SHE described the project to bring a new museum to Dunfermline as an “absolute privilege” but recalled the day when it looked doomed.
Lesley Botten, the display design and activities curator at the stunning new £12.4 million facility, said it almost never happened after a bid for lottery funding was knocked back.
The Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries officially opens today (Thursday) and she told the Press: “It’s been like a rollercoaster full of incredible highs and lows.
“Were we going to get the funding? There was obviously a doubt and when we did, it was fantastic.
“It has been an absolute privilege to work with so many volunteers and professionals on a project of this scale for Dunfermline.
“It’s definitely a highlight in my career.”
There were dark days when, in April 2009, a bid for £4.95m from the Heritage Lottery Fund was rejected, and Fife Council withdrew the next application for £2.6m after objections from Historic Scotland.
The project seemed in danger of being scrapped but their numbers finally came up in February 2013 with another bid and the announcement of £2.8m.
The council had already pledged £8.6m and a further £1m from the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust enabled the ambitious scheme to go ahead.
Lesley remembered: “Fife Council’s funding was conditional so it was always clear that if we didn’t get the lottery funding then it wouldn’t proceed.
“That’s why we were all so excited when we re-submitted and got the go-ahead.
“And all credit to Fife Council, who stuck by their commitment even through a change of administration.”
Building work began in December 2014 and the new facility, adjoining the existing library, boasts a museum over two floors, three exhibition galleries, a cafe, a new children’s library and a local history, study and archives space.
Lesley said: “It adds another attraction to the town, along with Dunfermline Palace and Abbey, the heritage quarter, our lovely park and town centre, Andrew Carnegie’s birthplace and the world’s first Carnegie library, it means tourists can no longer say there’s nothing to do in Dunfermline.
“They’ll be able to spend the whole day here.
“And for our own people, I hope it will increase local people’s civic pride.”
She continued: “We often take for granted what’s on our own doorstep but this is about people, it’s not a boring, dusty museum at all.
“It’s about Dunfermline and shows Dunfermline in a good light.
“It’s also going to help the library and give it a new lease of life.
“So much of what we’re presenting will connect with visitors, their stories are important to us and need to be told.
“We’re not trying to teach people about history but hope they’ll connect it to what they’re seeing when they leave our building and go and explore the heritage quarter, look round the Abbey and Palace, visit Robert the Bruce’s grave and wander around the town.”
Lesley was thrilled with the number of volunteers – 460 people stepped forward to help – and their efforts are detailed in the ‘We Made It’ exhibition in the museum.
She said: “I was sure the people of Dunfermline would rise to the challenge and they did, it went even better than I anticipated.
“They now feel it’s their museum and that’s what we wanted. It’s not my museum or the council’s, it’s for the people of Dunfermline and that makes me proud.
“Now what I’m really looking forward to is letting people in! We’ve had previews with the volunteers and a visit from 150 schoolkids and having people in makes such a difference, it brings everything to life.”
Lesley concluded: “Thursday is going to be very emotional for me and Lesley McNaughton (research and activities assistant) as we’ve been working full-time on this for the past four years.
“In some ways it’s the end but we’ve always been aiming for the day when we open these doors and I can’t wait to see how people react.
“I don’t mind if there’s some criticism, we’re not saying we’ve got everything right, but I hope people will see that it’s a fantastic addition to the town.”
There'll be more on the museum's opening throughout the day online.