Thank you!

I just wanted to write a final post to say a huge thank you to everyone I’ve worked with over the past 6 years at East Lothian. It’s been fun, inspiring, varied, exciting, and an whirlwind adventure! I’ve been lucky enough to be involved from the development of a brand new centre, including museum, with the John Gray Centre, as well as working alongside community groups on Musselburgh Museum & the Coastal Communities Museum. Prestongrange Museum has also seen lots of development during my time here, as has Dunbar Town House. As well as all this, I’ve also had great opportunities to work with people and communities across East Lothian.

Maasai Warrior at Prestongrange
Maasai Warrior at Prestongrange

Some of my highlights have included:

1. Multi-Cultural Day at Prestongrange Museum which ran for 5 years and ended up attracting 1300 people last year! Always alot of organisation but all worth it for a fun-filled day, with sights and sounds from across the world coming to our museum.


2. Thinking up different ways of attracting people to visit our museums, from theatre shows in Dunbar Town House to a Suffragette rally at the John Gray Centre. I really enjoyed our dance themed weekend as part of Festival of Museums 2010, including the publicity shots of some amazing breakdancers!

Breakdancer upside down!
Breakdance Dunbar comes to life!


Aberlady's WW2 Museum
Aberlady’s WW2 Museum

3. I have also loved going out to visit all the schools, teachers and pupils across East Lothian to help them set up their own classroom museums. From Egyptians, to the Battle of Pinkie, to Dinosaurs, it was always fantastic to see what children’s imagination could bring to a museum!

4. Getting to work with some fantastic people, including our amazing seasonal Museum Assistants, Museum Officers, volunteers, freelancers, artists, people across the Council and in external organisations. Thanks to you all! You’ve been such a great support and help whenever I called up asking if I could just borrow that, or could you just come along and help me with this, or did you happen to know where I could borrow 20 replica Victorian dresses from…

Just calling from the 60s to say goodbye!
Just calling from the 1960s…
Posted in Education | Leave a comment

New What’s On Booklet for 2014

East Lothian Museum’s Service is proud to launch our new What’s On booklet for 2014. The new book includes event and exhibition details for all  of our museums, and there’s sure to be something for everybody!

The King, The Queen & The Vicious Strumpet will be running until April 22nd at the John Gray Centre. This is followed by Our War: East Lothian 1914-1918 opening on the 17th May. Opening on the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, Our War will include stories from East Lothian’s people and places, and their experiences of what was known as the War to end all wars.

This year, Dunbar will be celebrating the life and times of John Muir on a grand scale. With The Story of my Boyhood and Youth , to The John Muir Festival and opening of the new John Muir Way coast to coast pathway, and then to Nature’s beloved Son: Rediscovering John Muir’s Botanical Legacy, Dunbar Town House and John Muir’s Birthplace museum will be top priority to lovers of art, history and the great outdoors.

Spend the summer celebrating the great outdoors with Wild Prestongrange! Search for plant, flowers, animals and mini-beasts with specially designed walks and tours of Prestongrange Museum.

Musselburgh Museum will be sharing its great sporting heritage in 2014, starting with the 60 year anniversary of the Musselburgh Windsor Football club. While Scotland plays host to the Commonwealth Games, Musselburgh will show some of its greatest sporting men and women. From August a Heritage-Lottery funded project to capture the wartime memories of Musselburgh residents will run with an exhibition of the experiences and efforts of locals.

The Coastal Communities Museum in North Berwick can be found above the library. Their exhibition will be around World War One and the experiences of the local community. Plus, look out for details of their events and activities over the summer in local press and on their website.

Download our new booklet from Edubuzz.

- Natalie Bittner, Museums Assistant (and guest blogger)

Posted in Collections, Education, Environment, Events, Exhibitions, John Gray Centre, John Muir, Prestongrange | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Coastal Communities Museum is looking for volunteers!

The Coastal Communities Museum opened in summer 2013. It is located above North Berwick Library, on School Lane. The Museum is run by volunteers in partnership with East Lothian Council.

