Social History

Miss Thornley Binders. Image © Stromness Museum.
Barbara Baikie of Bea as New Industry. A 1923 advertisement photograph for Thornley Binders, who produced smokeless fuel made from seaweed. Image © Stromness Museum.

The museum contains several unique items which tell the story of the development of Stromness as a merchant town.

The town’s commercial past is represented through a variety of artefacts and material relating to commercial food production, whisky distilling, shops, restaurants, hotels and tourism.

Many of the diverse range of items in the museum’s collection relate to crafts and industries which are long gone, such as straw plait making, coopering and alginate production from kelp.

The town’s maritime history is further referenced in the items relating to sail-making and boatbuilding trades, with domestic and community life, education, clubs and societies, sports and entertainment, textiles, writers and musicians, artists, wartime Stromness and Scapa Flow, also well-represented.

Particular highlights include the purple rocking chair that belonged to world-renowned local writer George Mackay Brown, often called the Bard of Orkney.