Hidden in an old police cell at Tynecastle were many of the priceless artefacts now proudly displayed in the Hearts museum.
Ann Budge, the club owner, felt they weren’t treated with due respect, hence her wish to open an official gallery to show them off.
Budge recalls silver items so dirty they looked black, others stored in a vault which used to occupy prisoners, and some simply left to rot by a previous Hearts regime which simply didn’t care. The neglect hurt her. Furthermore, she knew it would hurt the club’s supporters.
After around 18 months of hard graft, she has officially opened the first ever Hearts museum. It is free to enter and open four days a week. Situated beneath Tynecastle’s Gorgie Road Stand, it has been extensively researched by curator Caroline Mathers and the club’s historians, David Speed and Bill Smith.
Budge recalls the day, not long after she gained control of Hearts in June 2014, when she first encountered Speed and Smith. They were digging through a collection of old trophies, shirts and other memorabilia inside the disused police cell.
“I used to enter the stadium via the back door and a few days after I took over I met the club historians, Bill and David, who were in an old room,” explained Budge. “I didn’t know who they were but, at that stage, I was finding out something different every day.
“That was another thing I stumbled across, slotted away. The area they were in used to be a police station and these were the cells they used. It was packed to the gunnels with memorabilia. The fact it was all hidden away was probably a reflection on what had gone on before.
“The first time I went into the Directors’ Suite, I found some glass cabinets and it was filthy. I looked at a few things and wondered when the silverware had last been polished. The historians unlocked the cases and there was one item they didn’t realise was silver because it was so black.
“There were things around but they weren’t treated with any respect. When I started engaging with the fans they were always telling me about how many generations of Hearts fans were in their family. They were always talking about the past.
“Gradually, it got through to me just how important it is. As soon as we announced we were going to have a museum, it was like opening the floodgates because people were walking into the reception or writing to us to donate items.”
Even so, Budge and her colleagues didn’t entirely realise just how big a project they were embarking upon. Mathers was employed as the club’s official curator to oversee the museum work and bring it to fruition.
Video footage, an appreciation of McCrae’s Battalion and tributes to legendary figures like John Robertson are some of the standout features. However, there are other items which, although perhaps less obvious, are still remarkably significant. Some are not yet on display as the contents of the museum will be rotated over time.
“There is a suitcase in one of the cabinets that was taken on tour to South Africa and still has all the labels and names on it, and there’s a tea pot and cream jug as well as medals and trophies,” said Budge when asked about some of the objects which captured her imagination.
“The museum was 90 per cent complete for about the last six months. We had a team working on the project but I didn’t realise what I was getting into because you had to decide on the smallest details such as font size.
“You had to make sure it wasn’t too large or too small for people reading it, whether they would need to peer against the glass to see it. I thought it would be a case of building a few cabinets, polishing things up and sticking them in. That would have been the wrong thing to do. We had to do it properly.”
• The Heart of Midlothian official museum is free to enter and is open at the following times: Matchdays from 10am – 12pm (unless there is a lunch-time kick-off); Thursday 10am – 4pm; Friday 10am – 4pm; Saturday 10am – 4pm (non matchdays); Sunday 12pm – 4pm.