LIFTE Skaill Farmstead

Exhibition on trade in early modern Orkney at Stromness Museum

An exhibition offering a glimpse into life and aspects of trade in Orkney from the late 15th to the early 18th century opens at the Stromness Museum on Saturday, November 25.
The new exhibition at the Stromness Museum.  (πŸ“· Sigurd Towrie)
The new exhibition at the Stromness Museum. (πŸ“· Sigurd Towrie)

An exhibition offering a glimpse into life and aspects of trade in Orkney from the late 15th to the early 18th century opened at the Stromness Museum on Saturday, November 25.

The exhibition is part of the Looking in from the Edge (LIFTE) research project – a three-year programme involving the UHI Archaeology Institute, the University of Lincoln and the German Maritime Museum, in Bremerhaven.

From the 15th to 18th centuries, a system of trade gradually brought much of the globe within its influence. In Europe, it led to rural communities such as Orkney and Shetland becoming closely tied into continental European trade networks, transforming their largely subsistence and low-level trading economies to commercialised, surplus-producing ones.

At the forefront were the Hansa β€” an organisation of German merchants, formed around 1150, and which expanded into the North Atlantic in the 15th century.

The league’s influence in Shetland has been extensively documented, and so the LIFTE project has been looking at the impact of this influence and how it relates to Shetland traders.

In Orkney, less is known about early modern trade and so the project has used archival documents and archaeology to discover traders and some of the goods being marketed between Orkney, the continent, Scandinavia, Scotland, England and Shetland.

Exhibition poster

The Stromness Museum exhibition looks at the items imported and exported and the people who were involved in that trade. Among the artefacts on display will be finds from the ongoing UHI Archaeology Institute excavations at Skaill farm, Rousay, and ceramics recovered in Kirkwall in the 1970s.

There will also be archival documents on display that relate to trade and Orkney merchants, alongside the transcriptions carried out as part of the LIFTE project by teams of volunteers.

Entitled Looking in from the Edge: Early Modern Trade in Orkney, the exhibition opens on Saturday, November 25, and runs until April 28, 2024.