Fife museum celebrates 50th anniversary

Winifred and Margaret outside the museum.
Winifred and Margaret outside the museum.

For 50 years, Fife Folk Museum has provided a window into the cultural history of the Kingdom.

Exhibiting everything from children’s toys to agricultural machines, the museum aims to show how Fifers used to live and how the Kingdom has changed over the years.

To mark the occasion, the museum is running a series of exhibitions showing what the world, and the Fife area, was like when it first opened in April 1968.

One display features items from the 1960s, while another covers the history of the museum, which began thanks to the donation of a weigh house.

In 1673 a tolbooth was constructed in Ceres – a simple building with a prison cell in the basement and a weigh house on the ground floor.

Skip forward almost three centuries to the 1960s and the building, now used as a potato store, was in poor condition.

In 1964 the building was donated to the Central and North Fife Preservation Society – the first step in the creation of the museum.

The adjoining cottages were then purchased by the society for £50 and £500, and the idea of creating a museum was mooted.

Winifred Harley, a volunteer and former chairwoman, who has been with the museum for almost two decades, explained: “In the post-war period there was a tendency to bring the bulldozers in to demolish anything old.

“This created a mindset of forming preservation societies to maintain the history of local areas.

“The society didn’t know what to do with the Ceres buildings at first.

“Then one of the committee members said ‘let’s make it into a museum’.”

The weigh house and the main room were opened in 1968, following renovation work. In 1974 the rest of the museum was opened.

But some 40 years later, a further extension started to take shape.

In 2014, the new visitor centre was opened, which included a tea room and reception area.

While the museum has continued to grow during its 50 year history, so has the number of donations.

But one issue now facing the volunteers is storage.

Some might argue that you can never have too much of a good thing, but the museum might disagree – for example, it has 79 irons!

And that means the volunteers have to be a bit more choosy when it comes to donations.

Margaret Cruickshank, vice chair of the trust, explained: “Our indoor storage is getting quite full now.

“As things come in we have to decide if we have something similar.

“We have to be a bit more picky these days.”

Half a century after opening, retaining and showcasing the cultural history of Fife is as important as ever.

With the landscape of the Kingdom’s towns and villages constantly shifting, and its industries, such as mining – once the focal point of many of its communities – changing, it is crucial that young Fifers are able to peek through a window into the county’s past.

The appetite for Fife’s history remains big, with a decision made last year to cut the entrance fee to the museum, instead replacing it with a donations box, proving a popular one.

So how important is Fife Folk Museum to the Kingdom?

“We are preserving the artefacts of yesteryear,” Winifred said.

“It lets people understand how our forebears lived, what they did, what their houses looked like. There is also a huge interest in genealogy now – people tracing their own roots.”

As well as looking back into the past, exhibitions such as that exploring the 1960s have allowed visitors to reminisce about their own lives.

The exhibition features toys, albums, everyday items, and much more, bringing back a lot of memories for people who were around in that decade.

Margaret added: “A lot of people can relate to the 1960s memorabilia.”

Fife Folk Museum can be found on Castlegate in Ceres.

It is open Wednesday to Sunday, between 10.30am and 4.30pm.

For more information about the museum and the numerous events being staged to mark its 50th anniversary, visit www.fifefolkmuseum.org.