On Saturday I went up to Dunfermline to pay a visit to the Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum. It was the first time I’d been to the museum, and all I knew about Carnegie was that he was from Dunfermline, went to the USA, became very rich and gave a LOT of money away. The museum re-opened in 2009 following extensive redevelopment and refurbishment so I was keen to check it out and find out more about this famous philanthropist. After a warm welcome at the reception desk, my first port of call was the actual birthplace cottage. You get a real sense of the way the Carnegies lived and worked when Andrew was a child. My favourite item in this part of the museum is the Jacquard loom, which looks impossibly complicated to operate. Once a month the museum have a weaving demonstration using the loom. It was really interesting to find out what a strong and determined woman Carnegie’s mother Margaret was. It really was her vision of the possibilities for her sons that enabled Carnegie’s success. I also liked that it was a businesswoman and friend of Margaret’s that gave the family the outstanding amount of money for their passage to America.
The second part of the museum tells Carnegie’s story following his arrival in the USA. The influence of education is clear, in particular the lending library that Carnegie has access to as a telegram boy. He made his money at an early age, but the thing that struck me was that he also began his philanthropy as a young man, and continued both investing and giving money to advance good causes throughout his life. I had a few favourite objects in this part of the museum, including the huge rolltop desk from his study and the many keys signifying where he had been granted the freedom to a city. The most poignant object is the Roll of Heroes and Heroines, a beautiful illuminated book detailing acts of bravery and those responsible. The Carnegie Hero Fund Trust was set up to provide help to those whose families were left behind following their act of heroism.
You may be aware of the many libraries and other public buildings gifted by Carnegie, but did you know that the Carnegie Trusts continue to provide funding. One relatively modern example, is the funding provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York which enabled the TV programme “Sesame Street” to be broadcast. (Hence the title of this post!)
I really enjoyed my visit and can say that my objective of learning more about this great man and his legacy was well and truly met.