{Scotland} Save Edinburgh’s Museum of Fire!

February 3, 2016

Scotland

A while back, I wrote a rather enthusiastic review about Edinburgh’s Museum of Fire, housed in the historical fire station at Lauriston Place. One of those little discoveries for whom the phrase ‘hidden gem’ seems to have been coined especially. At the time, the future of the museum was uncertain, so I was delighted to see it was still open and going strong, when we visited Edinburgh last Autumn. We had the luck to be in town during doors open weekend, which meant they had pulled out all the stops – in addition to their regular exhibits, there were fire engines waiting out front and round the back of the building, some of which visitors could have a sit in and even press all the buttons. Inside there were uniforms and various helmets to try on, plus a few other activities that had been set up for the special day. The volunteer staff – many of them fire officers who had at some point served or worked in the building – were, as always, ready and willing to share their stories, and could not have spoken more passionately about their museum.

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So it was with great sadness I heard this past weekend, that the museum’s future is once again in jeopardy. One of the retired fire officers who works as a volunteer at the museum, showing visitors around, reached out to me via email with the following message:

“Since all the Fire Brigades in Scotland have merged in 2013 into one, the senior officers have decided to close Lauriston Place and sell the building. They say that they will keep the Museum and collection and it will be moved to a more prominent location in Edinburgh, but this may take a while and the collection would be put into storage in the mean time. We are campaigning to try and stop the sale of the building as we maintain that the building, which is listed and built in 1900, is an integral part of the museum and no other location could recreate the same. The last admin staff are moving out in May 2016 and we are unsure what will happen to the Museum as the senior officers are not communicating with us.”

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He asked me if I could highlight the situation on my blog. What a question. Of course! I was really shocked to hear this latest news. As you can see from the photos above, the old Lauriston Place fire station is a beautiful building! Having visited it on a several occasions myself, I can attest to the fact that the building is indeed integral to creating a sense of the past. When I had my guided tour around the museum the first time I visited, I could feel history coming alive. The building itself is not just a location that houses the museum, it is part of the museum. It is the biggest object in the museum’s collection, so to speak. The jewel in its crown. The stories of the fire officers, which they tell as they show visitors around, are part of the museum experience. Many stories that took place in that very location. Stories that would be half as powerful or emotive if told elsewhere. Whoever thinks, they can recreate the same museum in another location, obviously knows nothing about museums. It would be like ripping out its heart!

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It is little consolation, that the building itself is listed and cannot be torn down. The museum actually only occupies part of the building,  the rest currently houses offices for the Lothian and Border Fire and Rescue Service. But it would be a tragedy to see the museum leave this historical building and the building reduced to just a shell, with yet more offices or student accommodation housed inside. The museum must be allowed to continue in its current location!  It is housed in the station’s former engine room and stables, where everything except the electric lights is as it was in 1900. Look, here’s #MuseumBoy with one of the original fire poles…

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The former stables include a reconstructed stall, but the marks on the door where the horses would kick it open when the fire bell went are still original! See what I mean about the sense of history? A different location could never recapture that. You can read more about the museum itself and its exhibits in my previous blog post >> {Scotland} Edinburgh’s Museum of Fire

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Besides the loss of the building, the worrying thing about the museum closing down and the collection being put in storage, is that an alternative location has yet to be determined and confirmed, so it is anyone’s guess when or where a new Museum of Fire would be opened. At best, the collection would be lost to the world for some time. At worst, a new museum may never happen and the collection could remain in storage indefinitely or be distributed across other museums. In either case, the Museum of Fire as we know it, with all its history and charm, would be lost to the world forever!

Please lend your support to the campaign for saving this wonderful little gem of a museum. Here are some ways you can help:

  • Share this blog post.
  • Sign and share the petition on change.org!
  • Write to some or all of the decision makers listed at the end of the petition, who will consider the future of the Museum.
  • Visit the Museum in Edinburgh, at 76 – 78 Lauriston Place. It is open Monday to Friday between 10am and 3pm, however, they request that you give them a call beforehand on (0131) 228 2401 to make sure one of their volunteers will be on hand to facilitate your visit.

Whether you live in Edinburgh or elsewhere in the world, whether you have visited the museum before or are hearing about it for the first time, if you love museums, please lend the campaign your support. All help will be appreciated. Thank you!

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3 Responses to “{Scotland} Save Edinburgh’s Museum of Fire!”

  1. Painter and Decorator Edinburgh Says:

    Would be a real shame to see this place close. I live and work in Edinburgh painting and decorating and have fond memories of this place as a kid and somewhere I feel as though I could take my kid one day. I reckon I will visit one weekend soon and recapture the nostalgia!

    Thanks for writing this and uploading some superb pictures!

    Ross Kirkwood

    Reply

  2. Colin Fraser Says:

    Sorry Ross museum not open at weekends only mon- frid 10 – 4

    Reply

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