Meeting date: Tuesday, May 21, 2019
Meeting of the Parliament 21 May 2019
Agenda: Time for Reflection, Topical Question Time, Portfolio Question Time, Menopause, Business Motion, Decision Time, International Museum Day 2019
- Time for Reflection
- Topical Question Time
- Portfolio Question Time
- Business Motion
- Decision Time
- International Museum Day 2019
International Museum Day 2019
The final item of business today is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-16134, in the name of Colin Beattie, on international museum day 2019. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.
That the Parliament notes that International Museum Day will be marked on 18 May 2019 with the theme, Museums as Cultural Hubs: The future of tradition; understands that the objective of this day is to raise awareness of museums as important means of cultural exchange, enriching cultures and developing mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among people; recognises that the awareness day was first celebrated in 1977 and that, in 2018, more than 40,000 museums across 158 countries participated; considers that museums are trusted spaces, rooted in their communities in which visitors can come together to co-create, share, interact and celebrate the cultural diversity, history and shared places, and thanks all who work in the more than 400 museums in Scotland and the other museums worldwide on their continued efforts to conserve, communicate, research and exhibit people’s cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible.17:01
International museum day has been an important date in our calendar since its inception, in 1977. It presents us with an opportunity to consider the extraordinary privilege that we have in Scotland to be able to enjoy such a vast wealth of museums and a vast breadth of galleries of all kinds across our mainland and our islands.
I know that the Presiding Officer would have wished to take part in the debate. She would, no doubt, have mentioned, in particular, the national mining museum of Scotland at Newtongrange, in her constituency. However, she is otherwise employed.
I have always been passionate about museums and galleries, and not just those in Scotland. As for too many people of my generation, the opportunities for a career without leaving my home country were very limited, so I began what became a global journey, living for many years in many different countries with vastly different cultures. During that time, I quickly learned that one of the best ways for me to rapidly get to know a country was to visit the museums and galleries that laid out the ideas of the people of my new host nation and its history, as well as its amazing arts and crafts.
Each time I returned to Scotland on home leave, I would spend much of my time in museums and galleries in Edinburgh and Dundee. I did not pause then to consider how much education and understanding was being offered to me in those visits; they were just enormously enjoyable sources of knowledge of heritage and past relationships with other nations. However, it was impossible to ignore the splendour of our collections compared with those of so many other countries that had suffered losses through war and extreme weather, not to mention poverty.
Since those days, I have continued to seek out opportunities to visit our museums and galleries, like so many of those of us who are fortunate enough to live in Scotland, as well as the ever-increasing numbers of tourists from elsewhere.
I was recently struck with the realisation that, although our museums tell us about our past, the buildings that house them are sometimes very much of our present and our future. In June 2011, the truly extraordinary Riverside museum of Glasgow was completed, and it currently houses Glasgow’s museum of transport. This museum of all kinds of transport was designed by the world-acclaimed architect Zaha Hadid, and this is what she had to say about its remarkable contribution to our heritage and to our city of Glasgow:
“Through architecture, we can investigate future possibilities yet also explore the cultural foundations that have defined the city. The Riverside Museum is a fantastic and truly unique project where the exhibits and building come together at this prominent and historic location on the Clyde to enthuse and inspire all visitors. The design, combining geometric complexity with structural ingenuity and material authenticity, continues Glasgow’s rich engineering traditions and will be a part of the city’s future as a centre of innovation.”
The museum is home to 3,000 objects and has attracted 1.5 million visitors, which is hardly surprising.
However, it is not only in our growing cities that we find some of our most splendid and fascinating museums. Highland Council hosts the Highland folk museum in Newtonmore, which has come a long way since the early years, when it was recognised as Britain’s first mainland open-air museum when it opened in Kingussie, in 1944. It is a living history museum where Scottish Highland ancestors’ way of life can be experienced—we can see how they lived and built their homes, how they dressed and even how they grew their food. It is now set in an 80-acre site, with restored buildings and actors who help visitors to travel in time.
It is to Dr Isabel Frances Grant that we owe a debt of gratitude for the beginnings of that exciting museum. In 1930, she organised and curated the Highland exhibition in Inverness, with 2,100 artefacts. By 1935, she had founded the Highland folk museum on the island of Iona, and 800 visitors were recorded in the first year of opening, with more the following year.
