THE REFURBISHMENT of Kirkcaldy Galleries is an investment in the town’s future and will be a facility locals will be able to enjoy for generations to come.
That’s the view of Heather Stuart, chief executive of Fife Cultural Trust which has formally taken over the running of the town’s long-established central library and museum.
The bulk of the building work is now complete on the Council-funded £2.5m project and over the next few weeks the Trust will be busy finishing off the complex job of fitting out the spaces in preparation for the grand re-opening on Saturday, June 8.
When the revamped building officially opens its doors to the public next month it will offer a single venue for books, visitor information, learning, heritage and art.
A lot of intricate work has gone on behind the scenes ever since the museum and library closed at the end of 2011 and extra care has been taken to ensure the refurbishment has been carried out in keeping with the listed building.
Heather told the Press: “The quality of the workmanship has been second to none. Everyone has worked together to resolve any issues whether that be health and safety or preserving historic parts of the facility and it has ensured the best outcome. A huge amount of credit has to go to all those involved.”
Craig Walsh, site agent, Fife Council building services, said some areas had to be handled delicately including finding the appropriate techniques and the right materials for cleaning the marble at the entrance to the building, There was also the challenge of uncovering and preserving the original herring bone teak flooring (which had been in place since 1928) beneath the carpet tiles in the cafe. It has now been sanded down and given a textured finish to ensure its surface isn’t slippery.
He said: “The public toilets were also a challenge for us. We couldn’t take them out and replace them because they are listed and they have been there for 93 years! We had to have the tiles re-painted, the woodwork, marble and toilet seats cleaned and re-stained. It was important to make sure there was great attention given to detail.”
Other challenges included overhauling the roof and putting in a new internal skylight in the library replacing the glass with polyplastic; removing underfloor heating pipes and installing a new heating system with modern environmental controls. This will allow Kirkcaldy Galleries to borrow exhibits from other world-class collections and keep its own safe and secure. New lighting and radiators have also been added along with new wood panels.
Craig said they also made an unusual find during the refurbishment - the uncovering of an original craftsman’s signature in the concrete wall. It was marked JC Gordon, plasterer, September 5, 1924. It was discovered in one of the rooms which will now house the permanent Moments in Time display.
He added: “I have loved working on this project - it’s the best job I have ever been on. It has been challenging at times but we have always managed to resolve any problems. We have managed to successfully preserve the building’s heritage while making it a more modern facility.”
The new Kirkcaldy Galleries will provide a modern open plan library (including a children’s library), a museum with new displays including a permanent exhibition showcasing 24 moments from Kirkcaldy’s history - this will feature artefacts, images, photographs and documents from when coal was first formed, to the Beatles visit to the town in 1963; a brand new cafe, shop and Visit Scotland information point. A larger lift has also been installed to take people to the first floor art galleries, a relocated studies and family history room and interactive art lab for younger visitors.
When the art gallery opens the first exhibition on show will be The People’s Pick - a selection of favourite paintings voted for by the public through the Fife Free Press. They will go on display when the building re-opens next month.
Heather said: “This is the first opening of a big project for the Fife Cultural Trust and we are trying to create a moment in time with the re-opening of this building that people in Kirkcaldy can celebrate. There are a lot of activities planned to mark the official opening and nearly all of them are free. We will be bringing history to life with a medieval realm camp featuring workshops and battle displays, stand-up comedy, interactive entertainment - there will be something for all the family to enjoy.”
She continued: “We are so lucky to have the opportunity to do this project given where we are in the current economic climate. We are offering a fantastic state-of-the-art facility which is very well-loved and supported by the public. It is an investment in Kirkcaldy’s future.” She added: “With this refurbishment people in the town will have a facility they can be proud of.”