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Health, Wealth & Hatpins!

This small exhibition showcases three interesting recent acquisitions –

Dr William Fraser’s apothecary scales, used to measure medicines and other compounds.

In 1846 Dr William Fraser, the son of a Dumfries doctor, witnessed a public demonstration of the use of ether as an anaesthetic in Boston, America.  Fraser returned to Dumfries, and visited two friends who worked at the infirmary. He convinced them of the value of ether  and improvised a means of delivering it to a patient who needed an amputation.  This was the first time anaesthetic ether was used in Europe.

Hoard of 13th and 14th century silver coins, found during 2007 and 2008 on the outskirts of Dumfries.

The hoard contains coins minted during the reigns of the Scottish kings Alexander III and Robert II, and the English kings Edward I, II and III.  We will probably never know how they came to be buried in a field on the outskirts of Dumfries.  They may have been accidentally lost or deliberately concealed.  Maybe they were buried to keep them safe, and the owner never returned to collect them.  Possibly they were payment of a ransom, for cattle, or an army’s wages?

Hat pins and cow feet stands,used by a farming family at Riddingwood Farm, Kirkmahoe.

The stands are made from cow hooves.  Often the hooves and part of the legs of deer, cows and horses were made into paperweights, ink wells, snuff mulls - and hat pin stands.  Sometimes the animal concerned had a special significance – a prizewinning racehorse or a champion stag.  Perhaps these cow hooves meant something to the owner?

All three acquisitions were accepted during 2009 and reflect the continuing significance and diversity of our collections. The museum has its origins in the 1830s, when The Dumfries and Maxwelltown Astronomical Society first converted the windmill tower into an observatory and began acquiring “objects of curiosity”.  Over subsequent decades these early artefacts were joined by extensive collections from The Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, Dr Grierson’s Museum in Thornhill and many others.  There are now perhaps 150,000 objects on exhibition and in the reference collections, including a comprehensive archaeology collection that recently achieved national recognition status.