There is much to say about that remarkable museum, but there are others that I would like to comment on and time is limited. However, it would be remiss of me not to make reference to the thoughtful outreach work that takes place at the Highland folk museum. Using the shinty collection and many photographs, stories and songs, the enthusiastic team at the museum meets sufferers of dementia and sheds light on dimming memories of when shinty was a regular part of life in the Highlands. Through the story telling and informal gathering, the social outreach programme has made a substantial contribution to the wellbeing of many local residents who are affected by that debilitating condition.
Other museums have similar programmes—the National Library of Scotland, Museums Galleries Scotland and other organisations offer sessions for those who suffer from dementia. Tea and cake, along with a range of activities that have been inspired by the collections, help those visitors to have some fun and social activity while being stimulated by the experience.
Social programmes are only one of the additional benefits that our nation’s museums and galleries contribute. I previously alluded to the inspiring architectural contribution of the design of the Riverside museum in Glasgow by Zaha Hadid. However, I am sure that members are all well aware of our recent splendid addition in Dundee. The V&A has received well-deserved international acclaim, having attracted architects from around the world to compete for the opportunity to design it. It has just been shortlisted as one of the five finalists for the Art Fund’s museum of the year 2019 prize.
In my constituency of Midlothian North and Musselburgh, we are proud to have two museums that serve our local communities. One is in the historic county town of Dalkeith and the other is in the honest toun of Musselburgh. Both museums are staffed exclusively by volunteers who are passionate about their communities and the extraordinary part that they have played in history. If members have not yet had the pleasure of visiting Musselburgh, I will not spoil the fun by saying too much. The dedicated museum volunteers have presented the local residents with themed exhibitions in the historic town hall, in addition to hosting permanent exhibits for young and older visitors alike that illustrate the colourful history and culture of the fishing community. The role of women as the fishwives of Musselburgh is well recorded, and the photographs of a lifestyle that is now long gone are vividly presented to generations of young people who are now the community members of Musselburgh, as well as to visitors who come from Australia, Canada and the United States of America to discover their heritage.
Hosted by a local housing association, Dalkeith museum is located in the magnificently restored corn exchange. Dalkeith railway station, like so many stations in Scotland, closed long ago, but, thanks to a remarkable piece of good luck, the 19th century bronze station bell that once sounded the departure of trains has been restored and is currently on display at Dalkeith museum, after being lost from Midlothian for more than 50 years. It sits amid many artefacts that reflect and inform the local community. Visits from school groups and local residents, as well as from tourists, are recorded.
All of that is a testament to the dedicated commitment of the many curators and conservation professionals who care for the heritage and ensure that the buildings that are home to the collections are bright, comfortable and well-maintained spaces. The thoughtful and creative display of the images and artefacts changes our perception of ourselves and expands our knowledge and understanding of our nation’s heritage, its historical importance and our relationship with the rest of the world. It means more than looking at museums and galleries; it informs our future, and we thank those who make it possible for their remarkable enterprise and diligence.
I know that international museum day will be celebrated for many years to come, and I hope that my motion and members’ business debate will be the beginning of a tradition in the Parliament of recognising this special day.17:09
I congratulate my colleague Colin Beattie on securing today’s debate and giving us the opportunity to mark international museum day, which took place on Saturday 18 May.
Before museums, renaissance Europe had their ancestors—cabinets of curiosity. These cabinets, filled with the rare, eclectic and esoteric, were the preserve of wealthy European aristocrats and were usually housed in private palace rooms. As early as 1587, an advisor to Christian I of Saxony set out a wish list of sculptures, paintings,
“curious items from home or abroad”
“antlers, horns, claws, feathers and other things belonging to strange and curious animals”.
The cabinets not only served as a collection reflecting the interests and explorations of their curators; they were also largely social devices that established a person’s rank in society. Most people would have little opportunity to view those wonders or, indeed, participate in their curation.
Now, museums have become spaces that invite everyone to engage with the past and the objects or ideas that diverse communities throughout the history of humanity have held dear. As Colin Beattie’s motion reminds us, museums have developed into vital cultural hubs that can foster peace and understanding.
