The final major piece of work to ready the buildings at the Scapa Flow Museum for redevelopment will get underway this week.
The redevelopment project involves the restoration of historic buildings at the museum, the enhancement of interpretation and displays, and the creation of a new building which will house an exhibition space, café, toilet facilities and information areas.
The project tender documents are due to be issued to contractors by the end of this week, with work onsite expected to begin in the Autumn.
Peter Diamond, Orkney Islands Council’s Head of Education, said: “The renovated museum and visitor centre will be a tremendous asset for Lyness, Hoy and Orkney as a whole.
“As well as being a valuable resource for visitors to our islands, it will help preserve artefacts for current and future generations that tell the remarkable story of Scapa Flow’s role as major naval base through the two world wars.”
This week’s work for the Council’s Arts, Museums and Heritage team involves preparing the large objects on display in the museum’s 81-year-old Oil Tank, so these can be moved into storage.
It will be carried out under the specialist direction of Jim Mitchell, from Argyll and Bute-based Industrial Heritage Consulting Ltd, and a team from Alloa-based JPS Restoration Ltd.
The Oil Tank is a Category A-listed structure made of riveted steel plates, dating from 1937. At approximately 14 metres high and 35 metres in diameter, it was originally built to hold 12,000 tons of fuel oil.
Under consultation with Historic Environment Scotland, and managed by Jim Mitchell, the roof of the tank will be replaced and the interior blast-cleaned and repainted. This means that the interior space needs to be totally emptied of objects and display equipment.
Exhibits displayed in the Oil Tank include a Neal’s Rapid two-ton crane, used at the Lyness Royal Naval Base, and a historic lighthouse lens and mechanism from Cantick Head.
Jim Mitchell said “The vehicles in the tank haven’t been moved in decades, so much has to be done to allow them to roll again. Seized wheels and brakes have to be freed before the delicate task of moving them on 70-year-old tyres can begin. However, we are happy that this can be achieved without damaging the exhibits.”
Rachel Boak, Curator with the Arts Museums and Heritage Team, said: “Following the packing up of the wartime collections previously displayed in the pumphouse with the help of volunteers during the winter, this is the last stage of removing historic objects into store before work on the buildings begins.
“We are delighted to be working with Jim Mitchell and JPS Restoration on this part of the project, and grateful for their expertise in moving large and challenging vehicles and machinery.”
One of the biggest and most delicate tasks will be to dismantle the Cantick Head lighthouse mechanism and lens, which will be stored safely in four specially-made crates, the largest with a width, depth and height of two metres.
Once JPS Restoration have finished preparing the objects, they will be moved into storage elsewhere at Lyness by local contractor, Heddle Construction, for the duration of the development works.
The Heritage Lottery Fund is providing up to £1.155 million for the Scapa Flow Museum redevelopment project, with additional funding from Historic Environment Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Orkney LEADER 2014-2020 programme, Museums Galleries Scotland and the Council itself.
The Museum closed at the end of October last year. Since then, volunteers have joined staff in carefully packing up the many hundreds of artefacts that will go into storage during the project. In addition, specialist contractors have carried out surveys of the buildings and the equipment they contain ahead of the main refurbishment work getting underway.
The Arts, Museums and Heritage team recently began the detailed development and design work of the exhibition and internal displays with Edinburgh based contractors Studio MB.
The Museum is set to reopen in March 2020. Meanwhile, a temporary exhibition on the wartime history of Scapa Flow is on show at the Hoy Hotel in Lyness.
It features touch screen computers giving a 360-degree tour of the main museum buildings and site, showcases stories and highlights some of the latest research into Scapa Flow and its history. The exhibition has been part-funded by the Island of Hoy Development Trust.
An exhibition featuring objects from the wartime collection is also on show at the Orkney Museum.
Regular guided walks around Lyness, led by museum staff, have been taking place twice weekly from April.