Our Collections


Our mission is to safeguard Orkney’s heritage, including artefacts, historic buildings, archaeological sites and local tales, traditions and memories for present and future generations, whilst supporting and encouraging research on all aspects of Orkney’s heritage - past, present and future.

Explore the collection Online

Discover our collections online through our collections portal.
Explore the thousands of objects ranging from neolithic tools, farming equipment through to massive naval cannons, each helping tell Orkney’s rich history.

You will also be able to search Orkney Archive service’s Local Studies and Archive catalogue in conjunction with the Museum Service’s collection.

Visit our collection portal ➤

Collection Portal Guide

Users are welcome to download and use any non-watermarked images in records on our Collections Portal for non-commercial and non-for-profit, under the Creative Commons model as follows:
a. Users may share (copy and redistribute material in any medium or format) and adapt (remix, transform, and build upon the material). Appropriate credit must be given as ©Orkney Islands Council Museums.

b. Users must provide a link to the license, and indicate where changes were made.

c. Users may share and adapt an image in a reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests Orkney Islands Council endorses the use or user.

d. Users may not use the material for commercial purposes. Orkney Islands Council considers use of the material for an academic or not-for-profit purpose to be considered non-commercial use. Commercial ventures are seen as any activities where the sole purpose is the generation of income for the individual, company or organisation.

e. If users remix, transform or build on the material, they must distribute their contributions under the same license as the original. No additional restrictions can be applied that legally or technically restrict users from doing anything the license permits. See https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/ for more details.

Any image which is watermarked or found elsewhere on Orkney Islands Council Museum’s portal and websites may be subject to copyright and other third party rights, and is not currently available to use. If you would like to use one of these images please contact our team on museum@orkney.gov.uk, or through a contact form in the website.

Additionally, if you would like to use any images outside of the above Creative Commons licence, for example, for commercial purposes, you must apply for an appropriate license. Charges will be applied, so please contact museum@orkney.gov.uk for more information.

If you would like to view an item in person or get a digital copy, where it isn’t available on the online portal, please e-mail the service at museum@orkney.gov.uk. Please include the object number of the object in your email.

We are privileged to hold a wealth of material in the collections. We will aim to make as much of the collections available to view as possible. However, at times some collections may be inaccessible for various reasons. You will be made aware of this at the time of request. At times we may ask you to prioritise the most relevant items if the request is extensive.


Digitisation on Demand Service

If you aren’t able to visit our museums in person or the object hasn’t been digitised yet, then don’t worry, for a fee you can request they be digitised. Charges are outlined below:

ItemPrices (£)
Digitisation on Demand- First two images£45
Digitisation on demand – Additional angles – per additional image£10
Digital images up to 20 images – per image£10
Digital images over 20 images – per image£8.50





Offers of donation are assessed on the following criteria:

  • Provenance – Where did the items come from? How did you come by them? 
  • History – What can you tell us about the original owner (if anything)? 
  • Condition – photographs or scans help us to assess condition and content. 
  • Duplication – We try and avoid duplication where possible if we already hold examples

Decision process: We receive a large number of offers of donation each year and unfortunately we are unable to accept everything.  The decision of whether an object will be accepted into the collection will be made by our curators who will consider all the information presented and if it falls within our collections policy. Once the decision has been made, the curator will be in touch shortly, time allowing.


  • Offers of donation can’t be considered without images or the information detailed above.
  • Please do not send in items before we ask for them.
  • We are not able to promise that accepted donations will go on display.

Our Collection Portal will allow you to search a significant number of our held objects in the collection, alongside collections held at Orkney Archive.

There are many ways to search the collection, using the simple search box with a generic term will give you an overview of objects. For a more detailed search, you should use advanced search and the search field ‘Word(s) from the title / description’. If you have a specific object your looking for then we suggest using the expert search which will allow you to be more accurate with your search. If you need additional help then click on the question mark at the top right of your screen.

N.B. If you can’t find an object on the collection portal, it doesn’t mean we don’t have it, it just means that a digital record for it may have not been created yet.

You can download the images but for usage guidance see the ‘Using images of the collection’ drop-down.

We are constantly improving and adding new records, so please check back from time to time to see what’s new. This is also true for images, more and more images will continually be added each week to existing records.

Made possible thanks to our funders

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