Museum re-opens with a little help from its friends

Gavin Grant (second left) with the Friends
Gavin Grant (second left) with the Friends

An important north east Fife museum that has been closed for over three years has been given a new lease of life.

The Laing Museum in Newburgh was officially re-opened on Wednesday by Fife Cultural Trust and the Friends of the Laing Museum.

It will be open every Wednesday afternoon from now on, between noon and 4pm, allowing visitors the opportunity to see the collections bequeathed to the town by the Victorian historian Alexander Laing.

One of its two display rooms houses more than over 2000 books – including Laing’s own works, ‘History of Lindores Abbey’ and ‘The Burgh of Newburgh’, published in the middle of the 19th century – while the other accommodates a collection of artefacts.

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.

The museum closed in September 2011 but has been re-opened by the Trust with the help of the Friends of the Laing Museum, a group of volunteers formed in 2012.

“The Friends have been using the collections to further their research into the history of Newburgh,” said Gavin Grant, Fife Cultural Trust’s collections and exhibitions team leader.

“They will also be assisting Fife Cultural Trust in helping to preserve Laing’s books for future generations.”

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.