Scottish Collections In Smaller Museums To Benefit From Recognition Scheme

By Caroline Lewis | 26 June 2007
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photo of a coastline with a lighthouse

Courtesy the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses.

Lighthouses, avant-garde art, fishing boats and historical musical instruments are among the collection items that will benefit from a new scheme launched by the Scottish Museums Council.

The Recognition Scheme aims to give greater prominence to significant collections that lie outside the country’s national museums, promoting and investing in them to ensure they are cared for and made more accessible.

Ten collections in museums and galleries across the nation have so far been identified for extra attention announced the Scottish Minister for Culture, Linda Fabiani, at a ceremony at the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery in Glasgow on June 25.

photo of a woman with a metal plaque engraved with the letter R and the word recognised

Linda Fabiani, Scottish Minister for Culture, with the Recognised plaque. Courtesy Scottish Museums Council.

“This is a landmark occasion for Scotland’s museums and galleries and the wonderful collections they display,” said the Minister. “These ten collections are not only significant to the communities in which they are located but to Scotland as a whole.”

“I am glad to support this Recognition Scheme and look forward to seeing increased public access to these collections of national significance.”

photo of a sign painted on the side of a wooden boat pointing to a museum entrance

Courtesy The Scottish Fisheries Museum.

Among the recognised collections, held by local authorities, universities and independent trusts, are examples of industrial heritage, literary treasures and scientific innovation.

The collection of the Hunterian in Glasgow – the first public museum in Scotland – was recognised for its comprehensive nature and the insights it gives into the Scottish Enlightenment. And it will come as little surprise that the foremost collection relating to national hero Robert Burns has been given recognised status. The collection formed by the Burns Monument Trust can be seen at Burns Cottage Museum, Alloway.

The harbour-front Scottish Fisheries Museum, Anstruther, gained a place on the list of ten for its collection recording the development of the fishing industry (both technological and social aspects).

“We are delighted with the award of National Recognition status,” said Simon Hayhow, Director of the Museum. “Our collections are very varied – from 19 full-sized boats to over 1,000 items of costume, from many personal domestic items from fishing communities to over 12,000 pieces of fishing equipment and gear.”

photo of a sculpture of a human figure with an arched back within a museum gallery

Courtesy Surgeon's Hall Museum.

Model ships crafted by lighthouse keepers and huge Victorian brass and glass lenses feature in the collection cared for by the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses, Fraserburgh, also recognised in the scheme. Located in the grounds of the first lighthouse built by the Northern Lighthouse Board in 1786, the Museum was opened in 1995, shortly after the era of manned lighthouses in Scotland came to an end.

Scotland’s seafaring heritage was again honoured with recognised status being given to the Scottish Maritime Museum’s collection, where A-listed structures include the Linthouse Engine Shed and the Denny Experimental Ship Model test tank.

More industrial heritage is celebrated by the Scottish Railway Preservation Society, whose core collection at the Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway has been recognised. The Society has been collecting items from locomotives to tickets for more than 40 years, with its earliest pieces dating back to 1830.

photo of lutes in a glass case

Courtesy University of Edinburgh.

A collection of modernist art in Stromness, including works by Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth, was recognised. The Pier Arts Centre was established with author and peace activist Margaret Gardiner’s donation of British fine art ‘to be held in trust for Orkney’ in 1979. It now illustrates the modernist movement from 1929 to the present day, and the gallery is to reopen in July following a £4.5million refurbishment.

Surgeon’s Hall Museum, Edinburgh, was recognised as the most significant single repository of medical collections in Scotland, while the 3,000 items in the University of Edinburgh’s collection of Historical Musical Instruments were also recognised for their breadth and depth. Items from latter are presented to the public at St Cecilia’s Hall Museum and Reid Concert Hall Museum.

Material culture dating back 8,000 years is held by Dumfries and Galloway Museum Service, whose archaeological collection has been recognised. The region’s rich and varied past is depicted in the collection, through Bronze Age axes, Iron Age boats, Roman altars and medieval pottery.

photo of a statue in a hall with tall arched windows

Courtesy the Hunterian Museum and Gallery.

All the holders of the recognised collections will receive plaques and certificates, and may bid for a share of £1 million earmarked for improvement projects under the Scheme.

“To achieve Recognition status, the applicants had to demonstrate the uniqueness, authenticity, comprehensiveness, and national value of their collection,” explained Douglas Connell, Chair of the Recognition Committee.

“This first round announcement highlights the wonderful diversity of Scotland’s collections and we are confident the scheme is recognising the best the country has to offer.”

Two more rounds in the Recognition Scheme, overseen by the Committee, are to take place. Round Two is open now, while Round Three will commence in December.

“The Recognition Scheme will contribute greatly to raising standards in collections care, management and public service delivery to the benefit of future museum audiences at home and from abroad,” said Joanne Orr, CEO of the Scottish Museums Council.