The Museum is only able to open to the public because of its volunteers. They tend to have an interest in the local heritage of the Coastal Ward which extends from Aberlady to Gullane, Direlton, North Berwick and Whitekirk. Some are involved in helping create Museum’s exhibitions, some are working on marketing the Museum and others on fundraising and getting sponsorship. Yes, we are always looking to increase our volunteer numbers in these areas but we have a critical need for more Museum volunteers to work “Front of House” so that the Museum can increase its days open from the current Saturday and Sunday during the Winter Feast Exhibition. You see, without alot more of them we cannot keep the Museum’s doors open as much as we and the public say they would like. They are after all the “face” of the Museum interacting directly with our visitors.

What does a Museum Volunteer do? Well, apart from being able to smile alot and like talking to people, they are part of a team who welcome visitors, answer any questions they may have and are conversant with the Coastal Ward area. We ensure our new Museum volunteers are properly trained and briefed on all exhibitions. We attach them to work with experienced volunteers as part of their development into the role. Volunteers always work in pairs and choose sessions which last around 3 hours to suit their own circumstances. All we ask is that they are aged 16 and over and can fulfil preferably at least two sessions a month when they are available.

What does a Museum volunteer get out of the role? You know, it really is a great way to meet like minded people, make new friends whilst at the same time having some fun! Volunteers have also been to see all the old North Berwick Museum’s items in the East Lothian Council Store, attended some interesting talks and been able to go to some great exhibition and Christmas parties in the Museum as well! On 6th March we put in Museum teams for the Rotary Club of North Berwick’s Quiz Night held at the Fire College in Gullane.

So, if you would like to know more about what volunteering is all about and especially the “Front of House” side, why not get in touch with our Head of Visitor Services and Volunteering, Richard Rogers, by e-mail at or by phone on 01875 871232 ? We really need your help so please don’t be shy! And by the way, every volunteer gets free membership to the Friends of The Coastal Communities Museum with all the benefits that brings! Come on, send that message or pick up your phone, Richard is looking forward to hearing from you.

Posted in Management | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Work Experience

Hi I’m Ally. During this past week I have been doing work experience with Sarah Cowie as a Museum Education Assistant. It has been a great experience for me and each day I have seen a different side to the things a job in this area involves. From giving presentations to schools to inspecting a skeleton from the 12th century, the tasks were definitely divergent and always interesting.

When I first arrived on Monday I was taken on a tour of the building and introduced to the people that work there. Each person had a job focused in a different key area of the headquarters and this allowed me to learn about the different tasks they completed day to day. Once the tour was over I was then taken to the John Gray Centre ( where I was shown the museum by Quonya and the archives by Bill. I was blown away by the amount of impact East Lothian has had as a whole on massive events from our history. Also in the archives it felt strange to think that artefacts from centuries ago that had once been held with the highest of importance where now all around me to see. For these reasons I encourage people to visit there as it really is remarkable. As the day went on I was set a task to research items in the museum and find out how they related to Haddington today. Whilst researching I found that cannonballs that were dug-up in the 1800s by work-men and discovered to have been from the siege of Haddington (1567/8) would actually in today’s world have been found just outside the town hall building.

On Tuesday I spent the whole day with Sarah at Windygoul Primary School in Tranent ( giving a presentation on what a museum curator does to P2s. The kids really enjoyed the talk and seemed to have an obsession with dinosaur fossils. Once the talking was over the kids were set a task to investigate an item that had been handed out to them and then write a museum label for it. As they did this I helped out by answering kid’s questions and helping them spell. The day proved to be very productive and I even learned a few things about museums myself!

I met Sarah at the John Gray Centre on Wednesday as I had been asked to sit in on a rehearsal of a WW1 sketch that will eventually be presented to P6s to inform them of the jobs men and women did during the war and what this entailed. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I’m sure the P6s will too as the acting was superb.  Once the sketch was over we returned to HQ and I was set a task to create a document of things teachers can do to inform their classes of Mary Queen of Scots life and reign. However I was soon asked to help Claire (collections officer) put together a skeleton from the 12th century which was very interesting and definitely different from other things I had done so far in the week. I enjoyed it and found the story of the man’s death very intriguing.

On Thursday I did office work and was allotted time to complete my Mary Queen of Scots information document. The day went by quickly and it gave me a chance to compare desk and field work. Personally I think a mixture is the best thing as too much field could be overwhelming whilst too much desk could be quite draining.

