Dumfries Museum and Camera Obscura, located in Dumfries in Dumfries & Galloway, is the largest museum in the region. The museum has extensive collections relating to local and history from the pre-historic era. The museum also has the world's oldest working Camera Obscura. Admission is free, however a small fee applies for the Camera Obscura.
The museum's collections cover all material relating to the natural history and human pre-history of the region, from geology to dress, folk material, archaeology and early photographs. Notable artefacts include: A cast of the skull of Robert the Bruce as well as femur and foot bones. A Bronze Age cist burial including the remains of a 35-year-old man from the beaker people. A large collection of Roman and Celtic stone crosses and funerary monuments. A replica of the first bicycle, as designed by Kirkpatrick Macmillan. The photographic archive of Dr Werner Kissling. Personal items belonging to Thomas Carlyle.
Originally built as a four-storey windmill on Corbelly hill, the highest point in Maxwelltown, in 1798, the site was purchased by Dumfries and Maxwellton Astronomical Society in 1834. Over a two-year period the tower was converted into an Observatory, and with advice from polar explorer Sir John Ross, a telescope was purchased from a Mr Morton of Kilmarnock. With its completion in 1836, unfortunately the observatory missed the arrival of Halley's comet; however, it was used in this role until 1872. The main hall of the museum was built in 1862, and housed the collections of the newly founded Dumfries and Galloway Natural History & Antiquarian Society. In 1981 a major addition of a new gallery, shop, search room and offices for curatorial staff was added. In 2011 the exterior of the windmill tower was refurbished.
The camera obscura is currently the oldest working example in the world, and has been in continuous operation since 1836. The instrument, based in the top level of the windmill tower, offers a complete 360° panorama of the surrounding landscape. The image is projected onto a focusing table below, and operated using a simple rope mechanism. In order to protect the instrument it is only operated during the summer months and on days when weather conditions are clear.
The museum is treasure house of history telling the story of the land and people of Dumfries and Galloway. Look out for fossil footprints left by prehistoric animals, the wildlife of the Solway, tools and weapons of our earliest people, stone carvings by Scotland's first Christians and the everyday things of the Victorian farm, workshop and home. The museum also hosts a lively programme of special exhibitions and events throughout the season, together with visitor information and a shop with unusual and nostalgic toys, gifts and books on local history. There is disabled access to the museum but the windmill tower and Camera Obscura are only accessible by spiral staircase. Assistance dogs are welcome.
Location : The Observatory, Rotchell Road, Dumfries, DG2 7SW
Transport: Annan (National Rail) then bus. Bus Routes : 372, 825 and 862 stop outside.
Opening Times : October to March, Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 to 13:00 and 14:00 to 17:00; Camera Obscura open in the spring/summer
Opening Times : April to September, Monday to Saturday 10:00 to 17:00
Tickets Museum: Free
Tickets Camera Obscura: Adults £3.00; Concessions £1.50
Tel : 01387 253374