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25 Aug 2023

John Muir’s Birthplace celebrates 20th anniversary

John Muir’s Birthplace on Dunbar’s High Street opened its doors for the first time on 23 August 2003. John Muir Award Scotland Manager Toby Clark reports on a celebration event to mark its 20th anniversary.

Birthplace front door

Trustees of the John Muir Birthplace Charitable Trust and staff of East Lothian Council’s Museum Service welcomed many of those involved in the planning, procurement, and development of John Muir's Birthplace at a celebration event at the museum in Dunbar this month.

I'm always struck by Muir's reach across society - I hear youth workers in Wales, Countryside Rangers in England, teachers in Scotland, and community workers in Northern Ireland inspire the people they reach through Muir's simple message that wild places are for us all to enjoy, connect with and care for.

Birthplace 20 years cakeThe work of John Muir's Birthplace, the John Muir Trust, National Parks, John Muir Way and others have encouraged people from all walks of life, from across the UK, to celebrate, value and benefit from wild nature where they find it.

John Muir’s Birthplace also marks the eastern end of the John Muir Way, which is one of Scotland’s Great Trails. Many visitors have completed this long distance walk that launched in 2014 on the centenary of John Muir’s death. It traverses across the diverse landscapes and rich heritage of central Scotland and provides opportunities for all to increase their understanding of John Muir’s legacy and philosophy through getting closer to nature. Those completing their travels at the Dunbar end of the route have an additional incentive to visit the Birthplace where they can collect their John Muir Way completion certificate.

John Muir’s Birthplace works closely with schools to introduce children to John Muir’s life and conservation work. Each year between 500 and 1000 local authority school pupils participate in the John Muir citizenship project, run in collaboration with East Lothian Council’s Landscape and Countryside and Arts Services. This project provides opportunities for school pupils to engage hands-on with stories about John Muir and the natural world around them. A wide range of outdoor education groups, private schools, and youth organisations also visit, often as part of completing the Trust's John Muir Award.

Following a brief review of the past, the Birthplace team outlined the exciting future plans to update and upgrade part of the exhibition which focuses on Muir’s life as a campaigner and activist. 

East Lothian Provost, and Trustee of John Muir Birthplace, John McMillan, said: “Muir was part of a continuum – he was inspired by those before him and in turn went on to influence many others to appreciate, value and protect the natural environment and so understand its crucial role in our survival. His story together with that of his forerunners and those who followed illustrate how social, political and economic issues are closely connected to environmental devastation and climate crisis. We can look to John Muir and others to create a new story for our future and for our communities.”