The Whalers’ Memory Bank will be a living, growing digital time capsule where veterans of the whaling industry, their families and communities can come together to contribute and share their stories with a wider audience. 

Over the next two years, the South Georgia Heritage Trust and the South Georgia Museum, with funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, will be working alongside a number of former whaling communities in Scotland to create The Whalers’ Memory Bank. 


The story of modern whaling in the Southern Hemisphere is a controversial one with British companies playing a key role in the industry. These companies had a largely Scottish workforce and attracted many working-class men with the promise of adventure and competitive wages. Now, only a dwindling number of men survive that have first-hand memories of this industry, an integral part of Scottish social history. They are the last generation to be able to share their stories, knowledge and personal collections before they are lost forever.

Maintenance crew aboard a whale catcher ship
A whale being processed at Grytviken. 1959
A whale catcher Southern Jester

Launching in July 2023, the project will run for two years and throughout this time the project team will work alongside former whaling communities to capture memories that will help create The Whalers’ Memory Bank. At the heart of this will be a series of community events to gather stories and help shape the Memory Bank that those communities want to see and will value. It will also make the connection between why whaling happened, where it happened (a great deal of it on South Georgia), and where most of the whalers came from in Scotland.


Jayne Pierce, Project Director and Curator at the South Georgia Museum said: ‘Our aim is to create a digital portal that captures memories with photographs, oral histories, film and sounds, alongside a Virtual Reality tour of the whaling station on South Georgia. This work will be done using the existing collections held by the South Georgia Museum and will also link into several Scottish museums that are partners in this project.


‘It is really going to be a joint effort, bringing together the former whalers and their communities to hear their stories and let them help shape the Memory Bank they really want to see. We know from the contact we already have with the former whaling communities that families are eager to share their personal collections – artefacts and photographs stored in attics, cupboards and drawers – each with a story to tell.

‘We really hope the project will connect communities across local, national and international boundaries and dispel some of the myths around whaling. It will create a richer experience than a simple online database – dynamic rather than static – uplifting and celebratory.’

Gibbie Fraser, Chair of the Shetland ex-Whalers Association (SeA) knows they have struggled to access archive material which can be restricted by charges and copyright.  On the launch of the Whalers’ Memory Bank, he said: ‘The idea that the South Georgia Museum has about a shared archive to preserve what we can together is exactly what we were trying to do and welcome it with open arms!’


Caroline Clark, Heritage Fund Director for Scotland, said: “Thanks to the support of National Lottery players, we are pleased to be able to give funding to former whaling communities to capture their stories and explore this important untold story. We look forward to seeing the project develop as communities come together to share their memories and personal collections with each other and the wider world.”


The project is also a great opportunity to work with a small network of partner museums including the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther, the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine, and Dundee Heritage Trust’s Verdant Works, all of which hold hidden whaling archives and collections that are enlightening, inspiring, and engaging. As well as supporting with access to collections and stories, some of these organisations will also be involved in the community events the project will be developing for Spring 2024. The Shetland Maritime Heritage Society, Salvesen Ex-Whalers Club and the Shetland ex-Whalers Association will also be collaborating on the project. 

Anyone interested in finding out more or getting involved with the project should email