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Volunteers who launched project to uncover stories of McManus’ original funders celebrate success

Provost Parker aka Ged Ryan with Lord Provost Ian Borthwick at the museum
Provost Parker aka Ged Ryan with Lord Provost Ian Borthwick at the museum

Volunteers behind a project to collect information on the original funders of Dundee’s McManus Art Gallery and Museum are celebrating a successful campaign.

The McManus 168 supporters group was set up to collect information on the original 261 subscribers who contributed in 1863 to what was then known as the Albert Institute.

Founded 150 years ago this year, the museum was established with grocers, hecklers, waiters, ship’s chandlers, dyers, bleachers and flax spinners among the city residents to contribute small sums to make it a reality.

More than 100 volunteers, many with no previous experience of archive work and ranging in age from 16 to 80, discovered incredible stories about Dundee’s power brokers in the 1860s.

The McManus as it looks today

The project team worked with two of the country’s most prominent historians, professors Jim Tomlinson and Chris Whatley.

Sue Moody, chair of The McManus 168 group said: “This project has brought together so many people who are passionate about Dundee and its history, from communities all over the city.

“They share the same enthusiasm for Dundee that subscribers showed in funding the Albert Institute 150 years ago.”

Iain Flett, a former city archivist, commended the project for its contribution to understanding and knowledge of the area’s history.

He said: “The research carried out by the volunteers is a cornucopia of information on Victorian Dundee and its diaspora, its financial as well as its artistic wealth.

“It will prove most useful to social and economic historians, both academic and amateur.”

The project’s own song, written by a descendant of Dundee MP James Yeaman, was performed for the first time at a celebration on Tuesday night.

Eddie Small, a well-known local author and playwright, also wrote an interlude for the evening.

Artwork by the group Dundee’s Finest was created for the project, including a model of The McManus.

Banners have also been designed to help take the stories uncovered by the volunteers out into the communities of Dundee.

Susie Cathro, who has lived in Dundee all her life and took part in the project, said: “I’ve been padding around the streets of Dundee with completely fresh eyes.

“I’m so much more aware of what was going on 150 years ago and where it was happening.”

A free permanent record has been made available online and will stay open for a further 12 months so that anyone with information on the subscribers can share their knowledge.

The subscribers’ stories can be viewed on the project’s website at www.mcmanus168.org.uk

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