Friday was only a half day and I used the time to finish off any tasks from earlier on in the week.

I have really enjoyed my Work experience and am very grateful to Sarah and her colleagues for giving me the opportunity.

 Ally C

Posted in Management | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Our Highlights of 2013!

As 2013 draws to a close, we’ve been talking about our highlights of the past year in museums. It’s been a busy year and hopefully you’ve shared a few of them with us!

Helen, Heritage Resources Development Officer for the John Gray Centre

1. Family History Day at the end of August was a wonderfully busy day, and the whole building bustled with activity. There was storytelling and battles and crafts for children, along with family history workshops and talks, behind the scenes tours and a chance to view some very special archives for adults. We’re looking forward to next year’s event already!

2.  We also developed a ‘Talking Museum’ – an audio guide for visually impaired visitors – describing the displays in the permanent exhibition. All the work was done by volunteers, from researching the stories behind the objects to recording the finished scripts, and was a real pleasure to work on. They ended up creating a guide that is interesting for all visitors, regardless of whether they have a visual impairment or not. Why not pop in and try it? You can also listen to it online (

 Sarah, Museums Education Officer

1. Multi-Cultural Day at Prestongrange was bigger than ever this year, with around 1300 visitors, after us securing funding from the Big Lottery Fund to give it a Commonwealth theme. The Maasai Warriors were popular as ever, but I think Anasi, who opened and closed the event were my favourites as their performances in the sunshine just made the event really special.

2. Working with so many different school pupils across the year which I always really enjoy. We’ve had a range of pupils on work experience, some of whom are now pursuing a career in museums which is just fantastic that we’ve been able to help them on their way. I’ve also really enjoyed launching the pottery workshops at Prestongrange, learning how to use clay and seeing what pupils are able to produce! It’s also been great working with volunteers from Musselburgh Museum on school visits about the Battle of Pinkie.

Katherine, Exhibitions Officer

1. Entering the Powerhouse for the first time since the Bellany exhibition installation was completed and being struck by how fantastic and colourful and vibrant it was and how great it was to see the full height of the space used – we usually have colour just at the edges and down low.

 2. The Greetings from Dunbar exhibition in Dunbar Town House and how good it was to work on an exhibition that was just meant to be and was fun. It was also really popular with visitors too.

Claire, Collections Officer

1.We recently had a crate made in which we can store the last bathing hut from North Berwick beach. This means that the parts of the hut are now stored to best practice and also that the crate can be moved around the museums store as needed, freeing up access.

 2. Thanks to the sterling efforts of the Collections Volunteer team, the museums workroom has been reorganised to make a more efficient and conducive work environment. The entry book backlog has also been cleared and a huge dent has been made in the accessions backlog. Great stuff.

John Muir’s Birthplace staff

1. 2013 was the 10th anniversary of John Muir’s Birthplace. On the 23rd August the Friends of John Muir’s Birthplace held a Tea Party to celebrate this important landmark!

2. Lots of lovely comments from visitors throughout the year about the venue and staff, including these from our new Visitor Surveys:

•very interesting to find out about Yosemite NP. Staff very helpful and gave lots of information that was useful
•we were shocked that we knew so little of this man. The museum is a great tribute to this man
•Friendly welcome. Good shop for gifts.
•I was so impressed with the range of information and activities. I throughly enjoyed the interactive quizzes with my 6 and 10 year olds and it gave us plenty to talk about.

Dunbar Town House staff

1. We held 5 weddings this year in the Town House, all the Council Chamber on the top floor. It’s lovely for us to be able to be part of someone’s special day and staff enjoyed meeting the couples, families and friends involved. If you’d like to book your wedding for next year, get in touch!

2. We really enjoyed the Greetings from Dunbar exhibition this summer. Children loved finding all the animals hidden in the cases around the room. The puppet show also went down really well! Alot of visitors also reminisced about their memories of holidaying in Dunbar over the years.

Quonya, Visitor Services Officer (West)

1. The fantastic museum within the John Gray Centre was formally recognised by a 5 star grading from Visit Scotland. So much hard work was put into the museum’s creation that it’s lovely that people can see and appreciate it. This 2013 season, I don’t think the museum would have been the same without the fantastic staff who always offer a 5 star service. The Sunday activities for families have also been a particular highlight, drawing in families due to the creativity of each session.

