Bringing Oceanic Wellness to the Scottish Fisheries Museum and St Andrews
Postgraduate museology students from St Andrews collaborate with the Scottish Fisheries Museum to curate their latest exhibition on oceanic heritage and wellness, By the Seaside: Heritage,
Healing, and New Horizons. The group of eight postgraduate students from the University of St Andrews behind this exhibition did not expect to be studying amid an international pandemic, nor did they plan to design their first professional exhibition completely remotely. Originally meant to coincide with VisitScotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters programming throughout 2020 and 2021, this exhibition on blue space in Scotland took on a new relevance with the restrictions of COVID-19, which sent a shared sense of isolation and uncertainty throughout the world. Suddenly, this exhibition on the ocean’s ability to heal and inspire became a necessary consolation for mental and physical health in our everyday lives.
As a dynamic collaboration between museology students at the University of St Andrews and staff at the Scottish Fisheries Museum (SFM), this exhibition explores the impact of blue space on human experience and well-being. Mattea Gernentz, the project’s writer and interpretation lead, highlighted the exhibition’s unique, wellness-oriented take on oceanic heritage to be displayed at the SFM: ‘it simultaneously directs our gaze outwards and inwards, urging us to consider how blue spaces have impacted our creativity, growth, and wellbeing, as well as pointing out ways that the sea has served as a means of both leisure and livelihood.’
The student team has overcome many obstacles to put together an innovative exhibition exploring humanity’s interconnectivity with water, through physical and digital means. Museum and Gallery Studies director at St Andrews, Dr. Karen Brown, comments: ‘We are immensely proud of how our students have adapted in these uncertain times to demonstrate resilience and creativity in curating such a meaningful topic for the Fife coastline and its residents during the pandemic.’ The in-person exhibition, due to open in April at SFM should restrictions allow, will be enhanced by a variety of innovative digital content. For example, the show’s podcast, Sound Waves, interviews wild swimmers, artists, fisherfolk, and others from the Fife community, while the website’s blog includes perspectives from the St Andrews community about how the sea has influenced their lives.
Through the exhibition and its programming for public engagement, the team hopes to encourage reflection on how the sea has proved influential in lives across Scotland, and they are excited to bring the ocean directly into homes throughout the country. The exhibition’s digital opening event, on the evening of March 20th, will include the keynote speaker of Dr. James Grellier from the University of Exeter, who is most well-known for his EU-backed ‘BlueHealth Project’ of 2020, among other panelists and a musical performance.
Image courtesy of the Scottish Fisheries Museum.