Council Cash Gives Kilmartin House Museum A Reprieve

By David Prudames | 09 September 2004
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Shows a photograph of the exterior of Kilmartin House Museum. A tall white building the museum can be seen in then background behind a group of people fixing a dry stone wall.

Kilmartin House Museum is set within one of Scotland's most important heritage areas. Courtesy Kilmartin House Museum.

Considered to be one of the most important museums in Scotland, Kilmartin House has been given a temporary stay of execution by the local council, which has agreed to release a £10,000 grant.

The news comes after a lengthy campaign by staff and members of the public to keep the much-loved museum afloat.

Speaking to the 24 Hour Museum, Kilmartin Curator, Sharon Webb welcomed the news: "I’m delighted that Argyll and Bute Council has chosen to support us," she said, "and hope that we can find a longer term solution to keep this wonderful cultural resource alive."

The decision was made at a Strategic Policy Committee meeting of Argyll and Bute Council on September 9.

"The importance of Kilmartin House Museum has always been acknowledged by this council," explained Council Leader Cllr Allan Macaskill after the meeting. "We are delighted to have brought this additional money to the table."

According to the council, their initial £10,000 will be match funded with a further £10,000 from the Scottish Museums Council. In addition it believes funding will also come in from other agencies including Historic Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Forestry Commission. All in all £49,000 is expected.

"However, the funding has been agreed subject to a number of conditions, which must be adhered to in order to attract even short term funding," added Cllr Macaskill.

The conditions come following a business review undertaken by the Director of the New Lanark Conservation Trust and include changes to trustee membership and the overall operation to make it more commercially effective.

Owned and operated by a charitable trust, Kilmartin House Museum was opened with the help of a £1 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 1997.

Shows a photograph of the mountaineous scenery that surrounds the museum.

The stunning Kilmartin Glen. Courtesy Kilmartin House Museum.

Situated in the stunning Kilmartin Glen, the museum boasts a collection of archaeological artefacts dating back 5,000 years and acts as a gateway to the surrounding prehistoric monuments of which there are at least 150 within six miles.

From standing stones and burial cairns to the fortress of the earliest Scottish kings, the site is one of the most significant in all of Scotland.

On average 15,000 ticket-paying visitors pass through its doors each year, while up to 30,000 are drawn to the area itself. It is estimated that £1.7 million is contributed to the local economy as a result.

Yet, relying entirely upon ticket sales and revenue from its café and shop to pay for running costs, the museum has consistently struggled to stay afloat.

A crisis point was reached last winter when only an emergency cash injection from its friends society and redundancies kept Kilmartin going.

However, this was never going to secure a long term future and museum staff began campaigning for central or local government revenue funding in April this year.

Collecting 5,000 signatures on a petition and maintaining a continuous letter writing effort, the museum’s cause has received overwhelming support from the public.

Among the many voices joining the chorus of backers has been Tony Robinson. Speaking to The Herald newspaper, the Time Team presenter said: "How many museums can you go to where you can examine a Bronze Age pot and then look out of the window and see the burial mound where it came from?"

But, far from a solution to Kilmartin’s problems, the council’s grant will only provide short-term aid to the troubled museum.

A meeting of trustees at the end of this month will determine whether or not the council’s conditions are accepted and campaigning to save the museum for future generations will continue.

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