St Andrews Heritage Museum & Gardens will soon be 40!

The process of rebranding the museum and creating this dedicated website gave us the opportunity to reflect on our own origins. In 2022 the museum will celebrate its 40th year of officially opening as a public museum, dedicated to displaying the social history of St Andrews. But its history goes back further than this. Drawing on our own archive material, Trust minute books and the excellent 2012 publication by former Curator Jennifer Reid titled 12 North Street: A Short History of the Museum Building, we can reflect on how we got to where we are today and carve out a vision for the future.

The St Andrews Preservation Trust was founded in 1937 to ‘preserve… the amenities and historic character of… St Andrews and its neighbourhood’. One of the earliest preservation societies in Scotland, the early work of the Trust focused on purchasing and restoring historic buildings. The first mention of the Trust operating a museum was discussed in 1956, owing to its growing collection of archive material and objects. In 1961, local architect James Scott offered 12-20 North Street to the Trust for use as its headquarters. Having saved and extensively restored the property in 1937, the historic site was the perfect location for the Trust to operate from. The Trust purchased the property for £5,000 and split the property into two, selling 18-20 North Street and retaining 12-16 North Street for its own use.

The 1963 Trust annual report explained that the house was an excellent example of the preservation of historic buildings and therefore the Trust wished ‘to preserve the character of the building as it was remodelled by Mr J.H. Scott”. The report goes on to state that the Trust held their first exhibition of “some of the Trust’s collection of engravings and other items illustrative of the history of St Andrews” and that, “it is hoped that they may in due course form the basis of a town museum”. 

Over the next 19 years the Trust continued to host summer exhibitions at 12 North Street, led by Scottish artist Annabel Kidston who had established an exhibitions sub-committee in 1966. Annabel and other volunteers established a museum cataloguing system and started conservation work. In 1977, the first Curator was hired to support their work and it was around this time that additional garden space was purchased to the rear of the museum.

With the summer exhibitions increasing in popularity and the Trust collection continuing to grow, plans were put in place for an official opening of the museum on a more regular basis. In July 1982, the Trust officially opened its ‘House Museum’ after much hard-work by a dedicated group of volunteers.  The yearbook for the year says the following:

            “This year has seen a transformation in the house at 12 North Street.  After much planning and hard work Mr John di Folco, Museum Convener, with all the members of the Museum Committee and other helpers… the premises were opened as a small house Museum on the 5th July 1982. Initially the displays have been devoted to showing something of the social and commercial life of the town in bygone times.  We were pleased to exhibit items which the Trust salvaged from Keith’s chemist shop, together with displays to illustrate the town’s antiquity, its trades and market, and the world of golf.”

 Since officially opening in 1982, the museum has continued to develop its exhibitions, events and social history collection which now holds over 27,000 items. Volunteers are at the heart of the museum; they not only established the museum but they have ensured that it has continued to stay open for almost 40 years. We would not be here without them.

When thinking about a new name and logo for the museum, we felt a responsibility to reflect this rich history. We wanted to better communicate what the museum and its collection were about. After much consultation, we agreed that ‘St Andrews Heritage Museum and Garden’ reflected our building, collection and activities, while the strap-line ‘The People, The Town, The Stories’ communicated our remit as a local social history museum.

Working with The Malting House Design Studio, our logo has been inspired by the woodcuts of founder member of the Trust, Annabel Kidston, and we have maintained the Trust font and colour scheme to link the two brands together. The new brand not only reflects the museum’s past. It is a symbol for our future as we start to focus more on the history of the house, its occupants and the many local stories waiting to be uncovered.

Samantha Walker (Museum Manager / Curator)

Wood Carving St Andrews Heritage Museum and Garden