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.


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Family Activity Day at Prestongrange

On Saturday 24th August East Lothian Council hosted a Family Activity Day at Prestongrange Museum, East Lothian. There were a variety of events and activities to take part in and many visitors – mostly families – came along.

On the lawn close to the cafe and reception building were outdoor games, Nature Detectives and Orienteering. The Countryside Rangers were based in a small tent and on display inside was a taxidermy collection of a shrew, weasel, stout and badger, as well as an otter skin and deer antlers. Visitors also had the opportunity to look at photographs of animal tracks and guess which animal made each one.

East Lothian Orienteers were next to the reception building, where visitors could sign up for a map and have a go at orienteering to find the control points placed around the grounds of the museum.

Additionally, outdoor games were set up on the lawn that included badminton, Swingball and giant Jenga.

The local fire service also made an appearance at the event, however, they were slightly delayed after having to respond to an emergency but they still came as soon as they could. Families and visitors could see what is stored in each of the compartments of the fire engine, while children could sit at the front and behind the wheel. This proved to be one of the most popular activities with crowds of people surrounding the fire engine and looking around inside.

The Borders Search and Rescue Unit were next to the Fire Service. Here visitors learned the rescue methods used by Search and Rescue and even try moving an stretcher on wheels. Children could also sit inside the rescue service’s ambulance and activate the sirens – which was heard throughout the day!

Located next to the Borders Search and Rescue Unit was an archaeologist demonstrating how people lived in the area hundreds of years ago. Visitors could even use some of the replicas of prehistoric flour grinders to make their own flour. After studying the remains of people from that period, archaeologists found their teeth eroded more than normal as a result of the tiny pieces of stone in the bread from the flour that was ground with stone grinders.

In the Powerhouse, there was storytelling and craft making for those with a creative side. Finally, the other popular activity of the day was archery. Opposite the visitor centre, families were lined up for children wanting to learn how to improve their accuracy in shooting with a bow.

To conclude, the day was a huge success and with something for everyone, visitors certainly enjoyed themselves.

Article by volunteer Claire Wheelans. For more information about volunteering with us, visit:

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Not a Penny off the Pay, Not a Minute on the Day

Some of you out there may recognise the slogan in the title of this post; Don’t worry, the museums are not on strike! My name is Ruth, and when not playing frisbee on the beach or entertaining children through the medium of science, I can be found at Prestongrange Industrial Heritage Museum working as a Museum Assistant. Industrial heritage has been a long-standing interest for me, and when the recently produced film ‘The Happy Lands’ was screened at the Cameo Cinema in Edinburgh, I was extremely interested to see it. The film deals with the experiences of a Fife mining community during the 1926 general strike, and the slogan above represents their struggle for better working conditions.

Family fun at Prestongrange

Green Train at Prestongrange

Produced by Theatre Workshop Scotland with assistance from BBC Scotland, the film tells the tale of 3 families in a mining village in Fife. Based on the experiences and recollections of miners and their families from the 1920s, the film is part documentary, part fictional drama. Following the Guthrie, Jenkins and Baxter families during the strike and the seemingly inevitable march towards civil unrest and starvation, the film really does evoke a sense of what it was like for working class people during this troubled year. It deals with themes that are familiar to everyone – loss, hardship, fighting for something you truly believe in, even if you know you cannot win. This is a true underdog story, of a community that holds together even under immense pressure. By the end of the strike, even people who were considered champions of the mining community, (like Sir Harry Lauder who himself was a miner before taking to the stage) resented the miners and their refusal to go back to work. With excellent performances from some first-time actors, the film is worth seeing as an example of social working-class history that is not often told.

Seeing the film also got me thinking about community involvement and how the 1926 strike would have affected the people at Prestongrange. Coming so soon after the last strike in 1921, it would have meant near-starvation  for families and loss of jobs, as well as violence and division in the community. One of our big events at Prestongrange this year is the ‘Revisiting Prestongrange’ local history event, during which we hope to encourage people who used to work on site (as well as people whose relatives worked here) to come and tell us their stories. Hopefully we can find out more about events like the strikes, from the people whose relatives actually lived through them!

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Watching the Edinburgh Marathon…with tea and scones!

