Museum shines a light on Arbroath’s Fishing Heritage

ANGUSalive’s Signal Tower Museum in Arbroath has undergone a recent transformation which has seen its lighthouse keepers’ cottages develop into attractive exhibition areas, creating significant new public spaces. The Spotlight on Arbroath’s Fishing Heritage project opened on Saturday, 14 September 2019 at 4pm with a performance by accomplished singer-songwriter Dave Ramsay, who premiered a new song, especially written for the Spotlight on Arbroath’s Fishing Heritage opening event.

Angus’ very strong fishing heritage takes pride of place in the region’s culture and its evolution over the last 200 years is reflected in the rich Angus collection cared for by ANGUSalive who were eager to make the objects, art, photographs and sound and film archive more accessible than ever before. The new spaces and focus on Arbroath’s Heritage explore this rich history of Angus, whilst highlighting the spirit and common experiences which our communities share. The new exhibitions are also family-friendly, with audio-visual elements including quizzes and games for children.

The development at the Signal Tower Museum consists of a gallery with a reconstructed interior of a fishing boat, a gallery housing a fleet of ship models and a temporary exhibition gallery in one cottage as well as a fishing and maritime industry gallery and general purpose activity space in the other cottage. Part of the project included inviting local Arbroath people connected to the fishing industry to tell their stories and recording interviews with them which will be preserved and used as a permanent public reference resource within the collection cared for by ANGUSalive Museums & Galleries.

Many locals have fishing in their blood – either originating in the traditional fishing villages of Auchmithie or Ferryden, as fishing boat owners operating off the Angus coast or by involvement in preparation of the fish on land. While this has all but disappeared, its cultural and historic impact is of crucial importance for local people and the historical focus hones in on the many elements of Arbroath’s heritage on both sides of living memory. This project safeguards the maritime heritage of the Angus fishing community and will stimulate active engagement with locals and visitors alike.

The initial exhibition in the new gallery space is comprised of the work of Jonathan Ogilvie, who was a talented local photographer who used his camera to record the lives and work of Arbroath fishermen and Bell Rock Lighthouse keepers. The works presented will include a selection of Jonathan’s local fishing industry photographs, showing the reality of life at sea and bringing home the catch to Arbroath.

Karen Clarke, museum assistant at Signal Tower Museum commented: “We’ve been excited to work with the team creating this wonderful new experience for our visitors. We can’t wait to welcome everyone to the new spaces and help people learn more about their fascinating heritage. Please pop in, have a look around, and tell us what you think!”

This project has been part-funded by NE Scotland Fisheries Local Action Group, supported by funding from Museums Galleries Scotland, supported by Arbroath Common Good Fund and supported with funding from ANGUSalive.

A spokesperson for Arbroath Common Good Fund stated: “We’re delighted to support an investment in Arbroath’s future that showcases the remarkable aspects of the town’s maritime past. Congratulations to ANGUSalive and our thanks to those who have funded this project and helped to bring this vision to reality.”

Kirsty Hunter, Chief Executive Officer of ANGUSalive commented: “As a charitable trust, we rely on the support of external funders to enable us to deliver on our ambition to provide innovative and inspiring experiences for the people of Angus and visitors. We’re very grateful for the support of our partners NE Scotland Fisheries Local Action Group, Museums Galleries Scotland and Arbroath Common Good Fund that has allowed us to create this stimulating new heritage asset for our Arbroath communities.”

The project is the first phase of ANGUSalive’s plans to further develop Arbroath’s Signal Tower Museum into a flagship visitor destination. Future proposed phases include capital works to allow regular opening of the tower for booked tours, and redevelopment of the courtyard and front garden to create multi-purpose community-use outdoor spaces with areas for retail and café space. This would further cement the museum’s place at the heart of Arbroath’s community and promote local culture to the area’s residents as well tourists in Angus.