Scotland’s museum collections are immensely diverse, and the full extent of museum activities across the country is not yet known, which makes it difficult to put a financial value on the impact of Scotland’s museums on tourism and the cultural economy. However, a report by the Moffat centre for travel and tourism business development at Glasgow Caledonian University found that 52 per cent of museum visitors are local, making museums a vital local cultural facility that draws in tourists and enriches local life.
One such museum in my constituency is West Kilbride museum, which invites residents and visitors alike to explore life in the parish during the past 400 years. Since its inception, in 1988, a dedicated team of local volunteers has sustained an enviable collection of relics from all sections of the town and its surrounding area, and their hard work does not end there. As Scotland’s craft town, West Kilbride is home to a wonderful array of local artists working across varied mediums, and their works are frequently on display in West Kilbride museum, tying in four centuries of history with the modern world. Its exhibits embody the town’s colourful story and mark local events such as the centenary year of West Kilbride Boys Brigade, which is currently being celebrated with an exhibition of memorabilia. Discovering the history, traditions and development of West Kilbride surely increases people’s pride in their community and inspires them to shape its story going forward.
Today, in North Ayrshire, we are lucky enough to enjoy a variety of museums, from the traditional exhibition to the immersive. experience. At Skelmorlie Secret Bunker, visitors get a chilling insight into the reality of the cold war. This monitoring post, 15 feet underground, was designed to detect a nuclear attack. My constituent Frank Alexander took over the lease of the building in 2004 when it was just a shell, and, with dedication and determination, he has kitted it out with authentic equipment to recreate the mood of an era when the nuclear threat was at its greatest. Climbing deep into the earth, visitors are overwhelmed by a real sense of taking a step into the past and a future that, thankfully, was never realised.
That is what the best museums do—they make us feel something. Whether they help us feel proud of where we have come from, inspire us, challenge us or stimulate us, museums of all sizes can have an enormous impact on our wellbeing. That is especially true today, when more and more museums are developing their role as socially purposeful organisations that deliver positive social impact. Gone are the days when museums were quiet, cold and foreboding places. They are now more welcoming and accessible, and they serve as hosts for an incredible variety of cultural and social events. Today, there is an increased sense that museums belong to the people who visit them.
Scottish writer Andrew O’Hagan put that feeling into words when he spoke about his connection with Kelvingrove art gallery and museum, in Glasgow, which I was very familiar with as a child. On his first step through the museum’s doors, he was struck by a thought:
“this was ours, all ours, the paintings, the light, the stonework. It belonged to the people of Glasgow, and to me.”
Everyone in Scotland is able to feel that level of connection to a museum or gallery, whether it is somewhere local or somewhere that simply captures their imagination. I thank Colin Beattie once again for facilitating the opportunity to reflect on international museum day 2019 and on the unique value of each and every one of Scotland’s museums.17:13
As the shadow culture and tourism spokesperson for the Scottish Conservatives, I am delighted to speak in Colin Beattie’s debate on international museum day.
Museums are an integral part of showing off the very best of Scotland, whether it is our rich history, varied geography or diverse culture. We have a plethora of fantastic museums right on our doorsteps, which offer a wonderful window into our colourful past.
Recently, I was honoured to visit the new Moat Brae in Dumfries. It was a sneak peek because I was at a function there—it is not yet open, but it opens in June. It is the childhood home of J M Barrie, whose book “Peter Pan” most people in the chamber will have read. I thoroughly recommend a visit if you are ever down in the area of Joan McAlpine, Oliver Mundell and Finlay Carson.
In my constituency of Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, we have the wonderful Jim Clark museum in Duns, which is near completion. As you may be aware, Jim Clark was an exceptional formula 1 driver, becoming world champion in 1963 and 1965 and achieving 72 grand prix starts, 25 wins and 33 pole positions during his career. He was a true inspiration to a generation of motorsport fans and is remembered very fondly in the Scottish borders.
It is fitting that this year will see the opening of the new Jim Clark museum and the return of the famous rally to the country roads of Berwickshire. Building work got under way last year and the opening of the new museum will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the original memorial room being opened by Jim Clark’s parents. The aim of the new museum is to inspire the next generation, and generations to come, with a modern and vibrant celebration of Jim Clark’s incredible career and the impact that he had on motorsport around the world, with trophies, pictures, film footage and some of the cars in which he raced.
