Visitors soar at Kinneil Museum

museumexterior KINNEIL Museum in Bo’ness has recorded its highest visitor figures for more than a decade.

Figures from Falkirk Council show that the facility – at the centre of historic Kinneil Estate in the town – attracted more than 5095 people in 2009 . . . double its annual total in 2004.

This week, a senior Council chief said that open days at neighbouring Kinneil House and the new World Heritage Status of the nearby Antonine Wall had boosted visitor numbers.

Bo’ness Labour Councillor Adrian Mahoney, the convener of leisure, tourism and community at the Council, said: “It’s great to see more and more people paying a visit to Kinneil Museum. I hope this trend continues over the coming year.

“Kinneil is a great free facility to visit in the middle of a fantastic parkland. But there’s always more we can do – and we shouldn’t rest on any laurels.”

The museum is located in the 17th century stable block of neighbouring Kinneil House and acts as an interpretative centre for the impressive Kinneil Estate. Its core exhibition, “2,000 Years of History”, was recently updated. It tells the story of the park from Roman times to the present day. The facility also features hands-on exhibits for children, an audio visual show and a small retail area.

Antoninus Pius, St Serf, Mary, Queen of Scots, and James Watt are among the many historical characters associated with the estate.

A short walk from the museum takes visitors to the line of the Antonine Wall, awarded World Heritage Site status in July 2008; the remains of a Roman fortlet attached to the Wall; the ruins of a medieval church; and the site of a medieval village.

A cottage used by inventor James Watt is also located beside historic Kinneil House.

Said Councillor Mahoney: “The House is only open a few days a year – but the free open afternoons at the House are incredibly popular and draw more people into the museum too.

“For instance in 2008, five open days at the House attracted 1500 people alone. Last year, that number had grown to more than 1760.

“That’s an amazing amount of visitors in a few open afternoons – and many of the people go on to visit the museum and enjoy the surrounding estate too – as well as spending money in the wider local economy.”

He added: “There’s no doubt that having the Antonine Wall nearby, with its World Heritage Site status, is an added bonus.

“I would like to see more government money come forward to promote the wall and museums near it like Kinneil.

"We’ve made some improvements in recent years – but there’s lots more we can do. For instance we recently added a touch-screen facility, offering educational games for children and interactive displays. But I’m keen to see better tourism signage here and in other areas around the district and other improvements.

“With the decline of many heavy industries we need to look to areas like tourism to boost visitors to the area."

Figures show that in 1999 visitors to the museum – which is open in the afternoons from Monday to Saturday – totalled just 2821 people. Numbers fell to their lowest in 2004, when just over 2500 people paid a visit.

Then in 2006 came controversial proposals to close the facility. The move led to protests from local people and the formation of a community group, The Friends of Kinneil, which supports the museum. The Friends also started running open days at neighbouring Kinneil House.

World Heritage Status for the Antonine Wall – and international media attention – followed in 2008. By then, visitors to the museum had risen to 4567 for the year ending in December. By the end of December2009, the annual visitor totals had grown to 5095.

Said Councillor Mahoney: “We’re looking at further improvements to the museum and the parkland in the year ahead. But we will face challenges as the Council tries to deal with severe constraints on the money it has to spend.

"That said, the growing visitor figures are a credit to the staff who work in the museum who provide a warm welcome to visitors throughout the year. I’d like to thank them for all their hard work and dedication. Here’s to even more people visiting Kinneil Museum in the future and learning about the area’s fascinating history."

** The Friends of Kinneil is running a free guided walk around Kinneil Estate, including a visit inside Kinneil House, this Sunday, July 25. Any interested should meet outside Any interested should meet outside Kinneil Museum at 1.30 p.m. Full details at www.kinneil.org.uk/summerwalk

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