Methil Heritage Centre occupies an old post office building on Methil's High Street. Today the centre of Methil is bypassed by a road that cuts between the town and the docks, and it takes a little effort to turn off the main road and find the heritage centre. It's an effort well worth making for anyone wanting to come to a clearer understanding of an area with a dynamic and complex history, which is more fully covered on our feature about Levenmouth.
The sign by the door proclaims the heritage centre to be "The Museum of Levenmouth". Levenmouth is the name given to a conurbation on the north shore of the Firth of Forth some six miles east of Glenrothes and eight miles north-east of Kirkcaldy. The name is also sometimes applied to a rather wider area, but its main constituent parts are the towns of Leven, on the north-east side of the River Leven; Methil, on the south-west side of the River Leven; and Buckhaven, which forms a south-western continuation of Methil.
Before entering the heritage centre, make sure you keep a lookout for the extremely rare stone crest on the front outside: "E VIII R 1936". This shows that it was built during the brief reign of Edward VIII. Once inside you find there are three main rooms. The front room and reception area also offers a meeting space, and from here you pass through to a room in which a series of boards and exhibits tell the story of the different elements that have made Levenmouth the place it is today.
The heritage centre is completed by the large gallery at its rear, which offers a range of local artworks as well as, when we visited, displays illustrating locally produced Wemyss Ware pottery. What was very nice throughout was the sense that a lot of thought had gone into ensuring that the centre will appeal to visitors of all ages and all levels of interest. One corner of the gallery was home to a do-it-yourself still life construction kit, with elements that could be assembled and then drawn. Meanwhile a large "spare parts" board allowed young visitors to use fuzzy felt pieces to make life-size portraits or figures. And a "feel what's inside" display allowed the more tactile (and fearless) visitors to seek to identify objects by touch alone.
The exhibitions in the main gallery change every few months, so what you find might well not match the images on this page, which serve merely to illustrate the centre at the time of our visit. The overall feel is sure to be rather more enduring, and it is of a welcoming and active centre that engages very effectively with its local community.
The origins of the Methil Heritage Centre date back to 1990, when an idea was floated to house an exhibition intended to last no longer than six months. The Lower Methil Heritage Centre, as it was known at the time, opened on 29 March 1991. After the initial six months the centre broadened its horizons from Methil itself to Levenmouth more widely, and since 1998 it has operated as part of the Fife Museums Service.