Edinburgh World Heritage - News Article


EWH provides over £300,000 to Collective for the restoration of the City Observatory

EWH announced today it has awarded a grant of over £300,000 to Collective towards the restoration of the City Observatory complex - the ensemble of astronomical buildings by William Henry Playfair on Calton Hill. 

Jun 10, 2016

The site, which has scientific, historical and cultural significance for Edinburgh and Scotland, has fallen into a state of disrepair in recent years. The grant from Edinburgh World Heritage forms one part of a plan that will see the entire area open to the public as an extended gallery space with a target date for opening of end-2017. Right: The City Observatory on Calton Hill, image by Jonathon Fowler photography.

The buildings, which were constructed between 1818 and 1822, played an important role in the history of astronomy and timekeeping.  The transit of stars through the meridian was observed and used to keep the observatory clock accurate. In 1854 the time ball was installed on Nelson’s Monument, which was visible from the port for the benefit of shipping. The ball was controlled by electrical pulses from the Observatory clock.

Adam Wilkinson, Director of Edinburgh World Heritage, commented: ‘we are delighted to be supporting Collective and their plan to transform the City Observatory. These buildings are of national and international significance, and it is especially appropriate that they will be open to the public next year – the 250th anniversary of the first New Town. We have invested significant funds in the conservation of other monuments on Calton Hill over the last ten years and are pleased to support these works which form the final piece of the jigsaw’.

Kate Gray, Director of Collective added: ‘our vision is for the City Observatory complex to be a world-class contemporary visual arts space that brings people together to experience new art in one of Edinburgh’s most iconic locations. The support of Edinburgh World Heritage is crucial to the success of this project, both in terms of financial support and conservation expertise. We are now in the final stages of fundraising and are still seeking donations to make our vision a reality.’

Councillor Richard Lewis, Convenor of the Edinburgh City Council Culture and Sport Committee added: 'Calton Hill and the City Observatory hold a profound significance for Edinburgh and Scotland in many ways, cultural and scientific. We are delighted that Edinburgh World Heritage will be supporting this project and applaud Collective’s exciting vision to fully open up the site as an innovative gallery and art space'.

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