Forth bridges exhibition shut over building fears

Marie Calder, secretary to the Queensferry History Group, outside the museum. Picture: Scott Taylor
Marie Calder, secretary to the Queensferry History Group, outside the museum. Picture: Scott Taylor
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CONCERNS have been raised about the future of a history museum with the only dedicated display on the creation of the Forth bridges, after cracks forced it to close over fears the ceiling could collapse.

Historians are “absolutely devastated” that Queensferry Museum has been cordoned off since April 17, when council officials stepped in on safety grounds after cracks appeared in the ceiling of one of the main exhibition rooms.

Structural engineers have conducted a survey of the building, with further checks on the roof due this week to ensure that the building is watertight. While the survey results state that the building itself is structurally sound, no start date has been set for work to begin, leaving residents fearful that a large repair bill could force the closure of the Queensferry institution.

The council is taking all possible precautions following the tragedy at Liberton High School, where a wall collapsed and killed 12-year-old pupil Keane Wallis-Bennett.

But city officials are in a race against time to restore and reopen the museum, with the summer tourist season approaching, the Forth Bridge shortlisted for World Heritage status, and a growing number of visitors coming to the town to look at the new Queensferry Crossing being built in the Forth.

“The council Museums and Galleries Service are taking it seriously enough to get proper surveys done, to see if there’s any likelihood of the ceiling collapsing,” said local councillor Lindsay Paterson. “It’s being taken seriously from a safety perspective, but everybody is aware that the museum needs to open as soon as possible, before the summer starts.”

“This is absolutely devastating for us,” said Jenny Meldrum, 57, a local shop owner and member of the Queensferry History Group. “There’s a huge worry here that it will be closed. That’s our worst fear.”

The museum houses displays dedicated to the Forth bridges, and features in the itinerary for the Forth Bridges Festival in September.

Terry Airlie, secretary of Queensferry & District Community Council, said: “The timing is unfortunate because more and more people are coming to look at the new bridge being built, and they’re finding the museum closed.”

Mrs Meldrum said that the museum also would have been a focal point of commemorations for the centenary of the start of the First World War. The town’s ceremony hosts the largest collection of Commonwealth war graves in mainland Scotland, and saw the surrender of the German Grand Fleet in 1918.

A council spokeswoman said: “Queensferry Museum is a favourite with locals and visitors and the council is looking forward to reopening the building when repairs are complete.

“The council closed the museum after problems with the ceiling was identified. The safety of visitors and staff remains paramount it will remain closed until repair works have been completed.”