Laing Museum in Newburgh earns high praise for its ‘fascinating’ displays

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A north east Fife museum brought back to life by volunteers has been hailed as ‘a credit to the community’ by a VIP visitor.

Claire Baker, MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife, visited Laing Museum in Newburgh on Friday as part of a series of MSP visits to museums organised by Museums Galleries Scotland.

The museums national development body has invited all of Scotland’s MSPs to champion their local museums by experiencing first-hand their achievements and challenges.

Laing Museum holds objects from Newburgh and across the world, most of which were donated by the Victorian collector, Alexander Laing.

Gavin Grant, collections & exhibitions team leader, with Fife Cultural Trust, said: “We welcome the opportunity Ms Baker’s visit gives to highlight the vital role our museums play in the Fife community and further afield.

“The Laing Museum is just one example of many important cultural venues open to the public. Gifted to the town by local historian and Victorian benefactor, Alexander Laing, the permanent gallery has a re-creation of Laing’s study and on display are some of the unusual objects he collected, as well as other objects from the Museum’s collections.

“Volunteers from the Friends of the Laing are cataloguing thousands of antiquarian books that Laing gifted in order to make this wonderful resource more accessible to the public.”

Following her visit, Claire Baker said: “I am delighted to support Laing Museum and hear all about its plans for the future.

“Local museums are vital to the cultural fabric of Fife and Laing Museum is a credit to the staff, volunteers and the Newburgh community.

“It is a fascinating collection which I would encourage people to visit.”

The museum closed in September 2011 but was re-opened in February last year by the Cultural Trust with the help of the Friends of the Laing Museum, a group of volunteers formed in 2012.

One of its two display rooms houses more than 2000 books , including Laing’s works ‘History of Lindores Abbey’ and ‘The Burgh of Newburgh’, published in the middle of the 19th century.

Occupying pride of place in the museum is a large oil portrait of Laing, which overlooks the magnificent gallery floor , laid with floorcloth made over a century ago by the Tayside Floorcloth Works.

A forerunner of linoleum, this is thought to be the oldest example of this type of floorcovering still in use in a public building in Fife.

Born in 1808 in Newburgh, Laing was a draper, then a banker in the town. In 1860 he began a movement for the foundation of a public library in Newburgh, and he eventually bequeathed his own extensive library and antiquarian collection of artefacts to the town, along with the sum of £1220 for the erection of a building to house them.

Joanne Orr, CEO of Museums Galleries Scotland, said: “Museums play a vital role in the lives of individuals, families and communities across Scotland.

“They enhance the experience of visitors to Scotland, bring a positive economic impact and they connect people with their community.

“We have organised these MSP visits to ensure that the true value of the sector is understood.”