It’s bigger than you think!

photos & text by Will Brown

With a new semester fast approaching comes a new cohort of eager master’s students. And what better way of encouraging us to make friends, and settle in to the new country we now call home, than with a visit to the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther.

Barely recovering from the rollercoaster like journey between St Andrews and Anstruther we were quickly whisked into the museum. We were then taken through its many winding corridors and doorways to an introductory talk by one of the many knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff members at the museum. Here we were given a whistle stop tour of the local fishing industry, from evidence of the first hunter gatherers at Tentsmuir Nature Reserve, to the 19th century herring boom. This led onto the importance of fishing in the area, and how the museum was created to ensure Anstruther’s, and many other towns in Scotland’s heritage would be remembered.

As the talk came to an end we were then left to our own devices to explore the rest of the museum. This is when we all quickly realised that the tag line at the front of the museum was no lie and it was going to be some task to make it through the museum in time for our journey home. Consequently, the next hour or so has become somewhat of a blur of knots, tackle, model boats and fish.

Some of the new MMS and EMMS students looking over the Research, the last surviving Zulu herring drifter

Despite the swiftness of our visit, many of us still managed to try out the numerous interactive exhibits the museum had to offer. From tying a bowline to wearing a knitted jumper, it felt like some us were really able to connect with the fishing heritage of the area. This perhaps highlights the effectiveness of such displays, or more likely reflects the reluctance to accept that we’re now all postgraduates!

Some of the master’s students getting to know what ‘life on board’ was really like

With the visit coming to an end we came across the room, the MMS students in particular, were waiting for, the small exhibit on whaling. Highlights included examples of scrimshaw on whale teeth to the juxtaposition between the narwhal tusks and the harpoons, mounted alongside each other on the wall. Much like the continuing theme throughout the museum this exhibit really hit home how times have changed, but our past should not be forgotten.

The small section on whaling at the museum