Archives and Objects in Harmony: The Historic Dockyard Museu

As a Falkland Islander and qualified Archivist & Records Manager, I understand the important connection that communities have with their past and the need to preserve this history for future generations. Being a member, and appointed Social Media Officer, for the Archives & Records Association’s (ARA) Section for Archives & Museums (SAM), I am eager to showcase the importance of interdisciplinary support between archivists and museum professionals, and how the harmony between archives and objects is communicated within the Falkland Islands. 

The Falkland Islands’ Historic Dockyard Museum is perfectly situated along the seafront, offering a stunning backdrop of Stanley Harbour and is within walking distance from the Visitor Centre and Stanley’s retail and food outlets. Islanders are well known for their hospitality and welcoming nature - and the museum is testimony to this. Upon entering the museum all visitors are greeted at the reception desk by friendly and welcoming staff, who are always available to answer any questions and engage them with fascinating stories about the Islands and the museum itself. Though the Islands have a relatively young society, the museum collections provide an insight into the development and rich history of the Islands.

Starting adjacent to the reception desk, your experience of the museum begins as you enter a large room that takes you back to 1690 and the first recorded landing on the Falkland Islands. The transition between the narrative of the initial discovery and naming of the Islands right through to the life of the early settlers is a real eye opener for anyone wanting to discover the social history of the Islands. It is very easy to lose yourself almost straight away looking at the amazing maps and drawings of the Islands from 1866. As archival documents, maps act as pieces of evidence, helping to communicate facts/information to preserve individual and collective memory. From this perspective, these maps of Stanley give an insight to current and future researchers into the social and physical development of the Islands. These maps and drawings on display within the Museum are in fact copies, with the original maps of Stanley safely housed in the Falkland’s National Archives. The mutual support between the archives and local museum allows this heritage to be shared and available for viewing in the museum, without risking the long term preservation or condition of the original record.

The old Globe Shop, with its display of shop items, provides another opportunity to understand about the life of local Islanders. The shelves of the reconstructed shop even feature some well-known items that many would recognize from today such as Bisco but also some local Falkland Island’s lemonade made by the Falkland Islands Company. Some objects on display still contain their original contents and even smell (according to the staff as obviously it is prohibited to touch the items on display).

Globe store items
PHOTOGRAPH BY Chloe Anderson

Moving along the room towards the centre, visitors follow the natural flow past the exhibitions which illustrate the key role that the Islands played in WWI and WWII. The upstairs, also accessible via the lift, displays the natural and maritime history of the Islands. This is one of my favourite areas of the museum as it shows the important relationship between the population and the sea – ancestors of some of the oldest local families, who arrived in the 1800s (including my own), were in fact seafarers who used the Islands as a place of shelter and never left. Alongside this exhibition, there is a brilliant array of taxidermy animals, whale bones and fossils. Some of the fossils date back 420 million years and the more observant visitor may spot the Rockhopper penguin scratchings marked forever on one rock. Fans of the Naturalist Charles Darwin may be surprised to learn that during his two visits to the Islands on HMS Beagle he became intrigued by the Falklands’ fox, aka the Warrah Fox. He was particularly fascinated by distinctions from its counterpart in South America. However, he was much less enamoured by the weather he encountered whilst visiting!

Maritime exhibition
PHOTOGRAPH BY Chloe Anderson

Back downstairs the corridor turns right and you enter the sparse room focusing on the 1982 Conflict. Though this event is what many remember the Islands for, the exhibition does not just focus on the military events that occurred but instead presents the audio-visual testimonies of Islanders who experienced the war as children. Leaving this emotive section, usually in tears, you then explore the connection between the Falklands and Antarctica. Within this space there is the Reclus Hut which was the refuge hut erected at Cape Reclus for the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey. Your experience is heightened as you approach due to the automated sound effects recreating the noise of the Antarctic wind, really making you feel that you are there yourself.

