WORK is well underway to get a much loved museum in Stonehaven re-opened by the end of this month.
The Tolbooth Museum was shut down by Aberdeenshire Council in March, without consultation, due to budget constraints.
The museum displays were emptied and artefacts removed to the local authority’s museum store in Mintlaw or returned to owners, without the knowledge of either councillors or the community groups engaged in discussing a takeover of the facility.
Kincardine and Deeside area manager Willie Munro has apologised for the handling of the situation, which he said he was unaware of, and is assisting a recently formed working-group to get the museum re-opened as soon as possible.
A date of June 4 had been set as a target by volunteers, but they are now hopeful they might be able to open the Tolbooth’s door on May 28.
David Fleming, chairman of the Stonehaven and District Community Council, is one of those involved in the working group.
He said: “A lot has happened since the last meeting at Viewmount on March 24.
“Subject to ratification, we are planning to open on May 28 – in just over four weeks, to co-incide with the day of the opening of the Open Air Pool. It may be that not all the tasks are 100 per cent complete, but we should have a building that will impress visitors. We need to maintain our credibility with tourists and residents alike. The planned opening hours remain at 1.30pm to 4.30 pm.”
Mr Fleming added: “Aberdeenshire Council Museum Service delivered a number of major artefacts back 10 days ago, and the building is reasonably clean.
“There is room for more artefacts, and some others are being sourced. However, if you know of any other artefacts suitable for display, please bring them to the Heritage Society Fair this Saturday, May 7, 10am to 3pm at St Bridget’s Hall.”
There has been a good response from people volunteering to help out, Mr Fleming said, but more are still needed to ensure things are ready by the end of the month.
Local councillor Graeme Clark said: “Well done to the folk involved because it is very important that a community has a museum and can show off its heritage and history.
“I was really annoyed that the Museum Service took away the stuff without telling any of us, including local members, which I thought was really underhand. It is a superb museum and Stonehaven has a rich heritage to show off to people.”
He added: “We’re going to need volunteers to help run it and I believe there are a lot of people in Stonehaven who are really knowledgable about the town and are really proud of the town, as they should be, and I hope we can get enough folk coming forward.
“I certainly encourage the re-opening - the alternative was to have occasional displays in the library or even up stairs in the Town Hall. I believe that the Tolbooth itself is one of the town’s best artefacts, if you like, being the oldest building, and it is a good match to have a museum in there.”
Anyone wishing to volunteer to help the working group is asked to contact the office of Gordon Ritchie c/o Connons, 50 Allardice Street, 01569 762 971 as soon as possible.