What if I told you that we could take a virtual journey through time- from the prehistoric era with stops along the way taking us well into the 20th century? Well, it just so happens that we can do this and more by making a visit to the Dumfries Museum in Dumfries, Scotland! This local museum sure knows how to check all the right boxes for lovers of history, culture, anthropology, and more. It provides a wealth of fascinating artefacts from across time that captures the imagination and, for us, helped to satisfy our constant desire to ‘explore and discover’.
In fact, there is so much to see and do at the Dumfries Museum that we can only provide some of the highlights with this post. To get the best experience, we highly recommend that you add the Museum onto your travel itinerary. In the meantime, join us we visit the Dumfries Museum and make a brief journey through time….
What is particularly impressive at the Dumfries Museum is the time span their collection covers. Looking at some of their oldest objects, they have everything from dinosaur bones to wood from a log boat dating to the Bronze Age over 4,000 years ago.
As a former anthropology student, I have documented my never-ending fascination with bones and physical anthropology on this blog (see our Anatomical Museum post for a prime example), and I was quite pleased to see that the Dumfries Museum has an historically significant skeleton in their collection. According to the Museum, it is from a Cist burial and the man “died about 3,800 years ago. He is buried in a way typical of the Beaker people, in a crouched position in a short-lined pit or cist…A cloak fastening ring made from a human backbone was found beside him”.
Another bone-related and noteworthy mention is the cast of Robert the Bruce’s skull that is displayed alongside bones believed to be part of his skeleton.
Shifting gears, an important historical highlight of note is that the town of Dumfries became a royal Burgh in the 12th century. This gave residents the right to trade and run their own affairs. The Museum points out that, “originally, there were at least eleven trades, or craftsmen’s guilds, which operated in the town”. As such, there are exquisite artefacts on display that demonstrate the craftsmanship and quality of goods from the Dumfries region.
The Dumfries Museum is full of surprises and we were pleased to come across the next display of artefacts. Having visited the John Paul Jones Cottage (a wee museum that takes the prize for off the beaten path), it was great to see personal items relating to his life. It is truly amazing that Jones was born into such humble Scottish beginnings only to become a key player in the fight for American independence.
Moving forward in time to the mid-20th century, the next exhibition was a particularly touching one for me as I have Norwegian heritage (Sami isn’t the only Scandinavian in the family 😉). The Museum provides a wonderful display highlighting the ‘Norwegian Connection’ in Dumfries during World War II. When Germany invaded Norway in 1940, King Haakon VII, his government, and thousands of Norwegians fled to Britain.
One transit camp was set up in Troqueer Mill, Dumfries. According to the Museum, “when the Norwegian government declared war on Germany, the Norwegians in Dumfries enlisted as soldiers. At one time there were a thousand men and over a hundred women training in the town. The Norwegian visitors eventually became part of the community. An empty building in the High Street of Dumfries was converted, and part of it was used for workshops and stores, and the rest as Norway House, a social club and base for the newly formed Scottish Norwegian Society”.
Having a Norwegian grandfather who served in WWII, it was especially poignant for me to see the personal artefacts on display including identity cards and medals. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for the brave men and women who had to flee their homeland for safety. That is why museums like Dumfries Museum are so important. They help us to remember the stories of people and their lived experiences. It was wonderful to see how the Dumfries people opened their community to refugees in need- these are lessons from which we must learn and not forget.
One of the key attractions at the Dumfries Museum is their camera obscura (pictured at the beginning of this post). Now part of the Museum complex, the tower where it is housed was originally a windmill and houses noteworthy artefacts on each floor. For example, the basement houses their ‘Sacred Stones’ collection- an archaeological treasure trove not to be missed. There are stones from Celtic, Roman, and early Christian eras.
As I mentioned previously, there is so much more to see and do at the Dumfries Museum. Therefore, when you visit the Dumfries and Galloway region, we encourage you to plan a visit to the Museum so that you can fully appreciate all they have to offer. Best of all, admission is free (donations are welcome) and the staff are incredibly helpful. The Dumfries Museum is run by the Dumfries and Galloway Council, so head over to their website for the most up-to-date information when planning your future visit.
The Dumfries region is rich in opportunities for those looking to explore and discover. If you would like more of a unique experience, Caerlaverock Castle is one of only a few triangular castles in Scotland. Or visit the famous Gretna Green Blacksmith Shop to hear tales of drama and romance from years past. Not to be forgotten is the Robert Burns Centre where you can learn more about Scotland’s National Bard.
We will visit the Dumfries and Galloway region again in the future and will share our adventures. Our Wee Walking Tours canine crew- Sawyer and Finn- often join us, so be sure to subscribe to our blog so you get our articles as soon as they’re published or follow us on our various social media platforms- Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.
Until next time- Explore & Discover!