2. It has been an eventful year at Prestongrange Museum! I smile everytime I see the spruced up Visitor Centre and I’m happy to say that thanks to the new damp proofing work, the Centre is no longer damp and walls have been restored. This year would not have been so successful without dedicated staff who put in so much time and energy doing everything from gardening to running events for toddlers!

Kate, Principal Museum Officer

1. The Coastal Communities Museum opening was a highlight for me, after seeing volunteers work together to deliver this fantastic community facility in North Berwick. After a really popular exhibition about golf over the summer, they currently have a new exhibition called A Winter Feast

2. The 3D scanning project, in which John Muir’s Birthplace was chosen as part of the ‘Scottish 10′. The building has been scanned and a 3D digital model will now be created, being used as part of the Homecoming 2014 celebrations around John Muir. A fantastic project to be included in!

3. The range of events, exhibitions and projects across all 6 venues and the hard working staff and volunteers who do such a great job all year round to make sure our visitors have the best experience possible.

We’d also ALL like to include a highlight for us was seeing our Museums Officer Jo and her husband Steve welcome their new baby girl Martha into the world!

We hope you’ve enjoyed visiting us during 2013. We look forward to seeing you next year!

Posted in Management | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Are you a regular visitor to Prestongrange?

We’re planning ahead for next year and we’re thinking of offering families a buggy-friendly nature trail around the Prestongrange site. If you’ve not been before, the museum is on the site of various industries which have now closed, and in their place, nature and wildlife bloom! Visitors walking around can see buildings such as the Hoffman kiln, Beam Engine and Powerhouse as well as railway tracks and machinery. In 2014, with it being the year of Homecoming focussing on East Lothian born John Muir and his love of wildlife, we thought we would celebrate the nature and wildlife of Prestongrange. We’re going to have an exhibition, called Wild Prestongrange, which will include the animals, plants, flowers and mini beasts that inhabit the Prestongrange site.

We’d also like visitors to be able to pick up a map which shows them where they could spot

Family fun at Prestongrange

All aboard at Prestongrange!

some of these things around the site. We’ve asked the Countryside Rangers for their thoughts, but we’d really like to hear from our regular visitors too. Do you know where you can find the best brambles on site? Or, have you spotted a specific type of wildflower growing by the pottery? Or perhaps you know where the you can spot a rare butterfly within 5 minutes walk of the Visitor Centre?

Get in touch and let us know! You can either leave a comment below, tweet us as @ELMuseumService, send us as message on Facebook ‘East Lothian Council Museum Service’, or email us

We look forward to hearing all your suggestions!

Posted in Education, Environment, Prestongrange | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Christmas time is nearly here!

Can you believe it’s nearly December already? The year has flown in!

I’ve just got everything ready for our 12 days of Christmas activity….From 1st until 12th December, families can find the figures from the 12 Days of Christmas hidden around the John Gray Centre (Haddington) and John Muir’s Birthplace (Dunbar). Children who find a figure can post it into the Christmas postbox to be entered into a prize draw. There will also be daily prizes for people finding the characters.

I’ve also heard from Laura Young, a local artist, who is going to be creating a collage with local families about the 12 days of Christmas at our Festive Fun event. It sounds amazing and will hang in the PC room in the Centre to add a bit of Christmas cheer. We’ll also be playing with some old fashioned toys and games from Christmases gone by at our Festive Fun event upstairs in the museum. Come along and try a gird and cleek, if you know what one is??

On Saturday 14th December, at the John Gray Centre, it’s our Festive Fun event. Santa and his elves (need to look out my costume!) will be in the Centre, giving out presents to children between 11am-12, and 1pm-2.30pm. There will also be live music and mince pies for visitors to enjoy. On Saturday 14th the event runs from 10am-3pm. On Sunday 15th, from 1.30pm-3.30pm, there will also be Christmas crafts too.

Finally, there will be one last Christmas Crafts activity on Sunday 22nd December 1.30-3.30pm upstairs in the museum at the John Gray Centre. All activities are free to take part in and drop in, although donations are welcome. For more information, go to

We’re then closed over the Christmas holidays. John Muir’s Birthplace, Dunbar Town House Museum and Gallery, and the John Gray Centre will close on Christmas Eve until 3rd January.

