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Dick Institute, The


(The Dick Institute Museum and Art Gallery)

A grand classical edifice in Kilmarnock that houses a sizeable museum, art gallery and the central library for East Ayrshire. It is located a quarter-mile (0.5 km) east southeast of the town centre and was completed in 1901, the work of local architect Robert Ingram (1841 - 1915). Its fifteen-bay frontage features a grand central Ionic portico, with a figure of Minerva, goddess of wisdom, carved between sphinxes on the pediment. This replaced a Victorian villa which had been bought by the Town Council but found to be inadequate in terms of both space and grandeur. The Institute was the gift of James Dick (1823 - 1902), who pioneered the use of rubber soles on shoes, and named for his older brother Robert Dick (1820-91). Dick not only gave the money to construct the building, but also bequeathed a substantial number of books and artefacts which formed the basis of the collection.

On the ground floor are lending, reference, audio-visual and children's libraries, a lecture room and a Young People's Gallery. An ornate oak and marble staircase leads up to the museum and main gallery, with displays on the local, social and industrial history of Kilmarnock and Ayrshire, including weaving and Johnnie Walker whisky, together with natural sciences and fine art. The gallery features permanent displays drawn from the Institute's own diverse collections, together with innovative work by contemporary artists, film-makers and local young people, alongside a programme of nationally-important exhibitions. The Dick Institute has a substantial and significant art collection including works by Sir Henry Raeburn (1756 - 1823), Alexander Nasmyth (1758 - 1840), John Constable (1776 - 1837), James Tannock (1784 - 1863), Sir John Watson Gordon (1788 - 1864), David Octavius Hill (1802-70), Horatio McCulloch (1805-67), James Faed (1821 - 1911), William Ewart Lockhart (1846 - 1900), Robert Gemmell Hutchison (1855 - 1936), E.A. Hornel (1864 - 1933), David Gauld (1865 - 1936), William McTaggart (1903-81), Robert Colquhoun (1914-62) and Peter Howson (b.1958).

Only eight years after opening a fire badly damaged the building which was reconstructed using the original design drawings. The Dick Institute is now owned by East Ayrshire Council and managed on their behalf by East Ayrshire Leisure. It represents the largest museum and gallery space in Ayrshire.


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