Prestongrange Panorama

Prestongrange Panorama

This year’s Edinburgh Marathon takes place on Sunday 26th May. Runners start in Edinburgh and run out along the East Lothian coast, as far as Longniddry, passing Prestongrange Museum twice. If you’re supporting someone running the marathon, why not come to Prestongrange to cheer them on? We’re at miles 11 and 24, and not far from the finish line!

Check out the route map here.

We’ll be opening early on Sunday 26th May at 11am. There is free parking outside the museum and the Visitor Centre is free and open to all. The Visitor Centre includes toilets, a

Cookies in the Prestongrange Cafe

Cookies in the Prestongrange Cafe

cafe, children’s corner and museum displays. We also have picnic tables outdoors and outdoor games to play with if it’s a sunny day!

The marathon means that the coast road between Musselburgh and Prestonpans (B1348) is closed on Sunday 26th May. To access Prestongrange, take the back road past Drummohr Caravan park, from the  road between Wallyford to Prestonpans (B1361). You’ll see Prestongrange Museum signposted (on brown tourist signs) from the A1 taking you into the site this way.

We’re also holding a craft activity that afternoon between 1.30-3.30pm where we’ll be getting families to help us decorate our windows for the 3 Harbours Arts Festival. The activity is free, donations welcome, and it’s a drop in event, suitable for all.


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Night time Adventures!

This year, we’re having a full weekend of activities for Museums at Night, which takes place from 16-18 May. I’m very excited about the different events! We’ve split it up into the Thursday night for adults, and Friday and Saturday for families.

On the Thursday evening, Dunbar and District History Society are leading a torch-lit tour around Dunbar, finishing up in the Town House. If you want to find out a bit more about the hidden history of Dunbar, and a get a glimpse behind the scenes at the Town House, now’s your chance! Your can book a place by contacting the Town House on 01368 866030, or by visiting the museum. It’s suggested donation £2 per adult.

Also on the Thursday, we’re having a special late night opening at the John Gray Centre.Treasures by Twilight Downstairs in the library we’ll have some music and refreshments, plus you can browse the books as usual. In the Star Room, we’ve got some old-fashioned crafts you can try out, from quill writing to paper marbling. Upstairs in the museum, you can meet our Curator and handle some museum objects, as well as meeting the archivists and seeing some historic documents. There will also be behind the scenes tours of the archives, if you’ve ever wanted to know where we keep those things signed by Mary Queen of Scots! So a fun evening all round, just drop in and donate a few pounds and enjoy!

On Friday evening, we’re having a Bat Walk at Prestongrange Museum. Led by Bobby the Ranger, we’ll be using a Moth trap, searching for bats and finding out a bit more about the creatures that lurk around the museum in the dark! I’m afraid our bat walk is all sold out! If you have tickets already, see you there!!

On Saturday, we’re having two events at either end of the county. At John Gray Centre and John Muir’s Birthplace, families can come and get involved in some adventure stories! At the John Gray Centre, families will be given a quest to complete around the Centre, hearing different gruesome, exciting, weird and wonderful stories about local history and characters as they go along! In Dunbar, at the Birthplace, storytellers will lead families on an adventure around the museum with some rather unusual and surprising stories about Muir! At both places, we’ll also have a few freebies to give out, and you can borrow some library books to take home and immerse yourself in more adventure stories! Both events are drop in, £2 per family (donation). Both are from 7-9pm.

So, how does that all sound? Come prepared for your very own night-time adventure! See you there, I can’t wait!


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Oh the places we will go…

Happy new year to all our lovely readers! So, this morning, to ease everyone back into work, I asked people in the Museums Office: Which was your favourite museum you visited in 2012, and where would you love to visit in 2013?

Their answers will hopefully give you some inspiration of where to visit this year!

Helen, Digital Resources Officer: 

I was lucky enough to visit the V&A Museum last year, and was able to see their ‘Hollywood Costumes’ exhibition – brilliant and inspiring! The exhibition was a great combination of costumes, interviews (with videos and holograms) and scene-setting. What amazed me was how small the costumes were, makes you realise how much ‘larger than life’ the big screen really is. I’d like to see the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich – I haven’t been since it was redone, and it sounds as though it’s a lot of fun, with lots of imaginative use of technology to make it a really interactive museum. Sounds like a great place to go with the family.

