Chessmen security delays new museum

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Extra security needs to be installed at Lews Castle Museum before the Lewis Chessmen can be released and the museum opens.

The new museum facilities at Lews Castle in Stornoway have been hotly anticipated and were expected to be complete this autumn, however the project has been delayed due to the specifications needed to host the priceless objects that will go on display.

Spokesman for the project, Iain Macleod explained: “The opening programme for the new Museum and Archive has been revised to Spring 2016 in consultation with the National Museums Scotland and the British Museum, who will be providing a significant number of the exhibits in the new galleries.

“This will allow for extended monitoring of the environmental conditions in the galleries and the installation of some additional security measures prior to the installation of the loan objects, including six of the Lewis Chessmen.

“Testing of the new facilities is ongoing and will continue with a range of audience groups and their feedback is invaluable in preparing for the full opening.

“The Learning and Community facilities and the Archive facilities will be available from early 2016 and public opening of the Museum will follow soon after the installation of the national loan objects.”

The six Lewis chessmen, discovered 150 years ago, and now making a return ‘home’ to the Western Isles are a King, Queen, bishop, knight, warder and pawn.

Carved from ivory, specifically walrus tusk, the chessmen were found in 1831 and have been dated as 12th century.

While the majority of objects which will go on display at the new museum will be from Museum nan Eilean, nearly a third of objects will be on loan from the Scottish National Museum, including a spectacular Viking hacksilver hoard and a vintage 1923 Morgan 3-wheeler car which was driven on the islands until the 1950s.

Pictured are the six Lewis chessmen which will go on display at the museum: a King, Queen, bishop, knight, warder and pawn.