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Uncovering the treasures of North Ayrshire’s past

The Heritage and Culture Team took to social media recently 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.

Discover your own family history at Irvine Townhouse

“We have around 9,000 objects in the North Ayrshire collection, ranging from works of art, industrial history and local history.

“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.”

The Heritage Team has three venues: the Heritage Centre in Saltcoats, The Townhouse in Irvine and The Museum of the Cumbraes, located within Garrison House in Millport, on the Isle of Cumbrae.

The team cares 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 at Saltcoats Heritage Centre including the Ardrossan sarcophagus which was found in the ruins of Ardrossan Parish Church on Castle Hill in 1911.

Jill adds: “Some of the 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 however 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.”

Did you know?

Our Heritage Team has a dedicated research department in Irvine Townhouse. Here, members of the public can carry out local or family history research. Irvine Townhouse has 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 Heritage Team and the services the Council provide can be found on the website here: Culture and heritage (

Look out for the upcoming Heritage exhibitions!

The Heritage Team are also responsible for providing educational exhibitions throughout the year for North Ayrshire schools and the team also work alongside local community organisations and independent museums to share the stories and legacy of the people of North Ayrshire.

Currently being worked on for 2022, the diverse exhibition programme – open to the public – includes ‘Following the Lights: the story of Scottish Lighthouses’, due to open in April 2022.

The Following The Lights Exhibition is a unique historical journey around the lighthouses and light vessels of the UK.

Highlighting the rich maritime heritage of a bygone age by showcasing a range of artefacts including family related items of Robert Louis Stevenson and the famous Stevenson lighthouse engineers, find out more info on the Visit Scotland website here.

And the popular Titanic exhibition is set to return in December 2022. The Titanic Honour and Glory exhibition tells the story of the Titanic, Olympic & Britannic and includes artefacts from all three ships and also some original movie props from the 1997 film. Look out on social media for updates later this year…

There is also a few more weeks left to visit the Ardrossan Heritage Centre exhibition, ‘Message Received: Ardrossan’s Place in Radio History”, which tells the story of how a young man, Paul Godley, in the early hours of Sunday 12 December 1921, received the first ever transatlantic short wave radio transmission in a bell tent on the North Shore of Ardrossan.

The exhibition tells how this influenced the world of radio communications and highlights the impact radio transmissions have on our everyday life.

So, if you have an interest in the diverse people and places of North Ayrshire,  would like to find out about the latest Heritage and Culture Team exhibitions or perhaps you’ve discovered a hidden treasure yourself that you want to share on their timeline, why not give the team a follow?

Follow the Heritage Team on social media:

Facebook @NacHeritage:

Twitter @NACHeritage:

A lighthouse belonging to Pete Gellaltly,
Scottish lighthouse enthusiast

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