Kate, Principal Museums Officer:

I really liked the Scottish National Portrait Gallery - a great building and some fantastic paintings. I was surprised to see landscapes there, but liked the concept of a portrait of a landscape and the contrast was good. I came away wanting to visit again and to bring the children. In 2013 I want to take the family to the Natural History Museum as they will love it there and a trip to London would be exciting!

Tracy, Visitor Services Officer:

I went to Blists Hill Victorian Village at Ironbridge last year which was fantastic.  It was like stepping back in time.  You could get money changed into ‘old money’ at the Victorian bank and spend it in the shops.  The Victorian school lesson was really good, and stopped the kids complaining about what they have to do at school.  The Village was featured on the Christmas episode of Downton Abbey this year where they showed some of the characters attending a fair.  Not sure about plans for this year yet, but looking forward to the Viking Exhibition at National Museum of Scotland.

Me, Museums Education Officer:

I absolutely loved the BALTIC in Newcastle when I visited it in September. It’s such an

View from the Baltic

amazing building, and I really loved the exhibition by Mark Wallinger. There was also a wedding on the day we were there which gave added viewing excitement! I (rather ashamedly) have never visited the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, so I plan to do that this year, hopefully in the next month!

So there you go, a variety of different cultural/heritage places we’ve been, liked and recommended! Do tell us your favourites and tips for 2013!

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Our 2012 – a review…

It’s been quite a year in museums, opening 2 new museums, and running our other 3 alongside them for the first time. We’ve also undergone a service review, seen jobs change and new staff come on board. So all in all, lots of changes, and lots more visitors!

 The year has had many highlights for me, including posing as a Suffragette for Festival of Museums, organising a 60s fashion show at Prestongrange, showing classes round Dunbar Town House for the first time since refurbishment and the amazing Dunbar Town House dolls house made by local volunteers. Multi-Cultural Day, in particular, made

Drummers opening up Multi-Cultural Day my year as it attracted an amazing number of visitors this year (1200), and was the first time we ran a park and ride service. It was also a great example of team working, as people from all different departments across the Council came together to help us deliver the day, including roads, transportation, arts, community learning, health and safety, policy team, libraries, and many many more. On a personal note, I also got to taste an amazing Well Hung and Tender burger. Yum!

  Detective Bear, helping children to become Toy Detectives!

 Another highlight for me, was the Toy Stories exhibition at the John Gray Centre. We had record numbers of school visits to the exhibition for our Toy Detectives workshop and it was great fun working with lots of nursery children. They always came to the museum with such enthusiasm, including one boy who when waiting in line before we set off upstairs started shaking and said ‘I’m just SO excited to go to the museum!’. Brilliant. Toy Stories also brought in lots of teenagers for table football tournaments during their lunch break and after school.

 Our year was also marked by the sad and sudden loss of our colleague Susan Panton, who’d been involved with John Muir’s Birthplace since it first opened. The condolence book set up in the Birthplace captured the memories of staff, visitors and local people of the lovely Susan.

We’ve also had new posts created in the Museum Service, with Debbie, Tracy and Quonya joining us as Visitor Services Officers. They’ve brought lots of energy, enthusiasm and new ideas. And if you’ve visited any of our museum shops recently you’ll notice an immediate difference they’ve made with all the new lovely stock we have (last minute Christmas presents anyone?!).

Next year, I’m looking forward to taking part in Museums at Night weekend (16-18th May) when we’ll be opening our museums later than usual and putting on some fun activities! I’m also really looking forward to offering more for under 5s and their families. Watch this space…

 Oh, and here’s our Jan-Feb events leaflet to get you started! Jan-Feb 13 Upcoming events in Museums

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An Elf learns from Spiderman about responsibility…

Can you believe it’s December this weekend? I most definitely can’t!

 Although saying that, I did spend last Sunday dressed as an Elf for our Victorian Christmas event in Dunbar. We were making willow Christmas trees with artist Tanwen, which were amazing! Visitors could also make snowflakes, or pantomime puppets over at John Muir’s Birthplace.

 Being dressed as an elf definitely gives you a new perspective on things. Quite a few children asked ‘Are you a real elf?’, or ‘Are you busy making presents?’ or ‘Have you seen santa today?’ or ‘Have you seen my Christmas list yet?’

