More than 80 academics have thrown their backing behind a campaign to ensure significant artefacts from a museum in the Highlands remain in the region.
The plea comes after the Caithness Horizon Museum in Thurso shut its doors last week following funding cuts.
The organisation has claimed “significantly increasing running costs and reducing income” were the two contributing factors in making it unsustainable to maintain the museum in the long term.
The financial makeup of the museum came from two main contributors, with a £75,000 grant from the Highland Council matched by the nearby nuclear energy facility at Dounreay.
Previously, both organisations committed £90,000 to the museum, with a reduction of £25,000 being implemented for the 2018/19 period.
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The open letter by the academics, which has been addressed to the trustees of Caithness Horizon Museum, has called upon bosses to reassess the dispersal or removal of the museum’s collection, stating the present situation to be “detrimental to a general understanding and engagement with the region’s history”.
The letter states: “The museum’s collection covers a wide range of nationally significant exhibits, many of which are unique, and only in Caithness Horizons was it possible to immerse museum visitors into the story of the area from its geological origins and natural history, all the way to the arrival of nuclear power in Northern Scotland.
“Besides its heritage value, Caithness Horizons has served as a focal point for community life in Thurso, providing a central and accessible location for community events.
“We regret the museum’s closure at such short notice and hope that a constructive and transparent dialogue, involving stakeholders, professionals, researchers and the community, will be entered regarding both the collection’s future and that of the facility as a community hub for Caithness.”
Craig Brown, chairman of the museum’s board, said: “Caithness Horizons Board appreciates the letter of support and we continue discussions with the Highland Council on the next steps.
“Over the years, the Caithness Horizons team has worked hard to ensure that our local culture and history has been shared. We are immensely proud of what has been achieved and we remain just as passionate about telling the story of our county today as we did the day we opened.
“In partnership with Museum Scotland and through discussions with Highland Council and other heritage and museum groups we will be making sure our museum artefacts are appropriately accommodated.
“We anticipate that it will take three months to complete our responsibilities during which time we will continue discussions with Highland Council regarding next steps.”
A spokeswoman for the Highland Council confirmed talks are ongoing.