For a fascinating look at the mystique of the North Sea,On Shiprow, close to the bustling harbor area, is the Maritime Museum, which showcases Aberdeen’s maritime past. Partly in a very modern building with a glass front wall overlooking the harbor, and partly housed in the adjoining old Provost Ross’s House, the two sections
flowing together seamlessly, the museum is well set out and informative. Well worth a couple of hours, longer if you are interested in maritime history or the modern oil industry.
Aberdeen and the surrounding area have a long history with the sea—whaling, fishing, ship building, trading, cargo, passengers, and now oil. Hemmed in by mountains to the south and west, Aberdeen’s outlook, right from its founding as a Royal Burgh in 1124, was across the seas. The city created commercial colonies in Scandinavia, the Low Countries and the Baltic, and some Aberdonians became merchant kings. The influence of the sea continues, and instead of clipper ships leaving the harbor for the China tea trade, or trawlers setting out for a fishing expedition, oil executives from all over the world meet here, and helicopters ferry workers out to the North Sea oil rigs.
This history is covered on 5 levels. I took the lift up and walked my way down the different levels around a central atrium, noting the busy activity in the harbor through the huge front glass window-wall. One exhibition on the harbor includes objects from the 13th to the 21st centuries, plans showing the development of the harbor, and computer programs that compare the harbor, past and present. In the atrium is a model of the Murchison Oil Production Platform and one of the exhibition areas shows clearly what life is like on such a platform, what it is to live and work off-shore.
Friendly staff, multi-media displays, computer visual data bases, photographs, and paintings all give a great idea of the city’s long relationship to the sea. We can ‘experience’ what it’s like to be in a fishing boat on rough waters, or in a rescue vessel, or on an oil rig. We learn how both the old passenger ships (3,000 in the 19th and 20th centuries) and the modern oil rigs were built. This is THE place to learn about the sheer scale of Britain’s offshore oil and gas industry.
The museum hosts special exhibitions with many maritime subjects from clipper ships to oil rigs. They also offer lunch-time talks and activities for families and children.
Aberdeen has always been linked to the sea in one way or another, so this museum is appropriately situated. It’s an easy short walk from the main Union Street. Aim to spend a couple of hours at least.
Entrance is free. Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday noon-3pm.
No photography allowed inside.
There’s a museum shop on the ground floor; a cafe, and toilets are in the basement. The Leading Lights Café, named after the navigational towers at Torry, serves lovely light meals, snacks and various teas and coffees. Plenty of windows and natural light give a very pleasant atmosphere.
For more information look at www.aberdeencity.gov.uk , which covers all the museums in Aberdeen, or at www.aberdeenships.com for information on the thousands of ships built in Aberdeen from 1790-1990.