accommodation and research facilities to create more local employment and stimulate local economic development.
This will be carried out in two phases:
- Phase one which will see all the remaining land and buildings brought into ownership of the Trust.
- Phase two which will see development of these assets to provide new exhibition space, student and learning accommodation, a café and Seallam! Outdoors signposting the remarkable geography and geology of the area as part of Northton Bay a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
The Trust is keen to engage both its local community (Isle of Harris) and its wider community (the rest of the world with an interest or heritage in the islands) in this exciting development and is running a community share offer to enable supporters of the project to contribute to delivery of phase one works- bringing the land and buildings into community ownership and finalising the plans for the second phase which will see the buildings extended.