£250,000 THE TARGET

REFURBISHMENT of Miller House and the Birthplace Cottage is expected to cost upwards of a quarter of a million pounds, property manager Dr Alix Powers-Jones has reported.

Estimates which she has received from two firms of design consultants are both around this figure, with VAT and some ancillary costs to come on top. She is waiting for bids from three other firms.

Alix freely acknowledges this is an "expensive" project. The property recently received a visit from the National Trust for Scotland's Patrons Group of large donors, who could hold the key to ultimate success.

We must here make it clear that this is an NTS project, completely separate from the "Eliza's Path" appeal, which is entirely a Friends of Hugh Miller project.

One outline refurbishment submission has particularly impressed Alix, a detailed six-page document which reflects the aims of presenting the buildings' contents in new ways, orally, visually, verbally and physically. It answers to the four main categories identified for enhancement, the life and work, the natural world, the Victorian cultural world and communications.

Among the new ideas put forward were discovery boxes, temporary display boards, wall  projections and "atmosphere-creating" features.  Alix is particularly keen that the Museum and Cottage should develop to be not just a tourist attraction but a facility for community benefit, especially for those with physical or mental impairments.

The project remains on course, with all the outline submissions due in by this Autumn, followed by issuing of a detailed brief to the bidders, and a firm chosen next summer. A grand re-opening is provisionally scheduled for the Spring of 2021.

Miller Retold


by Martin Gostwick


The most important development at Miller House is under way since The National Trust for Scotland opened the building as a Museum to the general public on 10th April 2004. It is a refurbishment project led by the Trust to update some displays and installations, and to introduce new, improved content, all under the working title "Miller Re-told."

This was announced at The Friends' annual meeting on 6th April by property manager Dr Alix Powers-Jones as part of the consultation process she has initiated in preparation for the reFurbishment. She indicated that among the principal reasons for undertaking this venture, is that the existing presentation of exhibits has in some respects become outdated, and this has placed in jeopardy its enviable VisitScotland grading as a 5-Star Visitor Attraction.

Those of us who participated in the Museum's creation 15 years ago, and the tens of thousands of visitors who have enjoyed it ever since, may feel uneasy about major changes being carried out. One member with wide experience has already given his view that the displays and 'storyboarding' (in the Birthplace Cottage in particular) are "the most effective I have seen in any museum in the UK." However, advances in interpretation, including in digital technology, and new visitor expectations, have made the refurbishment necessary. 

Miller House in 2004 was given a theme, "In the Steps of Hugh Miller," taking the visitors for the first time on a visual journey through his momentous life, and now we are called upon to climb those steps again. The Friends of Hugh Miller are fully committed to supporting this exercise, and are participating in the process of drawing up a brief for design consultants who will be appointed in due course to carry it through. 

The project is being carried out in conjunction with the Trust's Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre. Follow this link to the case in full for the redevelopment as stated by Alix, and the Survey of opinion for which she seeks public responses. This has already been circulated to all Friends members by email. For website visitors and members who have not already replied, please fill in the forms and mail to millermuseum@nts.org.uk, or write to the Museum at Miller House, Church Street, Cromarty IV11 8XA, and copy to me as Friends Secretary.

Dr Powers-Jones has asked that responses be sent in as soon as possible. A core budget is being drawn up with Culloden as part of the bidding process this Spring. 


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