Two centuries of learning are on display at the newly refurbished Museum and Archive at Heriot-Watt University, opened by the Principal, Professor Richard Williams.
The museum features the story of Heriot-Watt ‘s development from its origins in 1821 as the School of Arts of Edinburgh, the world’s first Mechanics’ Institute designed to give ordinary people access to specialist education in science and technology, through to today’s cutting-edge, global higher education institution.
The Museum makeover has been supported by £45,000 from the Museums Galleries Scotland Capital Grant and Small Grant funds to upgrade the museum entrance and provide a touch screen and audio visual resources allowing visitors to explore the University’s history and collections in more detail.
Professor Williams said, “We hope that the Museum and Archive will be a hub for research about Heriot-Watt's heritage and an inspiration to our local and academic communities, who have contributed to our remarkable story for nearly two hundred years.
“Our special thanks go to Museum Galleries Scotland, our campus services team and our colleagues in Heritage and Information Governance who have worked together to produce these splendid museum displays.”
Ann Jones, Head of Heritage and Information Governance at Heriot-Watt, said, “We are delighted that this generous funding has allowed us to improve and upgrade both physical access to the University’s museum and visual and audio access to the University’s archive.
“Our new screen in particular will allow visitors to access historical video clips, some dating right back to the 1930’s, showing student life at what was then Heriot-Watt College, as well as a unique archive recording the University’s move out from our old home in the centre of Edinburgh to a new, purpose-built campus in a beautiful parkland setting .
“Indeed our wider collection covers the history of the Edinburgh campus right back as far as the turbulent times of Robert the Bruce, albeit not, this time, on video!”
The first temporary exhibition at the Museum celebrates the iconic influence of James Watt, marking the the day in 1765 when Watt was inspired to transform the efficiency of the steam engine by inventing the separate condenser. Watt’s steam innovations are shown in a model engine built by one of the University’s earliest students, James Nasmyth, the inventor of the steam hammer. The exhibition also explores the origins and current work of the Watt Club, one of the oldest UK alumni associations. Watt’s favorite portrait by Sir William Beechey is also on display.