Methil Heritage Centre
Methil Heritage Centre is a small local history museum and exhibition venue, situated in the coastal town of Methil in Central Fife. It was originally called The Lower Methil Heritage Centre and was created by members of The Lower Methil Community Association.The idea for a Museum was first looked at by the Community Association in August 1990. Kirkcaldy Museum was approached for advice and their suggestion was a Heritage Centre which could only be sustainable for six months. Premises and funding were the main concerns.
A local architect, who owned the 1936 Post Office building, offered it for rent for a six month period, and this was gratefully accepted. Funding was then secured in small bundles by tapping into various agencies e.g. Levenmouth Local Action, Community Business Fife, Local Council and anyone prepared to give money. The Post Office Building had been empty for a considerable time and needed some cosmetic work done. Friends and families of the Community Association members were recruited and within a few weeks had it ready for occupation. Kirkcaldy Museum kindly loaned artefacts, glass display cases and even their assistant curator to give advice and help set up the displays. Local people loaned or donated items of interest to Lower Methil including many old photographs, and a professional photographer gave his services without charge to copy pictures for display. The Lower Methil Heritage Centre opened on Good Friday 29th March 1991.
A small but dedicated band of volunteers offered their time, and without them this project would not have been possible. Some ladies attended on the same afternoon each week without fail for six months. Others did work on the exhibitions and gave talks on Methil. Everyone involved enjoyed meeting the people who were interested in the history of Lower Methil.The money to fund the Centre initially came through an EU initiated scheme known as the Urban Programme. This scheme essentially offered financial help to areas or communities that were economically depressed and suffering from many of the social problems associated with this.
In 1991,Lower Methil was identified as just such an area and money was provided to help revive the local economy and improve the physical and social environment in which people were living. This money was managed by a genuinely representative group of local people with the support of Fife Council. One of the ideas initiated by the group was to interpret the social and cultural heritage of the area for local people and visitors. So, with the support of Kirkcaldy Museum, a temporary Heritage Centre was set up in the town's old post office building. This project proved to be extremely successful and very popular with local people.This small local museum ran for six months, staffed by dedicated volunteers and was mainly about Lower Methil.
As a result of this success; it was decided to establish a permanent Centre with professional staff. The money was administered by a Trust made up of ordinary local people. Unfortunately, in 1996/97, the Urban Programme was shut down and with it went the principal funding source for the Centre. It was at this point that Fife Council felt that it was a facility worth keeping and took over complete financial and managerial control.
In 1998 the responsibility for funding MHC was taken up by Fife Council and, since that time, the Centre has operated as a full part of Fife Museums Service with its head quarters at Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery. However, from its opening in late 1994 until Fife Council took over, the Centre functioned as an independent museum, supported by but not part of the local authority.
The site of the Methil Heritage Centre in 1900
(Looking from harbour Wynd towards the High Street)
Methil Heritage Centre has earned a reputation for tackling many of the problems associated with social exclusion. The focus for the Centre has always been to provide a service which is genuinely accessible to as wide a range of people as possible, and to include service users in many aspects of the Centre's work. One of the Centre's principal drives has been to encourage the use of the facility by young people in both educational and recreational settings.
As well as interpreting the social and cultural history of the area, an important part of the Centre's work has been to bring examples of cultural experience and creative work from throughout the country to Methil, and make them directly and easily accessible to people throughout the area.
Formerly the Methil Post office (Built 1936)
The focus on accessibility, coupled with the high professional standards required of any Fife Council museum has also attracted visitors from far and wide. MHC is an important part of the tourist infrastructure in Central Fife and has been awarded 'Commended' status through the STB visitor attraction scheme. Since joining with Fife Council the Centre's role within Fife Museums Service has been developed to include service provision to a larger geographical area, and an increased commitment to developing its arts remit.
The Centre has a small staff of one full time curator and a Heritage Centre assistant. There is also a lively group of volunteers who contribute to many areas of the Centre's work. Annually the Centre receives around 5 - 7000 people through the door.