The Scottish Fisheries Museum Trust comprises of 11 galleries, a research library and an education centre, situated in a series of preserved fishing cottages in the coastal town of Anstruther, Fife.
Its collection, numbering thousands of artefacts which reflect Scotland’s national fishing heritage, as well as Anstruther’s local maritime tradition, is a Recognised Collection of National Significance, awarded by Museums Galleries Scotland.
Volunteering is at the heart of Scottish Fisheries Museum’s operations, with over 70 volunteers contributing to exhibitions and projects at any given time.
The Boats Club was formed by the museum in 1985, giving local volunteers the opportunity to learn new skills in the restoration, maintenance and operation of boats within the museum’s collection. The club creates social connections throughout the community, with members meeting three times a week and engaging with hundreds of school children each year.
Members spend a large portion of their time at the Boat Club tending to Reaper and White Wing, two of the museum’s vessels which function as mobile attractions. Much of the winter is spent working on maintenance and preparation for summer months, when the boats set sail for harbour events around Scotland’s coast as part of an extensive outreach programme.
Scottish Fisheries Museum has an operating boatyard within its premises, and invites volunteers to take part in restoration and maintenance of the museum’s collection. As ye the boat building programme does not run as an apprenticeship scheme, nor is it targeted at specific groups within the community, rather it is open to all volunteers who wish to learn new skills and preserve Anstruthers fishing tradition.
The museum has also developed an extensive collection of learning resources to be shared with local community groups and schools across Fife. Education packs, workbooks, handling boxes and workshops have been put together and are shared widely, while a lending collection allows schools, community groups and artists to borrow authentic artefacts for exhibitions or theatre productions etc.
Other activities with a community focus include the Model Boat Club, a 25-strong group of expert model boat builders who regularly sail their creations at Craigtoun Park in St Andrews, and the St Ayles Rowing Club, a club which exclusively uses a type of row boat commissioned by the museum – the St Ayles Skiff.
The majority of Scottish Fisheries Museum’s income still comes in the form of grant funding – in the past two years this has been up to 60% of total funding, although this figure has been inflated due to a significant award for the Reaper project.
Annual core funding consists of a recurring Scottish Government grant, supplemented by a recurring grant from Fife Council.
The museum has also received a capital investment grant from the Scottish government, while project funding is sought on an ongoing basis for specific programmes, such as plans to build a pontoon in Anstruther to allow better access to the reaper for visitors and the community.
The remainder of the museum’s income, making up around £250k a year, is generated through enterprise activity – mainly through admissions, retail and a busy tearoom which serves as a social hub for locals and tourists alike.
A large part of the museum’s social impact is in facilitating learning for schools in the local area and across Fife.
Around 20 school excursions are taken every season, giving hundreds of school children the opportunity to learn about Scotland’s fishing tradition. Likewise, the museum’s research library works closely with St Andrew’s University, providing free access to its collections and an archive of over 16,000 of photographs.
Volunteers are offered opportunities for personal development, particularly through the transferrable skills acquired through the museum’s Boat Building Club.
The tea room provides a welcoming space for members of the local community, while the Boats and Model Boats clubs provide valuable social connections for older members of the community, tackling issues around loneliness and social isolation.
The museum is also hoping to secure funding to work with low risk inmates at the local prison to develop a new collections centre, although talks are still at an early stage.