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Issue 32 - Granite city of culture (Aberdeen)

Scotland Magazine Issue 32
April 2007


This article is 11 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Granite city of culture (Aberdeen)

Roddy Martine looks at the art galleries and museums to be found in Aberdeen

Avisit to Aberdeen, the ‘Granite City’ on Scotland’s north east coast is always an adventure, but when it comes to exploring their heritage or simply keeping pace with popular culture, Aberdonians and visitors to Aberdeen are genuinely spoiled for choice.

Under the same umbrella of Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museum, but in different locations, there are the options of Aberdeen Art Gallery, the Aberdeen Maritime Museum, Provost Skene’s House, and the Aberdeen Tolbooth. With a series of highly individual treasure chests, each lovingly cared for, Aberdeen has its very own unique role to play in the dispersal of knowledge.

The Aberdeen Art Gallery contains a varied collection of works of art, including outstanding examples of Modern Art, and work by the impressionists and Scottish colourists. A wide range of decorative art and Aberdeen silver is also on display. To give an idea of the range on show, major works from the Alexander Macdonald bequest include a head of Francis Bacon by Clive Barker, The Gleaner by the French artist Jules Breton, and At St Fillans by the Scottish painter Hugh Cameron.

The Gallery Coffee Shop is licensed and serves hot and cold snacks and light meals.

The Aberdeen Maritime Museum, incorporates Provost Ross’s House, which was built in 1593. The permanent exhibition here tells the story of Aberdeen’s long relationship with the North Sea. An award winning museum, its collection covers shipbuilding, fast sailing ships, fishing and port history, with displays on the impact of North Sea oil industry. Amajor asset is the Hall Russell Shipyard Archive, saved from the city’s last operational shipyard with its extensive photographic record.

Provost Skene’s House, dates from the 16th century and contains a series of period room settings which recall the graceful furnishings of past centuries. The displays include a suite of 17th century rooms, a Regency Parlour, and an Edwardian Nursery. A unique series of religious paintings are also on show, along with coins and information on local history. The Archaeological Allsorts exhibition contains Egyptian amulets and figurines, an antler hammer and a wig curler. A costume gallery features changing displays of fashion and fashion accessories. Light refreshments are served in the Cellar Café Bar.

The Aberdeen Tolbooth, is one of the oldest buildings in the city, and between 1616 and 1629 operated as the town Gaol.

Previously known as the Wardhouse, it was maintained for those awaiting either trial in the adjacent court, or punishment.

Now transformed into a museum, however, the Tolbooth naturally focuses on the history of crime and punishment within the city. Exhibits range from medieval instruments of punishment to the original 17th century Mercat Cross column, a landmark which stood in the Castlegate until it was replaced in the mid-1990s. Here visitors can see exciting re-constructions, models, displays and interactive exhibits present the history and development of local government.

Aberdeen Art Gallery Schoolhill, Aberdeen AB10 1FQ Admission to the gallery is free. Open Monday-Saturday 1000-1700; Sunday 1400-1700
For further information Tel: +44 (0) 1224 523 700 Fax: +44 (0)1224 632 133 Email:;

Aberdeen Maritime Museum Shiprow, Aberdeen AB11 5BY Admission is free. Open Monday to Saturday 1000-1700, Sunday 1200-1500.

For further information Tel: +44 (0)1224 337 700 Fax: +44 (0)1224 213 066 Email:;

Provost Skene’s House Guestrow, Aberdeen, AB10 1AS Tel: +44 (0)1224 523 700, fax: +44 (0)1224 632 133.
Admission is free. Open Monday-Saturday, 1000-1700; Sunday 1300-1600.

For further information Tel: +44 (0)1224 641 086 Email: Website:

Aberdeen Tolbooth Castle Street, Aberdeen AB10 1EL Open seasonally or by appointment
For further information Tel: +44 (0)1224 621 167 Fax: +44 (0)1224 523 666 Email:;