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hetlanders were preparing to roll out the red carpet this week for no less than three royal visitors. Prince Charles, Camilla and the Queen of Norway were expected to attend the official opening of the new pound;11.6 million Shetland Museum and Archives yesterday. But even bigger crowds are anticipated this weekend for the grand public launch.

The stunning cultural facility, situated at the dockside in Lerwick, has taken eight years to create. The two main galleries are split into 12 zones, telling Shetland's story from its geological beginnings to the present day, using a mix of traditional, contemporary and interactive displays.

Local primary schools have already been in for a "test drive" and it's no surprise to learn that their favourite attractions include the "Trowie Knowe" and a traditional Shetland house. "Trow" is the Shetland word for a mythical, troll-like creature and Trowie Knowe is its hiding place.

Visitors can find out what the trow's home looks like, listen to trowie stories inside the cave-like "knowe" and watch a trow detector in action.

You can't enter the Shetland house, which is guarded by a model of a now extinct Shetland pig, but you can glimpse a baby's cradle rocking inside and hear a granny soothing it with a traditional Shetland lullaby.

The children were also fascinated by a more traditional kind of museum display - a preserved dolphin foetus in a bottle.

Visitors attending the launch weekend will be treated to a programme of special events including live music from some of Shetland's many local performers, film shows in the auditorium and art activities in the Learning Room.

Shetland Museum and Archives

T 01595 694688

www.shetlandmuseumandarchives.org.uk

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