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Aberdeen museums: 16 photos that will bring you back in time to when they opened and why

1991 - Aberdeen Art Gallery mounted a two-day painting workshop alongside a brush and paper exhibition.
1991 - Aberdeen Art Gallery mounted a two-day painting workshop alongside a brush and paper exhibition.

For this week’s edition of the Aberdonian, we collected photos of Aberdeen museums through the years.

Do you recognise any familiar faces?

The Tolbooth Museum

The Tolbooth Museum was opened by Aberdeen City Council in 1995 in the former city’s prison.

During the 17th and 18th century, The Tolbooth was where criminals and accused were held and tried.

1994 – Aberdeen Town Sergeant Raymond Leiper with the key to the Tolbooth Tower, which was built as a jail.

Among those who were detained and tortured at the Union Street gaols were the Aberdeen and shire men and women accused of witchcraft and sorcery.

The museum is testament to Aberdeen’s local history and the development of crime and punishments through the centuries.

The museum is temporarily closed while a survey of the historic building is carried out.

Aberdeen Maritime Museum

Aberdeen Maritime Museum was opened in 1984 by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

Located in Provost Ross’s House on Shiprow, the exhibition celebrates the Granite City’s maritime history and impact on North Sea oil.

1985 – One of Aberdeen couple Mr and Mrs John Main’s model yachts on display at the Maritime Museum with Sandy Rennie.

Within a few years of opening, Aberdeen City Council purchased adjoined Trinity Congregational Church to expand the museum.

Aberdeen Maritime Museum reopened in May 1997 after a £1 million revamp.

1997 – Keeper John Edwards looks out over the city harbour from the Aberdeen Maritime Museum.

It was visited by Princess Anne later that year, where “after accepting a posy from Nicole Smith, the six-year-old daughter of principal project architect Trevor Smith, she signed the visitors’ book, chatted with museum staff and looked at displays”.

1997 – Princess Anne visits the Maritime Museum in Aberdeen.

Gordon Highlanders’ Museum

Based in the former home and studio of prominent Aberdeen artist Sir George Reid, the Gordon Highlanders’ Museum was opened in 1997.

1997 – Adding finishing touches to a model of a 2nd Battalion soldier in action at the Somme in July 1916 is sculptor Mark Hewitt, projects manager at the new look Gordon Highlanders’ museum.

It came to be to commemorate the 200-year-long history of The Gordon Highlanders Regiment.

Established in 1794 by Alexander, 4th Duke of Gordon, The Gordon Highlanders quickly became known as one of the most effective and ‘bydand’ – Scots for ‘steadfast’ and a motto featured on their cap badge – regiments in the British Army.

1979 – A set of war veteran’s medals presented to the regimental headquarters of the Gordon Highlanders in Aberdeen.

The museum comprises multiple rooms with interactive maps, original film footage, and weapons to help visitors immerse in the regiment’s history.

Provost Skene’s House

Provost Skene’s House dates back to 1545 and it is the oldest townhouse in Aberdeen.

It takes its name from merchant and provost Sir George Skene, who lived in Aberdeen during the 17th and 18th century and resided in the house.

During the following two centuries, Provost Skene’s House went from being a grand Victorian home to being a hostel for the homeless.

1930s – A resident of the model lodging house, as Provost Skene’s House was in the 1930s, by the old fireplace.

The house was almost demolished in 1940, but thanks to public opposition it was ultimately restored and opened as a museum in the 1950s.

1994 – Wendy Clark and daughter Ruth, from Woodside, come face to face with a cast iron head on Provost Skene’s House, Aberdeen, during a murder mystery tour.

Provost Skene’s House celebrates the people of Aberdeen and their contribution to the world and after extensive renovations, reopened last year with its Hall Of Heroes project.

Aberdeen Art Gallery

The idea behind Aberdeen Art Gallery emerged in 1873 when local collectors led by John Forbes White first decided to display their art collections in a public exhibition.

This display inspired a plan to establish a permanent art gallery accessible to the public.

The gallery officially opened in 1885 in a Victorian granite building designed by Elgin-born architect Alexander Marshall Mackenzie. The same building it still resides in to this day.

The decades that followed saw various expansions of the gallery. The first one came in 1905 with the addition of a sculpture court. The new room containing a plaster case collection was built to give Gray’s School of Art students a space to practice drawing.

The War Memorial just outside the gallery and Cowdray Hall were built in the 1920s.

1967 – Visitors to the Aberdeen Art Gallery admiring one of the sculptures.
1984 – The city’s depute director of art galleries and museums, Alexander Hidalgo.
1984 – Look and Draw prizewinners at Aberdeen Art Gallery.
1984 – Local winners at a preview of the 37th National Exhibition of Children’s Art at Aberdeen Art Gallery.
1984 – Assistant keeper at Aberdeen Art Gallery Ian Guthrie shows pupils from Balgownie Primary School round.
1993 – Jon Morrison, 7, and Nicholas Baxter, 10, at the children’s art class held every Saturday in the Aberdeen Art Gallery.
1993 – History of art graduate Katharine Carter helps set up the Biba exhibition at Aberdeen Art Gallery.

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