Uncovering forgotten history and shaping a sense of place
"We hope our work helps shift away from past over-focus on just a few elements of this famous site – chiefly Robert Bruce’s grave – and allows us to re-envisage the abbey as a complex spiritual and physical whole, evolving as a community over time."
Sharing secrets from history
The footprint and engagement around the historians’ work is significant. Stirling’s historical reframing and refocus have contributed to between a 35 and 40% rise in visitor numbers to the Abbey Church and Palace site across 2017-19 and informed a substantial redraft of HES’ Dunfermline Abbey and Palace Property-in-Care ‘Statement of Cultural Significance’.
New heritage displays, which speak to the medieval abbey’s broad historic importance unearthed by the Stirling team, were also erected in 2020 and will inform the future revision of visitor information materials including illustrations, guidebook, panels and the website.
The team have shared their findings and passion for the Abbey’s heritage via workshops, public lectures, conferences, podcasts and digital exhibitions across the British Isles and France and bi-centenary celebrations for Dunfermline’s 19th-century Abbey Church saw Penman’s research contribute to a commemorative play, ‘Bones, Bogles and Coronets’.
Throughout the project, Penman’s activity has encouraged and empowered Dunfermline people to contribute their knowledge to further inform the heritage interpretation at the Church and communicate a more real sense of medieval worship.
This collective approach to highlighting and chronologising aspects of the building and why it survives as a working church, has helped guides bring the past to life and enhanced its value to custodians, locals and visitors alike and informed the strategic direction of Dunfermline’s medieval story to the present day.
Stirling’s historical reframing and refocus have contributed to between a 35 and 40% rise in visitor numbers to the Abbey Church and Palace site across 2017-19.
The work carried out at Dunfermline Abbey has made links with parallel Fife heritage projects – including a 64-mile walking and cycling network opened in 2019 which attracted around 25,000 users in its first year.