Fond farewell as Gavin closes the book on his career

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A museum curator from Linlithgow whose encyclopaedic knowledge of Fife has richly informed its heritage sector is closing the book on a distinguished career.

Gavin Grant, collections team leader with cultural charity OnFife, is stepping down after many years devoted to museums and galleries.

Warm tributes were paid at an emotional farewell last week where colleagues heard how a childhood pastime became a lifelong passion.

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Gavin’s career highlights include being part of major museum refurbishments at Kirkcaldy and St Andrews and the opening of OnFife’s Collections Centre in Glenrothes. The giant storage facility, launched in 2017, has made it possible for thousands of artefacts to be readily appreciated by visitors.

Gavin Grant at the Collections Centre, standing beside his favourite painting in the Fife Collection, Samuel Peploe’s Ben More from Iona.   (Pic: OnFife)Gavin Grant at the Collections Centre, standing beside his favourite painting in the Fife Collection, Samuel Peploe’s Ben More from Iona.   (Pic: OnFife)
Gavin Grant at the Collections Centre, standing beside his favourite painting in the Fife Collection, Samuel Peploe’s Ben More from Iona. (Pic: OnFife)

Encountering so many people associated with a collection of 120,000 objects has been another memorable aspect of his work.

The career path that brought Gavin to Fife began with a history degree at the University of Strathclyde, followed by a postgraduate qualification in museum theory and practice at the University of Leicester.

Gavin started with Kirkcaldy District Council’s museums services as an assistant curator in 1990, having previously worked with Summerlee Heritage Trust in Coatbridge. Before that, he was a volunteer at Lillie Art Gallery in Milngavie, where he went to school.

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“Coming to Kirkcaldy was something of a dream job,” recalls Gavin, “because it has such a wonderful, wide-ranging collection that is rich in art, as well as social and industrial history.

“Working with all of those different elements – and some great people – meant I quickly learned about the collection as well as the local area and its heritage.”

When Kirkcaldy Museum & Art Gallery became part of Fife Council museums service in 1996, following local government reorganisation, Gavin’s curatorial horizons widened considerably.

His absorption of all things Fife would stand him in good stead when, in 2002, he began a five-year stint at St Andrews Museum before returning to Kirkcaldy.

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Gavin’s own favourites in the collection are Samuel Peploe’s painting Ben More from Iona and a cork model created by employees of linoleum manufacturer Barry, Ostlere and Shepherd.

The model of a Portuguese cork plantation that supplied the Kirkcaldy firm’s factories took 14 months to make and was displayed in the company’s offices at Forth House, next to the Galleries.

Technology has transformed the heritage sector hugely since Gavin started but the objects themselves – and the stories they tell – remain at the heart of the visitor experience.

“There have been so many technological advances that have helped us to care for our objects and share the amazing stories we have to tell,” added Gavin.

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“All those changes have enabled us to open up our collections and get more people involved – I’ve enjoyed being a part of that process.”

Retirement will allow Gavin to spend more time hillwalking, birdwatching and visiting other museums.

Heather Stuart, OnFife chief executive, said: “It has been a privilege to have someone with Gavin’s expertise as part of cultural services in Fife for so long.”