Issue 232
July/August 2024


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Jul 24, 2024

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A massive granite complex?

ABERDEEN'S Marischal College is said to be the second largest granite complex in the world. Some half of it has been successfully re-purposed by Aberdeen City, the Police and others.

Aberdeen University (who own the whole complex) have unaccountably failed to acknowledge their responsibility for the other half of these marvellous iconic city center C19 buildings.

The huge ceremonial Mitchell Hall remains dusty and abandoned. The astonishing Collections (including ever popular Egyptian mummies) continue to reside in storage racks unseen by the public since 2008.

The University needs to engage with the public and explain publicly what their plans are. There are rumours of relocation to a store in Old Aberdeen on the University campus. But why the secrecy? The public is still not getting to see what rightfully is theirs to enjoy, and belongs as much to the citizens of Aberdeen as the University.

Legally, of course, the University has no obligation to open their Collections to the public as they are for research and education, but that is surely no excuse.

Perth has just re-opened its Museum after a £27m revamp. Inverness is busy preparing to do the same. Of the 14 University museums in Scotland only two are shut. One (Glasgow School of Art) has been burnt twice! (see page 5) - the other is Aberdeen.

There is some concern that parts of the Collection are of 'colonial' origin and therefore are distasteful to those who subscribe to fashionable sensibilities. Fine no problem, they do not need to be on show and the Museum has begun an admirable process of repatriation, handled with tact and skill.

Edinburgh has opened its collections of musical instruments. The Hunterian in Glasgow is one of the great museums of the world. Why has Aberdeen lost the place and abandoned its superb museum?

Successive Principals have given little or no priority to the museum. The University overspent on the new Library.They have been amateurish in engaging with potential donors from the Oil Industry.

Are Alumni taken seriously? Does the University Court engage fully with the senior management? There is no doubt the current financial situation is challenging. Yet any entrepreneur – Aberdeen is good at producing them – would tell you that a difficult time is the moment for bold and ambitious action. Sharing the problem with business and others from outside the University is surely the way forward. This is too big a problem just for the University.

The 2022 Donelson report proposed an option of a 'Creative Cluster' – a dynamic hub for public engagement including a museum, exhibition, events, ceremonial, and performance space, as well as creative incubator/start-up spaces.

There have been suggestions as to how this concept could be prudently developed to address an everchanging demand which may be difficult to com-prehend for the long term. Nonetheless, it would be a thoroughly proper use of public funds to attract visitors and create the spin-off to revitalise the centre of the city.

Timeline: University of Aberdeen:1495; Marischal College:1593; Amalgamation:1860

GEORGE STUART



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