Recently we received great news from Museum Galleries Scotland (MGS) that we’d retained our Recognised Collection status!
‘What’s this?’ some of you might ask. Well, it’s an award scheme managed by MGS on behalf of the Scottish Government for museums holding collections of national significance. The museum and archive collections of North Lanarkshire first achieved the award in 2009 and ten years on we had to demonstrate how our collections still merited this important status.
At the time of first applying we had to submit a very detailed case, obtain letters of support and evidence the research value and public interest in the collections. The case for national significance centred on its importance as a unique record of the industrial development of Scotland. The collections represent one of the most important centres of heavy industry in Britain and the breadth of objects provide material evidence of the range of industries that once thrived in Scotland; from coal, iron, steel engineering and brickmaking to curling stone, confectionary and paper manufacturing, as well as the printing and textiles industries.
While the Social History collection provides evidence of the impact of the Industrial Revolution on Scottish society with collections relating to immigration, identity, reform, religion, education and leisure.
Time to Reflect
The status review involved compiling a report for the Recognition Committee over the summer, showing what we have achieved since then to develop the collection further, the steps taken to safeguard it for future generations and to provide opportunities for public engagement.
It was a really good opportunity for us to look back over the past decade; on our successes, challenges and failures (AKA learning opportunities!). On reflection we’ve achieved so much to be proud of, a lot of which wouldn’t have been possible without the help and support from our colleagues in Culture NL, the local community, our donors and volunteers. There’s our funders too!
My personal highlights include, watching in awe and with trepidation as the 30 ton Vulcan Passenger Barge was craned into position on the Monkland Canal at Summerlee Museum back in 2014. It was great to see the boat fully restored and back in the waterway where the original was first built 200 years ago.
There’s also creating an outdoor exhibition space in 2012 for our engineering collections from an area of wasteland in Summerlee Museum. It was all hands on deck for everyone at the museum; cleaning, scrubbing and painting the machines, unearthing some, literally from the bowels of the earth! From what I fondly recall, it was a scorching summer and so great to be working outdoors. It was hard and dirty work but with it came immense satisfaction to see the fruits of our labour.
And most recently, there’s the launch of our collections website which was two years in preparation. It was a major undertaking which would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of the Curatorial team; from Justin, Jenny and Michael who created the interpretive content, to Jim and Rita who took all the great pictures you see and Sheila, the Project Officer who kept us all on track and was instrumental in designing the site you see today.
That’s Not All Folks!
I have touched on just a few examples of our work which wouldn’t have been possible without Recognised Collection status but for us there’s still so much more to do. The Recognition Committee identified future areas for development, including improving our collections research, adding more online resources and being more strategic in our exhibitions planning. So watch this space for more from us and the Recognised Collection!
You can read our full Recognition Review Report here:
About the Author
Clare Weir is the Collections & Visual Arts Manager for Culture NL. She has been working with the North Lanarkshire Museums Collections since 2003.