Exhibiting the cars in which Jim Clark raced will be the highlight of the new museum, which will have the existing trophy collection at its heart. I take this opportunity to thank the hard work of the many volunteers, Scottish Borders Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the people who have given so generously and been instrumental in bringing the project to fruition. I cannot wait for it to open. I encourage everyone to not only visit the new Moat Brae, but to take a trip to the Borders to enjoy that excellent museum when it opens.
Museums have amazing power not only to display great historical artefacts, paintings and objects but to be inspirational, informative, enlightening and educational. They draw in tourists from everywhere, and Scotland has its fair share of fascinating museums. Last year, we were pleased to see that the national museum of Scotland drew in more than two million visitors—a first for any Scottish attraction.
Museums do a wonderful job of accommodating tourists from across the world, with multilingual audio headsets and tours. I ask the Scottish Government to think of the importance of the smaller museums in exhibiting local culture and history. The Jim Clark museum is one small example of that and it has taken an awful lot of work to get to this point. It is important that we do not forget about the smaller museums, which need support, and invest in that provision.
In the short time that I have, I also ask the cabinet secretary and Scottish Government to consider supporting more public museums and galleries to establish themselves as dementia friendly, as Colin Beattie mentioned. There is no definition of it, but it is not just about putting up a sticker to say that somewhere is dementia friendly. It is about making all sorts of easy changes to simple things to make the experience much easier for a carer and the person experiencing the dementia condition.
I encourage everyone, of all ages, to visit a museum on or around international museum day. Every day is a school day and you never know what you might learn next.17:18
I am delighted and proud to speak in this debate and I thank Colin Beattie for bringing it to the chamber. I am proud because it was in 2001 that a Labour Government, four years into office, made entry to all museums in the United Kingdom free. Some were free already and others were still charging, but with Gordon Brown’s VAT arrangements we managed to make entry and accessibility to every museum across the country completely free. That underpinned our commitment to public accessibility of artwork and our history. It is an achievement that we can all agree was very worth while and we can all be very proud of it.
For me, museums offer celebrations of life and commemorations of and historical lessons about humanity’s catastrophes. They serve such important purposes for both.
As I prepared for today’s debate, I reflected on the impact of museums on my life. One of my earliest recollections of being in a museum is of the Barrack Street museum in Dundee, which is now used as a storage facility for our other museums in the city. The great skeletal carcass of the Tay whale that was removed from the longest river in Scotland would hang above me, and I used to be in permanent fear that it would fall on to my head. I remember visiting it very regularly as a child. It now hangs in the refurbished McManus gallery in Dundee, which the city council restored beautifully a few years ago and which has become a real hub in the city.
Another early memory was of queuing in Market Street, just down the road from here in the Parliament, to see Tutankhamun’s mask in the 1980s—I cannot put an exact year on it, but it may have been 1985; perhaps the cabinet secretary will remember. I remember the huge buzz in my primary school and in the community about a worldwide historical artefact coming to Scotland and Scottish schoolchildren being able to see it.
From huge events like that, which had a real national significance, to the smaller, more intimate museums that colleagues have spoken about, such as the Lewis Grassic Gibbon exhibition up in the Mearns, which is beautifully accessible to everyone who has read the book and is visiting the stunning landscape of that part of the north-east, museums are an integral and important cultural and emotional part of our lives.
I remember the whole world of the London museums and exhibitions opening up to me as a student. We went to London most summers; I visited the Imperial war museum and the British Museum’s stunningly beautiful reading room, where I took great delight in sitting in Karl Marx’s regular seat. I was lucky enough to visit museums like the Metropolitan museum in New York while on a scholarship to the US. The learning experience that we can have in those places goes on for days, months and years.
I was struck a few weeks ago by the video that was released on social media of all living UK Prime Ministers announcing the new Holocaust memorial and museum that are to be in London. The development is very fitting and perhaps long overdue, and it was good that all living Prime Ministers took the time to lend their support to that important initiative. Visitors to Berlin have seen the powerful way in which Germany has created its national memorials, exhibitions and museums about the horrific events that happened in the 1930s and 1940s, with the lessons that humanity must never repeat those tragedies.
