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January 26, 2011

The threat to cultural heritage

As the detail of Council spending plans emerge, libraries and museums are increasingly referred to in the same sentence as spending cuts. Campaigns the length and breadth of the country are already being fought to preserve these cultural and leisure assets. How does one place a value on the contribution of a local museum? If local outcry at the threat of closure is a yardstick, South Lanarkshire Council might have picked on the wrong one when they chose Hunter House

South Lanarkshire Council has earmarked the new town’s Hunter House Museum for closure as part of its efforts to save £80million over the next three years. The museum is housed in the cottage where the town’s two most famous sons – brothers John and William Hunter – were born in the 1700s. The duo were responsible for some of the most important advancements in medical history. Some of their techniques are still in practice today and there are also museums in Glasgow and London devoted to their work.

East Kilbride residents are desperate to save the museum and have enlisted the support of Lanarkshire-based MSP Linda Fabiani. Ms Fabiani tabled a motion for debate in the Scottish Parliament about the future of the museum and the potential for local community groups to take over the running of the building. She will join residents at a rally outside the Maxwellton Road museum at 11am on Saturday.

Ms Fabiani said: “Hunter House Museum is a very important asset for East Kilbride, one of the few places in the new town where people can find out about East Kilbride’s rich history. Its loss would be a blow, not just to people in East Kilbride, but to Scotland as a whole.”

Closing the museum, housed in a Grade A-listed building, would save the council £30,000. One group is willing to take over control of the building and expand it to include a more detailed exhibition. Kirsten Robb, 36, is a founder member of the East Kilbride Development Trust and a local community councillor. She said; “The museum can be something much better than it is and we would ask the council gives it a one-year reprieve and gives us time to develop a plan to take it over.”

The council’s Executive Committee will decide the museum’s future at a meeting later this month.