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Uncovering the treasures of North Ayrshire's past

Posted on 20 Jan 2022

North Ayrshire Council’s Heritage and Culture team took to social media last week to provide a sneak peek of some of the area’s most important and previously un-seen historical objects.

Started five years ago by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, #HeritageTreasures day took place on 11 January and Council officers used it as an opportunity to highlight older artefacts including pieces from the archaeology collection, not on permanent display.

Based at North Ayrshire Heritage Centre in Saltcoats, Cultural and Heritage Officer Jill McColl, commented: “Heritage organisations from all around the world joined in with #HeritageTreasures day and we were delighted to take part.

“During the pandemic, our Facebook and Twitter pages have provided the perfect outlet to showcase our diverse work and artefacts so that people can see a snapshot of the rich heritage that we, as a sector, keep safe for our communities to enjoy and learn from.

“We have around 9,000 objects in the North Ayrshire collection, ranging from works of art, industrial history and local history and alongside my team of dedicated colleagues, we all feel a deep sense of gratitude and privilege to be able to care for them in order for future generations to appreciate and tell the stories of North Ayrshire’s past.”

North Ayrshire Council’s Heritage team has three venues: the Heritage Centre in Saltcoats, The Townhouse in Irvine and The Museum of the Cumbraes, located within The Garrison House in Millport, on the Isle of Cumbrae.

The team care for the Council’s collection of artefacts and artworks relating to North Ayrshire’s heritage and ensure that they are preserved and looked after for people, both now and in the future, to enjoy and learn from. 

The Council has a number of artefacts on permanent display in the Heritage Centre, including the Ardrossan sarcophagus which was found in the ruins of Ardrossan Parish Church on Castle Hill in 1911.

They also have an everchanging exhibition programme currently being worked on for 2022, including providing educational exhibitions for North Ayrshire schools and the Heritage team also work alongside local community organisations and independent museums to share the stories and legacy of the people of North Ayrshire.

Jill adds: “Some of these interesting objects we have recently shared online have come to us via the Treasure Trove Unit at the National Museums of Scotland, sometimes as a result of archaeological digs or things that people have found by chance or while out metal detecting.

“All archaeological finds must be declared to Treasure Trove who will assess their historical importance. 

“Often they are then offered to the local museum of the area where the object had been found. Many people do not realise that it is a criminal offence not to make discoveries known to Treasure Trove.

“If items are going to enhance our collections, we can apply for these found objects and, if we’re successful, add them to our collection to help tell the story of North Ayrshire.

“Sometimes there’s a small fee for the objects, and the original finder can request that their name is included on exhibition text if their object is displayed in the museum.”

The Heritage team also have a research department in Irvine Townhouse whereby members of the public can carry out local or family history research and have a rich resource of local publications, old images, access to maps, family history records and old copies of local newspapers if you are looking for help to discover your own history.

More info about the team can be found on the website here: Culture and heritage (north-ayrshire.gov.uk)

Councillor Louise McPhater, Cabinet Member for Participatory Democracy commented: “The Heritage team have done a fantastic job during the course of the pandemic to engage with the public via our social media channels.

“By creating engaging online content and using digital heritage opportunities like #HeritageTreasures day, the team have ensured that our social media followers and local residents have remained connected throughout Covid-19, providing a much-needed distraction as they bring the history and stories of North Ayrshire’s past to life.

“So, if you have an interest in the diverse people and places of North Ayrshire, or perhaps you’ve discovered a hidden treasure yourself that you want to share on their timeline, why not give our Heritage team a follow?”

Follow on Facebook @NacHeritage: https://www.facebook.com/NacHeritage and Twitter @NACHeritage: https://twitter.com/NACHeritage