Terrific first year for Biggar’s new museum

Visit Scotland Five-Star status is just one of the awards the new museum collected in its first year
Visit Scotland Five-Star status is just one of the awards the new museum collected in its first year

It is a nearly a year since the Princess Royal came to Biggar, putting the icing on one of Scotland’s most successful community projects.

She officially opened the new museum, a triumph for Biggar Museum Trust which had raised almost £2 million to buy the site of a derelict garage on High Street and create a state-of-the-art showpiece.

And in that year The Museum of Biggar and Upper Clydesdale has scooped awards: almost immediately it was awarded five-star status by Visit Scotland, followed by a British Fundraiser of the Year Award, a silver award for green tourism, and a Scottish award as an enterprising museum.

But, more importantly, it has been well supported, particularly by local people.

Since the opening last summer 8000 people have passed through the doors, and 3000 of them were from the Biggar (ML12) area.

“The first year has been really, really good,” said trustee Ann Matheson this week.

Trustees were particularly pleased that 1,400 residents in the Biggar area had taken up membership cards.

“That is amazing,” she said. “The cards admit children as well, so that is a brilliant statistic.”

The Trust runs what was largely the legacy of the late Brian Lambie, a massive collection spread over different buildings, but in recent years it was clear that Moat Park and Gladstone Court did not meet modern standards.

Unprecedented community support saw the required cash pouring in, and the Trust was able to buy the garage site and begin the work. As a thank you, ML12 residents have free admission.

“The museum has been successful in all the ways we wanted it to be successful,” said Ann.

“We are really pleased with the number of visitors, especially the number of children, and we have been really pleased with the very positive feedback that people left.”

The enthusiasm of young visitors bodes well for the future of a collection, now kept in perfect conditions.

The number of volunteers has also grown dramatically.

No fewer than 25 new volunteers have come forward – some teenagers – bringing the number to 70 - and Ann feels that may be due to the better conditions for workers in the new museum than the old premises, where they needed scarves and hats while carrying out research!

Demands for their services, such as family history searches in the archives, or objects to be identified, have also grown.

Two major exhibitions have gone well, particularly the firefighting display run in collaboration with the fire service; the next special event is a craft fair and car boot sale this Saturday, August 27.