An elf and santa pose for Christmas! An elf and santa pose for Christmas! One little boy chatted away to me for a while, as we looked through a book, whilst his older sister and parents made a willow tree. His mum came over and said ‘Well, he never talks to people. You must be the real thing!’.  Children also seemed pretty happy to follow the advice of the elf -I got a group of teenagers to help me tidy up a children’s craft table, families would come into the museum if I stopped them on the street and asked, and I managed to get right into all the stalls without queuing in the market outside! What’s that saying? With great power comes great responsibility…Thanks Spiderman.

  However, my favourite part of the day, was after we’d seen Santa arriving to switch on the Christmas lights (which didn’t go on immediately, sending a group of men in fluorescent jackets scurrying to a passageway next to the museum). I went to collect my car, to load up all our lovely Christmas things from the day to bring back to the office, drove it up the very steep Silver Street in Dunbar and as I got to the top there was a big traffic jam so I rolled down my window to shout to Tanwen that I’d go around the street again. At which point, I heard the shout ’Look, it’s the elf we met earlier!’. Everyone waiting to cross the street then looked at me, stranded in the sea of people in my car, still dressed in my elf suit, and started waving and shouting. ‘What you making me for Christmas?’ Hi, remember me elf?!’ I eventually managed to drive off, with one mum’s shout reaching me just as I turned into the High Street ‘Don’t drive elf for leather now!’.

 Thank you people of Dunbar, what a fun afternoon we had, and you made this elf very happy

 My next outing as an elf? Saturday 21st December at the John Gray Centre for our Festive Fun afternoon! Come join us!

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Work Experience by Susan

It was my father who insisted I try for the placement in the museum. The planning for work experience in Knox Academy is long and complicated, and I wanted to focus on more pressing matters. With Prelims looming just three days before the week began, it was my idea to just ignore it completely; the closest I could come to that was to rely upon the database for my placement. I unfortunately (or, perhaps, very fortunately) failed to please the computer system enough the first time I submitted my choices, and was left to try again for three of the remaining placements.

                Given my father’s serious nature and slightly flawed reasoning, I can only say I half expected to collapse before my time was served; adults put a great deal of stress on how difficult and unforgiving their jobs are. Creating a trail hunt through the John Gray Centre may require a bit of messing around with suitable hiding places and what difficulty level to base the clues on, but it’s certainly not unachievable. This was the first task I was given, and this was the first task I enjoyed.

                Over the week, I’ve spent two days at the John Gray Centre and three days at the Headquarters. I’ve checked that items are in their correct boxes for exhibitions, searched through old records for interesting relevant material (the archive room shelves are very impressive), made lists of objects and even wrapped boxes in Christmas paper. I’ve designed two handouts for events, tried my best to assist with a nursery visit to the museum (Trying is half the battle, right?), and I’ve trimmed and organised laminated labels. Most of it has been great fun, and I definitely haven’t been left bored at any point. My father gave me the impression that I’d be stuck doing the same thing repeatedly, whether I liked it or not, and that it was my duty to simply ensure that I pulled through. It was, in fact, my duty to make sure that I didn’t get lost – and that I only failed once or twice.

Though whatever career I succeed in following will probably be very different to this, I don’t think I need to be so frightened of what I’ll face. I hardly want to return to school at all… Still, someone needs to chase after those illusive university qualifications, for the pride of the family and everything.

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Wonderful day for fieldwork

Hi Everyone,
In my first blog I said how I love the variety inherent in my job. Well, as a change from being in the office documenting the collection, I spent this morning assisting on an archaeology field trip on North Berwick Law! We had a lovely, sunny morning for it and it was great to be out in the fresh air on field work. A team of archaeologists, with help from the Ranger service and National Museums Scotland, a member of the Conchological Society (who study shells) and myself, were joined by crack teams of budding archaeologists from the Law primary school to sieve the midden (man-made spoil heap) and see what we could find out about the people that used to live on the Law, maybe during the Bronze Age. It was fascinating stuff. We found lots of animal bones and sea shells including limpets and winkle shells. Whether the people ate those sea creatures or used them as fishing bait we don’t yet know. What I thought was really interesting about the finds is that we didn’t find any mussel or oyster shells today; shells that are really common in coastal middens. The kids really seemed to enjoy themselves. I know I did.
Now, it’s back to documenting all the wonderful objects that have been donated to the museums service recently. Bye for now,

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