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2013 Archive: National Museum of Costume to close

National Museums Scotland has today announced that the National Museum of Costume at Shambellie House, near New Abbey, Dumfries is to close.

National Museums Scotland has today announced that the National Museum of Costume at Shambellie House, near New Abbey, Dumfries is to close.

As a consequence of the economic recession, National MuseumsScotland, like many organisations in the public sector across the UK, has seen a reduction in available public funding. While it has been working hard to supplement its funding through reducing staff numbers, efficiency savings, growing earned income, and attracting donations and sponsorship, the financial climate remains very difficult.

The smallest of the five national museums, the National Museum of Costume is open seasonally, for seven months of the year, and attracts 0.6% of total visits to the group of National Museums. The site has low visitation, with 10,000 annual visits to the museum and 5,000 to the shop, café and grounds. The net operational cost to run the site is £220,000 per year. The configuration of the domestic house in which the museum is situated offers limited space for displays and public events.

The Board of Trustees has fully considered a range of comments received directly from the public and through meetings with stakeholders in the region since the proposal was first announced. After careful deliberation it has concluded that it can no longer continue to operate the site, and it will not reopen for 2013.

The Shambellie House site is owned by the Scottish Government. National Museums Scotland has been in discussion with the Government and Dumfries and Galloway Council to consider appropriate future uses of the site for the benefit of the region.

Speaking of the closure, Bruce Minto, Chairman of the Trustees of National Museums Scotland, said,

“It is with great regret that we have taken the decision to close the National Museum of Costume. While this has been an extremely difficult decision for the Board of Trustees, we are clear that in the current challenging financial climate it is a necessary part of a range of cost savings which ensures the long-term future of our national collections.”

Dr Gordon Rintoul, Director of National Museums Scotland said,

“The difficult decision to close the National Museum of Costume has been taken after extensive consideration of all other options across National Museums. The low number of visitors to the site along with the high operational costs is simply not sustainable. In addition, the domestic layout of Shambellie House places limitations on it being used effectively as a national museum.

“We remain committed to delivering services to Dumfries and Galloway in partnership with the local authority and other stakeholders through the provision of loans, exhibitions and outreach programmes. We believe this could provide greater access to our national collections across the whole region and reach a higher audience of both locals and tourists alike.”

The National Museum of Costume is based at Shambellie House, near New Abbey, Dumfries. The house was built in 1856 for the Stewart family, who gifted a costume collection to National Museums Scotland. The house was donated to the Secretary of State for the Environment in 1977 and ownership now lies with Scottish Ministers. National Museums Scotland has maintained the house since 1978, opening it as a museum in 1982.

The costume collection is part of the national textile and dress collections which is stored at the National Museums Collection Centre, Edinburgh. It is planned to display a selection from this collection within new Art and Design galleries which are scheduled to open in 2016 at the National Museum. Only a very small proportion of the collection has ever been displayed at Shambellie House.

National Museums Scotland is active in all of Scotland’s 32 local authority areas and is committed to continuing to deliver a service to Dumfries and Galloway.

The National Museum of Costume is currently closed for the winter and will not re-open for the Spring season.

Notes to Editors

  • National Museums Scotland looks after museum collections of national and international importance and provides loans, partnerships, research and training in Scotland and internationally. Our other museums are the National Museum of Scotland, the National Museum of Flight, the National Museum of Rural Life and the National War Museum. The National Museums Collection Centre in Edinburgh houses conservation and research facilities as well as collections not currently on display.

4 February 2013

For more information or images, please contact or Susan Gray or Bruce Blacklaw, Press Office, Tel 0131 247 4088 or email

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