Like most museums, the Historic Dockyard Museum holds a variety of objects, from the original contents of the Reclus Hut, to a dentist’s chair and even a cannon ball. However, an obvious and sometimes overlooked part of many museums are in fact the archival records, such as photographs, diary and log book entries, which are prominent across many exhibitions. This is particularly relevant in the last exhibition visitors see before the long-awaited gift shop. The long corridor celebrates the lives and achievements of women, past and present, in the Falkland Islands. It is looking at the connections between the archival documents and museum objects that bring to light fascinating stories of the Falklands. For example, I learnt the story of one Ellaline Terris who was born in the Falklands in 1871. Though her parents left with her a few years after she was born, she later became a successful actress starring alongside her husband in the popular play ‘Quality Street’, written by JM Barrie who also wrote Peter Pan. This play went on to inspire the name behind Quality Street chocolates which we all enjoy today! In order to gather this information the Museum staff used biographical information they had within their museum collection, including a Falklands biography book, to find out about Ellaline’s background. As her family left the Islands when she was a young girl, staff also had to use modern sources such as YouTube to watch movies she had starred in, in order to provide more context and retell her story. These documents and audio visual content all link with the Quality Street tin within the Museum’s collection, which features on its lid the main characters from the play who Ellaline herself would have played.

Quality street tin
PHOTOGRAPH BY Chloe Anderson
Portrait of Charles Williams
PHOTOGRAPH BY Chloe Anderson

It is this link between archival records and museum objects that allows history to be experienced in all its glory. Talking to the Exhibitions Officer during my visit it becomes clear that archival records are just as important to the displays as the wonderful museum objects. The collaboration between the Museum staff and the Archivist in the Falklands is equally significant to the displays that many visitors see, as the Archivist supports the management of collections. Recently the Archivist was asked to clean up a portrait within the Museum collection. Through this conservation work the Archivist discovered that the portrait of Charles Williams, which Museum staff had always considered to be painting, actually included hand drawn elements. The Archivist provides additional support in caring for collections and within the last few months has provided the Museum with humidity readers to allow them to monitor their storage and exhibition environments, central to the ongoing preservation of their material.

In a similar way, that is the primary purpose of ARA’s SAM. The section provides support, training and guidance for professionals across the UK, Ireland and beyond, working with records and objects - including Archivists with responsibility for records within a museum, and our museum colleagues with responsibility for records where there is no Archivist. We also support Archivists in non-museum settings who have a responsibility for objects.

This interdisciplinary support allows shared concerns to be discussed through a wide network of professionals and best practice distributed across fields. By having a section such as SAM, it ensures that the link and stories between archival records and objects are preserved, managed and accessible for the future.

Looking around the Falklands Museum has emphasized to me the importance of looking at one’s heritage in the round, remembering that archives and objects support each other and enhance our shared understanding of this heritage, and ensuring that museum and archival institutions are supported.

Museum Information

Opening Times: Monday CLOSED

Tuesday - Friday 1000-1600

Saturday -Sunday 1300-1600

*Extended hrs on cruise ships days & in Summer period*

Entry Fee: Standard - £5

OAPs - £2.50

Children Under 16 - Free

*Accepts GBP, USD and Euros*

Address: Historic Dockyard Museum


Falkland Islands



Tel: +500 27428

Awards: Falkland Islands Tourism Award for Best Visitor Experience, 2016

Trip Advisor’s Travellers’ Choice Award, 2018

Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence, 2016-2019

ARA Section for Archives & Museums Information

Web #1:

Web #2: @ARAArchMus


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Chloe Anderson

Chloe Anderson is a Falkland Islander who became a qualified Archivist & Records Manager in 2017 after completing her MA at University College London. She has experience working in a range of archival institutions across the UK and is now working as the Records Manager for the Falkland Islands Government. In her spare time she is also the Social Media Officer for the Archives & Records Association’s Section for Archives & Museums (@ARAArchMus), providing a focal point for professionals to share best practise in museum/ object management and its intersection with the archive sector.