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Blade 19

Arbuthnot Museum & Peterhead Library

The Arbuthnot family were landowners and merchants in the Peterhead area from the seventeen hundreds to the early twentieth century. Adam Arbuthnot himself was a Peterhead merchant, owning shares in merchant ships which traded to Europe, Africa and Asia, as well as shares in some of the Peterhead whaling ships.

He retired from merchant business about 1820 and devoted his leisure to the acquisition of a collection of antiquities, coins and objects in natural history. He made use of the contacts he had built up over the years, persuading friends and ship captains to bring back items of interest from their travels abroad. By 1837 his museum had become well-known locally.

When Adam Arbuthnot died in 1850 his collections were bequeathed to Peterhead Town Council. The collections, known as the Arbuthnot Museum, had several homes in Peterhead over the next forty years until the present Arbuthnot Museum/Peterhead Library building was built in 1893.

The Arbuthnot Collection contains objects of considerable importance, particularly ethnographic material acquired in the 1820s from the Arctic and China. The Inuit material from the Arctic was brought back by whalers, while friends and shipmasters brought back the Chinese material. The coin collection shows a range of Scottish, English and British coins and is one of the largest collections in Scotland outside the Central Belt. There are also nationally important Bronze Age archaeological finds, such as the jet and amber beads found at Greenbrae near Cruden and various beakers. One of the beakers, found at Meethill near Peterhead, demonstrates early trading links with Ireland.

The collection as a whole illustrates a wonderful range of material collected by an early 19th-century collector in a town remote from the Scottish central belt.

You’ve now completed the town trail. If you want to find out more, please visit the museum and continue your journey into Peterhead’s past.