Orkney Wireless Museum

Orkney Wireless Museum is one of only two specialist communications museums in Scotland, and this was the first, with the collection first displayed to the public in 1984. It is located in a little building at Kiln Corner, behind Kirkwall Harbour, which was built in 1866.

This small museum displays a unique collection of domestic and military radio equipment, from the early radios of the 1920s to modern 5G communications equipment which was tested locally. The museum explains the importance of radio to defending the crucial naval base at Scapa Flow, while memorabilia adds to the military history of the area, including items made by the Italian prisoners-of-war brought to Orkney to build the Churchill Barriers. These items were bartered for materials to create the Italian Chapel on Lamb Holm.

Other exhibits include radios from a tank and U-boat, a spy's radio set, an early recording machine, a hearing aid from the 1930s and describe the advent of television in Orkney. There are also a large number of related signs, displays illustrating the wartime role of local people and a significant photographic archive. The museum also includes an active amateur transmitting station, with the call-sign GB2OWM.

The museum represents the personal collection of James MacDonald (1927 - 1988), a local electrician and radio repairman. During the Second World War was employed at the Scapa Flow naval base at Lyness ad then involved in servicing the chain-home radar station at Nether Button. When this station closed in the 1950s, MacDonald was able to rescue some of the equipment and went on to extend his collection in the years following. In 1984, MacDonald opened his collection to the public in his home at St. Margaret’s Hope on South Ronaldsay. After his death, a trust was created and the collection was moved to its current home.

The building began as the Factor's Office for the Earldom of Orkney Estate. After this large estate was broken up in the 1920s, the building became a bicycle and radio shop, and later a petrol station, before becoming home to the Wireless Museum in 1997. Today the museum is run entirely by volunteers.

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