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History of Perth Museum & Art Gallery

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The Marshall Monument opened in 1824 as a library and museum for the Literary and Antiquarian Society of Perth.

Designed by David Morison (1795-1855) in the Palladian style, it was based on the Pantheon in Rome, with Ionic columns to express the building's function for learning.

It is one of the oldest purpose-built museum buildings in the United Kingdom, and honours the memory of Thomas Hay Marshall (1780 -1808).  TH Marshall was a former provost whose passion for Georgian architecture transformed Perth from a medieval burgh to a modern city.  The Latin inscription CIVES GRATI translates as 'grateful citizens'.

The building was gifted to the city by the Society in 1915, on the condition that it remained in use 'as a public museum or library in all time coming and for no other purpose whatever.'

In 1926, a large bequest of funds and paintings from wealthy Perthshire resident Robert Brough and a further legacy from R Hay Robertson enabled the council to consider extending the building.  The new building would house the original collection, an art gallery for the city as well as the Natural History collections of Perthshire Society of Natural Science, which were moved from the museum in Tay Street.

An architectural design competition was launched in 1930, judged by Scottish Architect Sir James John Burnett.  The winning Neo-classical design by Perth firm, Smart Stewart Mitchell, was completed in 1935 and Perth's new 'Temple of Culture' was formally opened by the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth).


Fascinating facts

  • The original design shows the entrance as part of the Marshall Monument. It did not go ahead as the space between the centre two columns would have had to be widened.
  • A time capsule was buried under the foundation stone when it was first laid in 1932 - containing photographs of the site, plans and information for the new museum, a list of people involved as well as newspapers and coins of the day.
  • The Duke wanted to wear a kilt for the Royal Opening.  This meant the outdoor stage had to have screening at the front for when he sat down!
  • During the Second World War, Air Raid Precautions wardens used the museum roof as a vantage point for civil defence.  The original domed roof was replaced in 1953 and restored in 2006.

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