Linlithgow had a small town museum by the late 19th century. It was housed in the Burgh Hall and contained a small collection of local antiquities. The contents of this museum are recorded in an appendix to Waldie's History of the town, Most significant among the material listed are the weights and measures most of which are now in collections of the National Museum of Scotland. The town's collection was augmented in 1904 when the collection, created by Christopher Dawson; schoolmaster at Abercorn between 1846 and 1889, was bequethed to the town following Dawson's death the previous year.
The town museum continued to exist until 1974. At that time, due to the reorganisation of local government, Linlithgow ceased to be a burgh and became part of West Lothian District Council. The town's collection was lodged with the then Royal Museum of Scotland.
By the 1980s there was a growing demand locally for the establishment of a museum to portray and document the history of the town and to further this end Linlithgow Museum Trust (LMT) was set up to promote the case for a museum to West Lothian District council. In addition to their lobbying activities, the Trust also, with a view to the future gathered artifacts which would be suitable for a museum to display, organised exhibitions and displays featuring the history of the town.
Who was involved with LMT and what part did the Trust play in developing the museum?
Early on, Annet House was identified as a possible location for the museum. The building, built in 1787 as a house for a merchant family called Bartholomew, had been a private house until after the First World War. It was aquired around 1930 by West Lothian County Council (WLCC).
It was used by WLCC as a county police HQ and then, during WWII as a Civil Defence HQ. Annet House was purchased in 1946 by a local group, the Welcome Home Committee (WHC).
The WHC had been set up to arrange events to welcome home returning Linlithgow servicemen and women and to commemorate their service and the sacrifice of those who had not returned.
The WHC arranged a welcome home dinner (held in the Victoria Halls). At that event, small commemorative gifts were given to mark the occaion; a cigarette case for the men and a compact for the women. As well as the dinner, the WHC also decided to create a more tangible memorial in the form of a community centre and to this end purchased Annet House from the then owners, West Lothian County council.
The Museum Trust held discussions with WLDC over a period of years. On occasion the council seemed on the point of meeting the Trust's wishes but it was not until the late 1980s that the Trust's efforts paid off and WLDC agreed to make Annet House available as a museum.
A funding package was put together by the council to meet the costs of the necessary improvements to the building to permit it to be used by the public and to enable the Trust to engage designers to create a museum display and to restore the garden behind the house. Linlithgow Trust was reconstituted in 1991 as Linlithgow Heritage Trust to take forward the development.
On the upper floor the displays tell the story of the trades of the town, which includes textiles, leatherworking, distilling and chemicals. There is a video presentation telling the process of linen manufacture, an industry once important to Linlithgow.
The garden extends over three terraces behind the house. It has been developed to show the uses of the garden when Annet House was first built with examples of some of the fruits, vegetables and herbs that might have been grown.
The Trust participates in Scotland's Garden Scheme and for the past 3 years the garden has opened one day each summer in support of the scheme. Also, this summer (2011) the garden featured in the BBC programme, the Beechgrove Garden.
Other Museum Activities
The Trust sponsors an annual lecture, The Annet Lecture, which takes place in February/March each year and is given by an invited speaker on a subject relevant to the town. Previous speakers have included Jennifer Scarce, formerly Curator of Middle eastern cultures at the National Museum of Scotland (NMS), Gavin Sprott, formerly Keeper of Science, Technology and Working Life NMS, Dr. Anne Buddle, National Galleries of Scotland (NGS), Rev. I Paterson, formerly Minister of St. Michaels Parish Church, Linlithgow, Alan Bennel, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh and Graeme Moore, President of the institute of Horticulture, Scotland.
The museum participates each year in Doors Open Day, which is sponsores by WLC.
The trust has about 90 members. Members receive invitations to preview new exhibitions and normally receive an annual newsletter. The Trust also publishes occasional pamphlets on matters of local history.
Events for members of the Trust and for other groups are organised to be held either in the museum itself or, weather permitting, in the garden. These events usually take the form of a short dramatic presentation, normally based on incidents of Scottish history and with an association with Linlithgow. They are normally followed by a short social evening with a buffet.
The Trust is a member of Edinburgh & Lothians tourist Board (ELTB), the Scottish Museums council (SMC) and Visit Scotland. It participates in West Lothian Tourism Forum (WLTF) and West Lothian Museums Forum (WLMF).
The Trust is a registered museum under the scheme operated by Museums, Libraries and Archives.
The Trust is registered by Visit Scotland as a visitor attraction and has been awarded a three star classification.