On a recent visit to Srebrenica and Sarajevo with Remembering Srebrenica Scotland, the museums at Potocari commemorating that terrible genocide were plain to see. There is another visit there taking place at the moment.
Presiding Officer, I have gone slightly over my time, but I hope that you will allow me to speak a little bit about the V&A museum in Dundee, because, for our community, it has been such a significant addition to the cultural life of our city. I pay tribute to the Scottish Government and to Fiona Hyslop for her role in that museum. It has exceeded expectations with regard to visitor numbers, the impact on tourism in Dundee—new figures were released yesterday—and the confidence of our city. I hope that in years to come, our new museum will have some of the impact of the museums in Scotland and across the UK that I have described.17:23
I echo Jenny Marra’s comments about the V&A, which I have still to visit—it is very much at the top of the list. I also thank Colin Beattie for allowing the debate on an issue that is clearly a passion of his.
I thank him, too, for last week’s highly successful reception in Parliament. I was delighted that Stromness museum was in attendance and that its stand was extremely busy through the evening, as were all the others. The museum was showcasing its innovative work with the University of Dundee on three-dimensional modelling of the wrecks at Scapa Flow, to bring them to a wider audience than has previously been possible.
Museums and galleries help to make Orkney the community that it is. In a sense, Orkney is a microcosm of what Colin Beattie described in relation to Scotland as a whole. We are blessed with a vibrant cultural scene that stems from the value that we attach to heritage. As well as the Stromness museum, we have the Orkney museum, the museum at Lyness, the Corrigall Farm museum, the Orkney Fossil and Heritage Centre, the Orkney wireless museum and the Longhope lifeboat museum. The fact that a community of 21,000 has those and other museums and galleries demonstrates the extent to which Orkney is punching above its weight and attaching value to its heritage. I pay tribute to the staff and volunteers, as well as the people who support the museums in Orkney Islands Council and elsewhere, for the work that they do.
I was intrigued by a recent survey by the International Council of Museums, which asked about what museums are. It was the subject of lively debate. The respondents to the survey came up with many weird, wonderful and—in some cases—imaginative responses. One respondent from Greece suggested that museums are the “factory of our dreams.” Someone from Germany suggested that
“The museum is a walk-in library of our collective memory.”
Another said that a museum is a place that
“attempts to elaborate human dignity and life quality through appreciation of love, peace, equality and nature”.
Perhaps surprisingly, that came from a respondent from Iran. Rather more prosaically, somebody from Slovakia suggested that a
“Museum is no longer just a place of collecting ‘old stuffs’.”
A wide variety of views were expressed in the survey, which encapsulates the fact that museums and galleries mean very different things to different people.
A more interesting question might have been to ask what museums and galleries can be. There is digital engagement across the board, as is reflected in Stromness museum’s innovation in relation to the wrecks of Scapa Flow. We are also seeing work on co-curation and de-colonisation.
In order for museums to remain relevant, they need to continue to focus on the issues that affect people’s lives. Therefore, more museums are describing issues relating to poverty, racism, climate change and a multitude of other issues. That is absolutely right and proper. A Spanish respondent to ICOM’s survey made the point that a museum is
“reborn as many times as it takes.”
All good museums strive to do that.
In order for museums to be able to do that, funding is key. That is the case not just for exhibitions and outreach but—as one constituent said to me—for the “under the bonnet stuff”, including the cataloguing that is critical to the work of museums. Although we should push museums to look at new models of funding—whether through donors, sponsorship or the merchandising in which many museums engage—it has been said rather powerfully that such models can be sustainable only with strong Government backing in the form of public policies and a clear commitment to fund the daily operations of museums.
I hope that the debate will reinforce the point that the value that we attach to museums needs to be underscored by the funding that allows museums and galleries to do their work. The cabinet secretary is a strong supporter of the sector, and I very much hope that the Scottish Government will continue in that vein. I again thank Colin Beattie for securing the debate, and I look forward to the cabinet secretary’s closing remarks.17:28
I am very pleased to take part in this evening’s debate, and I commend Colin Beattie on securing it.
As we have heard, international museum day is a global celebration that takes place on or around 18 May, and is co-ordinated by the International Council of Museums. The event highlights a different theme every year. International museum day provides the opportunity for museum professionals to meet people and to inform them of the varied challenges that modern museums face in today’s society.