Posted in Education, Events | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Work Experience

Hello my name is Rebecca and I have been on work experience with East Lothian Museum Services. This week I have been working with Sarah Cowie as well as other staff who work in the ELMS.


I went to Haddington Infants School to teach them old fashioned playground games.  I played with primary 1 children and I think they really enjoyed themselves. We taught them a few rhymes then showed them the various toys that our parents or grandparents may have played with when they were in primary school. I had lots of fun despite the cold weather!


I went to Dunbar Town House in Dunbar. First I had to clear out the cupboard which had lots of art and crafts for the children when they came to the museum. Then I attended a meeting where we discussed what displays would be put up in the John Gray Museum after nearly two years from opening. It was quite interesting. In the afternoon I was back at the Museum headquarters in Haddington. I was shown objects that were put in the unprovenanced section, which required research. I was given a Servant bell which was in a wooden box and on it said “ALEX RUNCIMAN. HADDINGTON”. First I looked through the Day Book where all the objects handed in are recorded. I couldn’t find anything. I researched the name and found an Alex Runciman that lived from 1878-1915 which suits the time period as the servant bell is electrical.


I spent the morning looking at unprovenanced coal mining books as I had found that some had been recorded in the day book. Unfortunately I was unsuccessful. I was only able to rule out that none of them had actually been recorded and that I some books had once belonged to someone as their name was written inside the books. In the afternoon I went to the John Gray Centre to do some more research about Alex Runciman and his Plumbing shop. I found out when he died, how he died, where he lived and where the shop was. I also was able to get access to old Haddingtonshire Couriers. It was fascinating and I was really enjoyed myself.


I went to Prestongrange Museum to help out at a Pottery workshop with primary 4/5 children. They made their own pot out of clay and I helped them when they started having difficulties. It was good fun and the children had good fun getting their hands all messy. Afterwards I helped to clear everything away and then I came back to the museum headquarters. In the afternoon I typed up all my findings from the day before about Alex Runciman.

Friday:I only have a half day today so I helped create a ’12 Day of Christmas’ event for John Muir Birthplace and John Gray Centre. It was good fun and nice to be able to relax on my last day. I also filled in a questionnaire about my week.

 I have thoroughly enjoyed myself this week and I would like to thank all the staff involved with making my Work Experience fun and interesting. Thank you!

Posted in Collections, John Gray Centre | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

World War 1 learning

For World War 1 learning you can look at -

  • YouTube clips
  • Online games
  • Websites
  • Photos
  • Quizzes

Here are some links that will supply this.

World War 1: Facts and Information -

Overview of World War 1 -

A game about the trenches -

YouTube Clips on World War 1 –,or.&bvm=bv.53537100,d.d2k,pv.xjs.s.en_US.MLJSUkuQGS4.O&biw=1280&bih=842&dpr=1&wrapid=tlif138122244372121&um=1&ie=UTF-8&gl=GB&sa=N&tab=w1


You could try some quizzes once you have looked at all of these to test your knowledge.

A couple of quizzes on World War 1 -

Hope this helps.

By Jack, work experience student

Posted in Education | Tagged , | 6 Comments

My Work Experience

 My work experience at the Museum Headquarters was terrific. I think the time I spent here has really shown me what the real world is like and it has also showed me there’s a lot more to do than what I do in class at school. There was lots of interesting stuff in the museums that were pretty cool and interesting.

 On the first couple of days I helped out on the computer and also helped out in the store which was great especially handling the museum objects. On the second day I went to the Dunbar Town House and helped put away an exhibition. On the 3rd and 4th day we went to schools and showed them some Egyptian and Roman objects they really liked these objects, the bones in particular. It was great seeing the P3s being so interested in the artefacts such as Horse bones, pieces of pottery, roman coins, old jugs and some other stuff. On the Friday I went to the John Gray Centre and done some front of house work it was quiet so I didn’t have much to do, then I came back to HQ to write this blog.

Overall I have really enjoyed working here for my work experience and everyone was really nice and welcoming.


Posted in Management | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 63 Comments