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Many people recognise Dunollie Museum, Castle and Grounds to be an international visitor attraction. But did you know it is also a social enterprise creating a wide range of opportunities for Oban’s community?
Dunollie Links is the social impact programme run by the team at Dunollie under the charity the MacDougall of Dunollie Preservation Trust. The programme was kickstarted by the Robertson Trust and Heritage Lottery Fund in 2013, and hasn’t stopped growing since.
In the past year, more than 1,200 people have benefited from taking part in Dunollie Links activities through learning and education, volunteering, social inclusion and personal development in a comfortable, welcoming environment.
Dunollie now has a team of at least 60 regular volunteers who have the opportunity to acquire a variety of heritage skills. Through Dunollie Links, the team can provide volunteers with special curatorial training for researching, handling and care of the artefacts and archives held in the ancient collections at Dunollie, all of which have been unearthed over the past 12 years.
Volunteer weavers have successfully restored a 19th-century loom and are now demonstrating their skills for visitors. Traditional skills are also shared through Dunollie’s Threads and Yarns sewing group, whose members design and create gifts inspired by the collections at Dunollie to sell in the gift shop and raise funds for Dunollie Links.
As part of Dunollie Links, two new volunteer units have been created: a gardening group to regenerate and maintain the Victorian garden, as well an exhibition team which is planning, creating and building a new exhibition of childhood for Dunollie in 2018 as part of Scotland’s Year of Young People.
Dunollie also hosts heritage-inspired winter workshops for local primary schools, and last year welcomed around 600 children. The Oban High School Pathways programme is a great supporter, and last year eight students attended weekly work experience sessions at Dunollie, ranging from archive transcribing to visitor services.
This engaging programme offers meaningful activities for clients of the local mental health service, which stated: ‘Dunollie Links provides a valuable supportive environment for people with mental health conditions to be able to tailor voluntary placements according to their needs.’
Jane Isaacson, Dunollie’s sustainability and development manager, said: ‘The skills and knowledge learned by participants shines through all areas of the historic site. Dunollie Links meets the needs of the community and keeps the local heritage alive.
‘The project is fast gaining recognition as an amazing cultural and historical resource for the people of Oban. However, like most supported programmes, funding for Dunollie Links must come to an end. This summer the charity has launched an eight-week campaign to raise enough money to run the next year of Dunollie Links activities.’
Funds raised will contribute to the next three community programmes: New Roots, a rehabilitation opportunity to support and assist clients with mental health illness; exhibition team will allow volunteers to be supported through their project; and the 2017 winter schools programme will provide more remote schools access to the fascinating local heritage Dunollie holds.
The team at Dunollie is currently fundraising through a Crowdfunding page as well as with regular activities for visitors to Dunollie. If you would like to support or become a sponsor of this extremely valuable programme, visit www.dunollie.org to find out more.