The definition of a museum is that it is a permanent institution that ensures that society is informed, as well as having its own individual development. A participating museum communicates, researches, conserves and acquires, and it holds exhibitions of humanity’s tangible and intangible heritage. A museum should also provide the environment for enjoyment, studying, processing and educating.
All those services are platforms for raising public awareness. It is important that museums have the ability to organise and be part of our society on an international level.
This year’s theme is “Museums as Cultural Hubs: The Future of Tradition”, and highlights the changing role of museums in society over the years. As we have heard, museums are there to be relevant in their area, to give advice, to become more audience focused, and to show flexibility and adaptability to ensure that they can be relevant in today’s society. With the increase in popularity of computer-generated virtual worlds and places, it is now more important than ever that museums can become cultural hubs and can function as platforms that contribute to creating knowledge in our society.
We need places where visitors are able to create, share and interact in order to get a real flavour of what is happening in the world, and to gain a view of history and historic achievements that have taken place, which will help to increase knowledge, awareness and tolerance of others around the world.
Although their primary mission is to ensure that there is communication, collecting, collaboration, research and exhibitions, museums have transformed their practices in order to remain very much part of their communities today. They are involved and have the capacity to ensure that they remain involved.
We have heard today about different types of museum—tartan, toy and transport museums—and the hundreds of museums across Scotland that are visited every day. I will pay tribute to one or two around the country. The Scottish submarine centre in Helensburgh was recently awarded a runner-up award in a national campaign. My home town of Perth has many world-renowned traditional museums and art galleries, and our old city hall is about to become a £20 million vibrant new museum. It received funding from the Tay cities deal. We look forward to seeing it develop.
In my region of Mid Scotland and Fife, there is Stirling castle and its living museums; the fantastic Carnegie library and gallery in Dunfermline, which recently won awards again.
Also—as we have heard from a number of members—there is the impressive V&A, which is based in Dundee. It has revolutionised the sector and continues to shine a light on where we are.
By acting locally, museums can advocate individually against global problems that challenge our societies. As institutions that are at the heart of society, museums have real power to establish dialogue between cultures and to build bridges, break down barriers and define a sustainable future. I commend and congratulate all who are involved.17:33
I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak on this afternoon’s motion on international museum day 2019. First, I thank Colin Beattie for lodging the motion and for his excellent speech and—indeed—commitment to the museum sector. I also thank colleagues who spoke in the debate for their interesting contributions, and I thank others who supported the motion, too. It is clear from the signatories to the motion and the contributions to the debate that there is cross-party support for the sector.
Last week’s international museum day event in the Scottish Parliament was hosted by Museums Galleries Scotland and kindly sponsored, again, by Colin Beattie. The event saw representatives from more than 50 museums come together to celebrate the museums sector’s hard work in keeping our heritage alive.
I was pleased to see at the event further examples of the innovation that is taking place in Scotland’s museum sector. Liam McArthur referred to Stromness museum’s “Living Wrecks: The Marine Life of Scapa Flow” exhibition, which was a highlight. It was an interactive exhibition that utilised 3D imagery, dive video footage and virtual reality to help visitors to explore the maritime heritage of Scapa Flow, with added sea turtles, great white sharks and blue whales. The museum’s partners have created 3D scans of museum artefacts, vastly increasing the accessibility of Scapa Flow’s heritage. They are also securely recorded, which means that future generations will be able to see exactly what we do now.
In my speech at the Museums Galleries Scotland event last week, I noted that museums allow us to communicate across time and cultures. To further ensure sustainability, museums have by necessity become local cultural hubs, which has inspired new ways for them to present their collections and engage with their communities and visitors.
Museums have always held a place in our hearts; they present us with seemingly endless objects and stories to light up our imaginations. I can only imagine the excitement of the children who saw the towering form of Dippy the Diplodocus during his recent visit to Kelvingrove museum—his first trip outside London since 1905. Dippy’s visit was intended to inspire learning, but numerous events were organised to expand his role beyond being a larger-than-life copy of dinosaur bones. The event to draw Dippy like Leonardo, which linked Dippy’s stay to the temporary Leonardo da Vinci exhibition that was held at the Kelvingrove at the same time, explored natural history through art. That is an example of how museums are changing how they engage with their visitors and how they present the stories of the history that is in their care.
