The Scottish Maritime Museum celebrated the 40th anniversary year with an Annual General Meeting and public event bringing together two of the award-winning attraction’s national heritage collections.
After the Annual General Meeting, which took place on Friday 27 (October), guests were invited to enjoy an afternoon of ‘Fusing Science and Art’, an event of workshops and demonstrations alongside an exhibition talk and tour. The event continued into Saturday.
The Scottish Maritime Museum began life in the early 1980s when an enthusiast group, the West of Scotland Boat Museum Association, embraced a vision to display a maritime collection in Irvine, a harbourside with a rich shipbuilding tradition.
The Museum officially opened in Irvine in 1983. Around the same time, the Museum took over the site of the former William Denny Shipyard in Dumbarton to help preserve the world’s oldest surviving hull testing tank which sits at its heart.
Although the Irvine Museum was initially housed in the Boatshop building on the Harbourside, it wasn’t long before the founders saw an opportunity in the A Listed former Engine Shop of Alexander Stephen and Sons, which was lying derelict in a shipyard in Govan, Glasgow. It was salvaged and relocated sensitively to Irvine.
Since 1991, the stunning, Victorian red brick and iron Linthouse has towered over Irvine Harbourside and the Scottish Maritime Museum has become a nationally recognised attraction and a key contributor to local communities across Irvine and Dumbarton.
David Mann, Director of the Scottish Maritime Museum, marked the 40th anniversary saying:
The Scottish Maritime Museum has undergone forty years of exciting growth and innovation.
“We are immensely proud of the development of our national maritime heritage and art collections as well as our complementary initiatives.
“These range from our national education programme to a growing number of projects supporting employability, wellbeing, lifelong learning and the economy within our local communities.
“There have been many highlights on our journey.
“Our historic buildings are integral to our maritime heritage collection. As custodians, we were grateful to the Scottish Government for funding an essential £1.25m restoration and refurbishment of the Linthouse in 2013, sustaining it for the future.
“With the support of funders, donors and our dedicated volunteers, we also carried out a major restoration of our flagship vessel, the 150 year old MV Kyles last year and returned it to the water.
“MV Kyles is believed to be the oldest Clydebuilt vessel still afloat in the UK and part of the UK’s National Historic Fleet so this was a hugely important project.
“In 2016, we also relocated SY Carola, which is possibly the world’s oldest seagoing steam yacht, and Spartan, the last surviving Scottish-built puffer in Scotland, out of the water to safe harbour in our courtyard. We then fulfilled a long held ambition to sensitively open up Spartan as a new, accessible exhibition experience.
“Continuing to evolve, develop and broaden our collections is essential if we are to attract, engage and captivate more and more visitors. Recent acquisitions and loans have ranged from shipbuilding and engineering heritage to cultural exhibits which help tell the stories of the shipbuilders, inventors and sailors behind.
“These include the vessel Powerful and an eighty year old bottle of whisky salvaged from SS Politician, one of Scotland’s most famous shipwrecks and the inspiration for the Ealing comedy Whisky Galore!
“A stunning, hundred year old sailing yacht, Powerful is believed to be one of only 50 surviving seaworthy yachts built by the world-renowned Fife yacht building family from Fairlie, Ayrshire.
“In 2016, we also secured funding to create a new national maritime art collection. Today, we are able to exhibit art by nationally and internationally renowned artists including John Bellany, FCB Cadell, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Muirhead Bone and Kate Downie alongside our maritime heritage.
“We have achieved much in support of our collections too. In 2014, with the support of the Coastal Communities Fund, we opened the Scottish Boat Building School in Irvine to help turn the tide on Scotland’s disappearing boat building skills and support local employability.
“Two years later, in 2016, we helped develop Scotland’s first Modern Apprenticeship in Boat Building and Repair and welcomed the first apprentice in the country to embark on it. We also became Scotland’s only City and Guilds accredited boatbuilding school.
“Our trainees develop skills restoring our historic vessels and support our popular community and schools skiff building programme. We’re also looking forward to beginning a new initiative supporting short courses for those struggling to get into the job market.
“Today, we also have a popular year-round exhibitions and events programme.
“Successes include the award-winning Illumination Harbour Festival of Light in 2016 and 2017, ‘Maritime Perspectives’, our first major art exhibition and a host of family friendly exhibitions, workshops and afterschool clubs.
“Our regular Christmas and Summer markets celebrate locally produced craft, food and drink and help support businesses and organisations across our communities. Attracting over 8,000 visitors, our most recent market was also our busiest weekend ever.
“We are also proud of our contribution to lifelong learning and wellbeing through our national education programme, particularly our new early years activities which have been a huge success at both museums.
“As well as our own volunteering programme, we also support initiatives like the Skylark IX Recovery Project, Men’s Shed and North Ayrshire’s New Scots programme. Through the New Scots programme, we welcomed three Ukrainian volunteers and our free, welcome day for New Scots was attended by over 120 Ukrainians.
“Our most ambitious project for the future is, of course, the Maritime Mile on Irvine Harbourside which will bring us a major new waterside gallery and events space. We will be able to open up our national art collection through major exhibitions, host travelling and local artwork and grow our event calendar.
“As we pause to celebrate our achievements and look forward to an exciting and innovative future, we thank our talented and dedicated staff team, our supportive funders, our wonderful new and returning visitors and our incredible, longstanding volunteers, without whom so much would not be possible.”
Issued on behalf of the Scottish Maritime Museum by
Joanna Harrison, Mobile: 07884 187404