16 January 2024

Initial designs unveiled and public engagement launched for new multi-million pound regional museum

Initial designs for a new multi-million Aberdeenshire regional museum and a new Peterhead Library have been unveiled.

It forms part of the ambitious “Cultural Tides: North Sea Connections in Aberdeenshire” bid being supported with £20million from the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund which focuses on the development of a cultural project in Peterhead centred around the vacant Arbuthnot House and the renovation and extension of Macduff Marine Aquarium.

The Peterhead project will see the listed Arbuthnot House at the lower end of Broad Street sensitively restored and extended to house both the town’s library and a new regional museum showcasing Aberdeenshire’s extensive heritage collections and artwork.

The public is now being encouraged to get engaged with the new development with a survey seeking ideas on library, museum, garden, catering and retail offers.

The new library space will continue to offer all existing services, with communities invited to comment on events and activities that could be further developed on site.

There will be new permanent museum galleries and the Museums team is keen to hear what objects Aberdeenshire residents would like to see displayed in these and hear what stories they would like to be told.

And for the new touring exhibition gallery, we want to hear what sort of exhibitions and events you would like to see being held there?

A new outdoor space will be created in the walled garden and the project team are looking for comments on how communities might use this space. Similarly for the catering and retail spaces that will be included within the new building.

The survey will be online until end February at: https://engage.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/hub-page/peterhead

You can ask for a paper copy at any Live Life Aberdeenshire library or the Peterhead Service Point.

The council will also be hosting an in-person public engagement session at Peterhead Library on Monday, February 5 from 4-7pm where officers will be on hand to provide further details of the exciting proposals.

The new Peterhead attraction will be the first regional museum for the area and will provide many opportunities for local communities to learn about the heritage of their area as well as offering visitors a state-of-the-art environment in which to absorb the full breadth and richness of the region’s stories and past.

Multi-purpose and workshop spaces will support participation and learning, while a new dedicated exhibition facility will accommodate temporary and touring national exhibitions. 

Within the plans prepared by Collective Architecture Limited, the new library will be situated on the ground floor of the new extension with access to a sunken seating area in the garden for readings and events. There will be a new café with an outside terrace, and a small retail area linked to the museum.

Purpose-built galleries with carefully controlled light levels and security will allow hundreds more objects to be displayed, supported by creative interpretation including music, interactives, Doric and film. The council’s Museums team will be able to change the displays on a regular basis and will work with community groups to co-curate displays and exhibitions.

A dedicated temporary exhibitions gallery will accommodate both touring exhibitions from far and wide and will also act as a functions space for individual and corporate events.

The museum galleries will start on the ground floor of the refurbished Arbuthnot House, moving into the upper floors of the new extension. This will allow significantly more material from the council collections to be put on display.

There will also be a specific gallery to focus on the coastal town of Peterhead, with other spaces showcasing objects and material from across Aberdeenshire.

The ground floor café will offer somewhere for a quick coffee or a leisurely lunch with family and friends, with seating spilling out onto a garden terrace. In contrast, the top floor restaurant will be more of a destination – a place to dine on the best regional produce while taking in the incredible views towards the harbour.

The existing Arbuthnot Museum and Library building on the town’s St Peter Street will be restored and refurbished.

While the existing museum currently remains closed to allow the objects to be conserved and prepared for the new museum, the library will remain open in the current building prior to it moving to a temporary location before finally transferring to the new building.

Due to the tight timescales and the relative large scale and complex nature of the project, Aberdeenshire Council appointed Hub North Scotland as the delivery partner.

They have extensive experience in delivering large and complex projects for local authorities throughout the north of Scotland and played a key role in the delivery of the state-of-the-art award-winning Inverurie Community Campus in 2020.

Ewen Fowlie, Operations Director for Hub North Scotland, said: “We are delighted to be working again with Aberdeenshire Council on a project which will transform and revitalise key landmarks in Peterhead thanks to the crucial support of the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund.”

It’s an exciting time for Peterhead, with multi-million pound infrastructure investment being made through a wide range of projects, the likes of which the north-east has never seen before including a new state-of-the-art community campus and the dynamic new museum showcasing the town’s rich heritage.

Aberdeenshire Council Leader Cllr Gillian Owen said: “I am delighted to see this project progressing and I am impressed by the initial designs for the Aberdeenshire regional museum and the new Peterhead Library. This will be a museum for Aberdeenshire, showcasing the inspiring individuals, sensational stories and amazing artefacts that make the north-east unique. Through the Levelling Up funding we will be able to enhance, develop and future-proof our tourist and cultural offerings in the north of the region which will have tremendous benefits for the wider economy of Aberdeenshire.”

Depute Leader Cllr Anne Stirling added: “This innovative and very ambitious project in the very heart of Peterhead town centre will support the north-east economy through the enhancement of the tourism offering across Aberdeenshire and provide opportunities for businesses which are to be greatly welcomed. I would encourage communities across Aberdeenshire to get involved in our engagement programme and let us know what’s important for you in terms of our rich cultural and heritage so we can make this new regional museum a real jewel in the north-east crown.”