Museums are on the lookout for ways to tackle contemporary issues, as will be seen in the national museum of Scotland exhibition entitled “Body Beautiful: Diversity on the Catwalk”. The exhibition will explain how the fashion industry is challenging modern perceptions of beauty and encouraging diversity, and it will include examples from designers such as Vivienne Westwood and Jean Paul Gaultier.
Scotland’s national museums play a vital role in portraying the larger picture of Scotland’s historical, scientific and cultural histories, and they do a fantastic job. They also host international exhibitions. I smiled at Jenny Marra’s reference to seeing the mask of Tutankhamun. I think that I saw it in about 1970, at the British museum, when I was a tiny child. I had to queue for five hours to see it, but it left a lasting impression on me. Jenny Marra also gave her personal reflections and referred to the McManus gallery and museum, which is an outstanding refurbished exhibition space.
My constituency has museums that are changing. The new Linlithgow museum, with its three new galleries and a bespoke community space, aims to bring Linlithgow’s history to the fore in a fresh interpretation of the royal burgh’s history. It is the result of Linlithgow Heritage Trust’s project to create a new museum for royal Linlithgow. The trust successfully applied to the national lottery heritage fund for a grant of £240,000 to enable community involvement in the project’s development and delivery, and in interpretation of the burgh’s heritage.
Of the various exhibition highlights, I draw members’ attention to the adopt an object scheme, which invites patrons to sponsor an object for a year. That creates a steady income stream that can be used for improvements to the building, the conservation of exhibition items and publicity. I understand that there are also plans to host art workshops and a community archaeology dig, which will increase connectivity with the community.
I am excited about what is happening in my area, and members spoke about museums and galleries in their areas. Kenny Gibson talked about the contribution of West Kilbride, which is in his constituency. I visited the gallery there earlier this year and purchased an artwork from the fantastic exhibition that I saw. Rachael Hamilton referred to the new Jim Clark museum, which reflects the point that new things are happening in the museum sector—we are not talking just about existing museums. We have heard about the V&A, too. There is something to be said about the vibrancy, ambition and dynamism of museums in local places, which can also take on a national role, as the V&A has.
It is impossible to understand the role of museums without taking into account the connections that they make. They are an inherent part of our communities and they act as a platform for placing local history in a global context. Museums Galleries Scotland administers the museums recognition scheme, which celebrates, promotes and invests in nationally significant collections beyond our national museums and galleries. Scotland has 49 such collections—many of which are in small rural museums—that are immensely varied but equally as important in the array of objects that they contain, which reflect centuries of effort. As with the accredited museums, those collections allow Scotland to be part of a global exchange of history, ideas and learning.
Alexander Stewart talked about the role of museums in society. One of the groups most positively affected by the growth of museums is the older generation. Rachael Hamilton mentioned dementia. Many older citizens who are suffering from dementia, who live in poverty or who are socially isolated benefit from the idea of museums as cultural hubs.
Last week, I was fortunate to hear about some of the great work that is being done in Glasgow and Edinburgh with older people. Diana Morton, who is an outreach manager for the City of Edinburgh Council, noted some of the fantastic work that council museums are doing. That includes the contact the elderly scheme, in which socially isolated older people are picked up by drivers and brought to a museum once a month on a Sunday for an activity and a cup of tea.
I offer special mention to Stobhill hospital in Springburn. In the secure units of the Isla and Jura adult mental health and dementia wards, objects from Glasgow museums have been placed into display cases on the walls to encourage conversation between the staff, residents and visitors. The objects, which range from model ships to sewing machines, were all selected by hospital staff. The walls stimulate memory, make the environment a much nicer place and have been very well received by those who they aim to help. That is an example of the wellbeing that museums can provide us all with, whatever our age.
We heard from Liam McArthur about museums being defined as the “factories of our dreams” or as
“a walk-in library of our collective memory.”
I always remember a wee boy telling me, when I asked him why he thought that museums were important, that museums
“keep the memories of our people”.
Yes, museums are places, but they are imbued with the spirit and the stories of people, and with that sense of where we have been and where we are going. I am happy to have taken part in the debate, and I commend Colin Beattie for bringing it to Parliament.Meeting closed at 17:41.