Res­i­dents urged to back plans to ex­pand West Highland Mu­seum

The Oban Times - - News - EL­LIE FORBES eforbes@oban­

THE WEST Highland Mu­seum has un­veiled plans to ex­pand the pop­u­lar tourist at­trac­tion by 2022.

The Fort Wil­liam mu­seum hopes the project will bring it into the 21st cen­tury and pro­vide ad­di­tional space to ex­tend cur­rent ex­hi­bi­tions and bring in new ones.

The mu­seum owns land be­hind the build­ing at Monzie Square which is where it hopes to ex­tend to.

Jackie Wright, a trustee and chair­woman of the man­age­ment com­mit­tee told the Lochaber

Times: ‘In the last three years, we have been look­ing at what we could do with the mu­seum. The mu­seum is very com­pact and it would be good to have more space to ex­pand cur­rent col­lec­tions and bring in new ones.

‘We would be look­ing at ap­ply­ing for stage one fund­ing from the Her­itage Lot­tery Fund. But be­fore we do any­thing we want to en­gage with the com­mu­nity and put a sur­vey to­gether to see what peo­ple want, so this is the very early stages.

‘We can’t just do noth­ing be­cause it’s not sus­tain­able for the mu­seum. We have so many peo­ple in July and Au­gust, it’s scary some­times. We would hope to have ev­ery­thing in place and up and run­ning ideally by 2022 be­fore the cen­te­nary an­niver­sary of the mu­seum.’

One of the most im­por­tant her­itage re­sources for re­searchers around the world, the mu­seum is one of the most pop­u­lar vis­i­tors at­trac­tions in Lochaber, at­tract­ing around 50,000 vis­i­tors a year.

The mu­seum has a renowned col­lec­tion re­lat­ing to Bon­nie Prince Char­lie and the Ja­co­bite cause, but it also holds a wealth of cu­ri­ous and fas­ci­nat­ing dis­plays and ob­jects on less well­known as­pects of the lives of the peo­ple of the West High­lands.

Founded in 1922, the mu­seum moved into its cur­rent home in 1926 fol­low­ing a fundrais­ing ap­peal to buy the for­mer bank build­ing.

John Hutchison, chair­man of the mu­seum trus­tees, said: ‘The trus­tees are keen to make sure it plays a full part in lo­cal life and builds on its grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity as a vis­i­tor at­trac­tion.

‘With more peo­ple com­ing into the build­ing and with the growth of our col­lec­tions, we want to make sure we are do­ing all we can to present the Lochaber her­itage to best ef­fect.

‘ We want to re­vi­talise the mu­seum, make sure we are telling the sto­ries lo­cal peo­ple see as im­por­tant and make sure we are telling them in the best way.’ The gov­er­nance of the mu­seum is also be­ing re­con­sid­ered, with hopes it can one day be owned by the Lochaber com­mu­nity.

Mr Hutchison said: ‘We want to make sure the peo­ple of Lochaber have own­er­ship of the mu­seum, so as well as look­ing at the build­ing and how it dis­plays our her­itage, we’re look­ing at mov­ing from a trust to a com­mu­nity com­pany which ev­ery­one in the area can join.’

To guide its plans, the mu­seum needs the views and sup­port of Lochaber res­i­dents. It has de­signed a short sur­vey which will run to mid Au­gust in the mu­seum and on­line from the mu­seum web­site www.west­high­land­mu­

The sur­vey will look at the build­ing, themes and sto­ries of the mu­seum, what it could be do­ing bet­ter, what sup­port there is for the ex­pan­sion to the rear and/or tak­ing in ad­join­ing build­ings and whether peo­ple want to be­come a mem­ber of the new com­mu­nity com­pany.

Mr Hutchison added: ‘ We’re be­ing sup­ported by the Highland Coun­cil and High­lands and Is­lands En­ter­prise, as well as the Scot­tish Land Fund and Mu­seum Gal­leries Scot­land. We are re­ally look­ing for­ward to get­ting the views and feed­back of lo­cal peo­ple and vis­i­tors.’

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