Kingdom of Industry exhibition to open 19 March


A new exhibition chronicling Fife’s industrial history is set to open this weekend on 19 March at the St Andrews Museum in Kinburn House.

The exhibition, entitled Kingdom of Industry, looks at some of the industries that have been historically important to Fife, including coal mining, fishing, textiles and linoleum.

Fife was once an important industrial centre. Railways could not cope with the amount of coal leaving the region and Kirkcaldy was Britain’s leading manufacturer of linoleum. Fife, especially Dunfermline, was known for its production of world-class linen and silk. Most of the coastal villages supported a thriving fishing community.

Kingdom of Industry will focus on the people who were involved in these industries, working in the mines and factories and on boats. The exhibition gives a flavour of their lives both inside and outside of work and the array of activities, such as gala days and dances, that these communities participated in.

The exhibition is curated by postgraduate Museum and Gallery Studies students, who spent time scouring museum stores all over Fife for interesting objects and doing in-depth research with some surprising results.

They were entertained to find that the biggest threat to a thriving linoleum industry was the 1960s craze for stiletto heels and that a Dunfermline weaver once wove Queen Victoria a chemise embroidered with her face.

The curating group also toured Fife, visiting old pitheads, harbours and factories. They recreated some of the archive photographs, comparing the sites now to how they were in their heyday. Some of these photographs will be on display in the exhibition and others published online.

One of the Museum and Gallery Studies students working on the exhibition, Meg Garst, explained that “the opportunity to use so many museums and library collections throughout Fife to curate this exhibition broke us out of the St Andrews ‘bubble’ and let the group experience the area’s industrial history in a very unique way.”

The exhibition will use a range of objects and photographs to tell the stories of Fife’s industries. For example, one object on display is a dress made from the same bolt of silk used to make the wedding dress of the current queen. Others, such as a miner’s piece tin and water bottle, are evocative of everyday working life.

Kingdom of Industry will also portray the connections that Fife industry had to the wider world. Goods and products were exported worldwide and some companies had factories and offices in far-flung parts of the globe. Dunfermline linen was especially popular in the United States and Fife-made products were even used on the Titanic.

There will also be several events running alongside the exhibition. Talks include the role of Fife’s fisher lasses and a talk by a member of the National Mines Rescue Service. ‘Tea and a Tour’ gives you both a brew and a curator-led tour.

The exhibition will be open to the public until 15 May.

Katie Murray


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