Museum to undergo £1.5m refurbishment

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A North-east museum is to be given a major refurbishment ahead of taking on an enhanced role as a city centre attraction.

Aberdeen City Council’s Finance, Policy and Resources Committee last week agreed to allocate £1.5 million from the City Centre Masterplan budget to refurbish Provost Skene’s House on Flourmill Lane.

The historic building will showcase the talents of local people – from entrepreneurs to entertainers, from scientists to artists – who over the centuries transformed the wider world.

Around £1 million will be spent on the design and fitting out of the new interpretation centre, which will include digital interactive and audio features alongside more traditional museum displays. The remaining £500,000 will go on essential building works.

The building was closed to allow for the construction of the Marischal Square office complex, of which it will be a focal point. Both are scheduled to open in July 2017.

Finance Committee convener Councillor Willie Young said: “This £1.5m investment from the Council will help preserve Provost Skene’s House and its magnificent interior for generations to come, while creating an even bigger draw for residents and visitors.

“The exhibition has the potential to become a tremendous education resource and would service a number of Masterplan objectives, not least positioning Aberdeen as a city of global significance and influence.

“Provost Skene was himself a world-beater and his home gives us the platform to celebrate the wealth of talent that has existed and thrived in their part of the world, and which continues to do so.

“The Masterplan gives us all an opportunity to transform our city centre – and this exhibition should serve as the perfect inspiration.”

Market research was carried out this May among visitors and non-visitors to Provost Skene’s House.

A report for committee said: “Currently visitors with children to historic houses comprise only 13% of the audience, a relatively small proportion. The market research indicates a strong desire for a family-friendly experience within the redeveloped house.

“The quality of the visitor offer is paramount to maximise the market opportunity.

“The redevelopment and transformation of Provost Skene House provides an opportunity to extend and enhance the cultural offer for local residents and visitors to Aberdeen and to extend its reach to new audiences including families and young adult audiences.”

Muse, the developers behind Marischal Square, had previously allocated £500,000 towards the refurbishment of Provost Skene’s House. To date £125,000 has been spent to protect the House – with the remaining £375,000 to be added to the Council’s £500,000 for essential building works.

Dating from 1545, Provost Skene’s House is named after one of Aberdeen's most famous residents, Lord Provost George Skene, who is thought to have commissioned the carved plaster ceilings. In recent years the building has housed a series of period rooms, furnished to show how people lived in the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries.