Innovation Exchange

Outdoor Museum Helensburgh


Key activities

Benefits and impacts


Further Information

2015 saw the launch of Scotland’s first Outdoor Museum in Helensburgh. The Outdoor Museum took advantage of the fact that over one hundred bollards were to be placed around Colquhoun Square, Helensburgh as part of the creation of a shared surface around the square. Traditionally bollards would have been used to delineate public space from trafficked areas; in this instance, instead of using bollards, plinths were used which meant objects/texts could be put on display to celebrate the rich history and heritage of the town.


The idea for the Outdoor Museum evolved in close consultation with local Helensburgh community during consultation for the CHORD public realm works, when the community expressed a wish for a Heritage Centre, which was outwith the scope of the project.

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Theme: Housing and Regeneration

The vision was to create an accessible Outdoor Museum that explores, celebrates and displays the rich and varied history of Helensburgh for local residents and visitors to the town, both now and in time to come. The project is also particularly an opportunity to record the untold stories - gems of history and heritage.


Local dialogue, expertise and input have been the cornerstone of the Outdoor Museum project. Over a two-year period, WAVEparticle organised a series of lively, convivial days to invite local people to be a part of it all, and to gather together stories and artefacts about the town that are surprising and revealing, entertaining and stimulating, as well as educational and informative.


As a result of this process, the content for the first 15 plinths includes, for example, text and objects that celebrate:


  • Science - John Logie Baird’s Stookie Bill
  • Business - the ‘Lily Springs’ and the ‘Comrie’ bottling plants
  • Art and Craft - the wee shoes crafted by the town’s first shoemaker
  • Social History - a family heirloom that comes with the story of the lost art of making bespoke butter pats
  • Entrepreneurship - the bell of the famous PS Comet commissioned by Henry Bell of Helensburgh, regarded as the father of steam navigation.


These permanent exhibits include a series of historic artefacts encapsulated in acrylic, bronze and stone, reproductions of original artefacts and three specially commissioned artworks by artists Lesley Carruthers, Kate Ive and Chris Coleman-Smith. Each object has its own plinth and carries a combination of text and image that place the exhibit in a historical, cultural and geographic context.


The Outdoor Museum proudly displays a collection of treasured objects brought forward or nominated by local residents and organisations in the town. These are treasures and stories of local, national and international significance, that are now available to the people of Helensburgh, Scotland and beyond. And as the CHORD plan has prepared the plinths for over 100 other additions, these could be added to for many years to come.

To date 15 plinths displaying stories of the town’s history and culture is on display in Colquhoun Square. A website, leaflet and app have all been provided. The project was shortlisted for the prestigious International FX award. Judges’ comments: “loved the twist, there should be more outdoor museums, every town should have one.”    

Innovation is delivered by thinking out the box, looking at what is available and adapted to serve more than one function.

Contact details:

To find out more about this case study, please contact:


Andrew Collins

Helensburgh Regeneration Project Manager

Argyll and Bute Council

01436 657633

Case study added to site: June 2016

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