Visitors to the new £12.4 million Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries are in for a treat.
Volunteers – and the Press – enjoyed an early preview of a stunning addition to the town and what's sure to prove a major attraction.
The library, museum and galleries lifts the spirits with bright, airy rooms, high ceilings and huge windows with fine views of the Abbey, Abbot House and the old town.
Dunfermline’s stories are told with screens and images, there’s music and headphones to listen to 100 real-life narratives from everyday folk and war heroes to local celebs like Barbara Dickson, and walls contain snippets of lyrics, quotations and sayings.
The strains of a Big Country track catch your ear, then Queen Margaret appears from a screen to tell you how happy she is they've named a bridge after her!
Enter from Abbot Street and you’re met by colourful images synonymous with the town, a Nazareth guitar, a painting of the gala day parade, a signed Pars top, reels from an old factory, a restored Vespa scooter and a Dunfermline Press billboard.
If you take it by numbers, it took five years to secure the £2.8 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, six weeks to excavate 480 metric tonnes of soil for Dig Dunfermline and 22 months from the first spade in the ground to the completion of the construction works.
Building work began in December 2014 and there were 1906 tonnes of concrete used, it cost £85,000 to hire the giant crane and 1106 workers from 35 different companies were involved in the project.
Fife Council contributed £8.6m and the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust pledged £1m. The new building, integrated with the world's first Carnegie library, houses a museum over two floors, three exhibition galleries, a cafe, a new children's library and a local history, study and archives space.
A total of 460 volunteers helped on the project – their names are included on the wall of the first gallery – with more than 16,500 hours ‘donated’ to the cultural cause.
Their efforts are detailed in the ‘We Made It’ exhibition and the work they took on, from restoring cars and weaving looms to literally digging up Dunfermline’s past and maintaining Murison’s Robert Burns collection, is considerable.
The second gallery houses art in trust with stunning paintings by Lowry, Peploe, Cadell, McTaggart and Hornel, works from the Scottish Colourists and Glasgow Boys accompanying a picture window looking to the Abbey and graveyard.
Cross over into the museum and the enormous Meldrum Loom, from 1835, is the first thing you see.
You can listen to weaving songs such as ‘The Shuttle Rins’ or ‘The Wark o’ the Weavers’ while watching images of the loom in action.
Opposite is the wall of famous faces, from Robert the Bruce, Charles I and Ebenezer Henderson to Bruce Watson, Jim Leishman and Moira Shearer.
While history leaves some people cold, believing museums are full of dusty old artefacts with no relevance to the modern day, I couldn’t disagree more.
Dunfermline's story continues, with the museum reminding us where we've come from and how our lives have been shaped by the streets we walked, houses we lived in, the places we worked and played.
I wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for the famous damask linen and silk factories in the town.
With no work in his homeland, my Swiss grandfather, Rudi Lussi, came here in the 1930s and was employed in the Castleblair Works before meeting a local girl and settling down to raise a family.
Dunfermline’s industrial might, including the coal mines and silk mill where the Queen’s wedding dress was made, has waned but it’s set to be a well-visited part of the museum.
A penny farthing, bus and bridge signs and a model of the 1897 Tod car greet you in the transport display and everything from a Spectrum 48k computer, the game Operation, a 007 car and a record player through to a space hopper, Pitreavie AAC vest and Stuart Adamson’s Fender Stratocaster feature in ‘Playtime’.
Old-style seats face the Cinema screen showing a Top of the Pops performance from Stuart’s band and in another case there’s the footwear of Dunfermline’s giant, Alexander Dick Miller, who took a size 29.
Upstairs are exhibitions on both world wars, the stories of those who fought and died brought to life through recordings and displays containing medals, flags, a gas mask and uniforms.
More modern conflicts from Aden through to Afghanistan are included and there's a moving story of the aftermath of war and all the pressures and trauma some suffer when they return home.
Also upstairs is a display on Rosyth, from its formation as a garden city to the rise of the dockyard, with images of the naval base, its streets, shops, cinema and hotel, churches, parks and institute.
Dunfermline’s regal section gives kids the chance to dress up as actors appear on screen to tell the tales of monarchs such as King David I.
Then there’s Dunfermline Timeline, spanning 1,000 years from Malcolm’s marriage to Margaret in 1070 to the Black Death hitting the city in 1349 and the Great Fire of Dunfermline in 1624.
There are stories everywhere. You can leaf through them too.
The new reading room is beautiful and while the museum and galleries are certainly kid-friendly, the children’s library has a huge window and sliding door out to a garden with apple trees – ideal for imaginative play and telling tales.
In the old library, funky new seats and sofas have been added, a cosy-looking fireplace has been opened up and there’s also a shop and cafe.
Outdoors there’s the maze, plenty of seating areas, a garden and birdsong. Hopefully when Abbot House re-opens, there's a link between the two venues, it can complement and marry what the museum and galleries offer.
Roll on Thursday for the official opening.