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23 August 2021

Declaration of Arbroath's story retold through new exhibition

50 artefacts included in new display telling the story of Arbroath Abbey

Four women stand beside carefully embroidered tapestries designed like stained glass windows

A new exhibition is set to re-tell the story of The Declaration of Arbroath as part of the 700 (+1) commemorations of one of the most iconic documents in Scotland’s history.

Opening tomorrow (Tuesday 24 August), at the newly refurbished visitor centre in the grounds of Arbroath Abbey, the exhibition features 50 historic artefacts, telling the story of the Abbey and its key role in Scottish history.

The Declaration was sent in 1320 from Arbroath Abbey to Pope John XXII by Scotland’s barons, asking the Pontiff to recognise Robert the Bruce as the lawful King of Scots.

Exploring the history of the Abbey from its founding in 1178 to the present day, the new exhibition draws upon an engaging mix of technology and traditional crafts.

This includes an animated film on the letter and its reception by the Pope; an interactive console providing biographies of each of Scotland’s barons who added their names to the document, and a digital reconstruction of the Abbey as it would have been at the time of the Declaration.

Included in the exhibition is the new Arbroath Tapestry, handmade by local embroiderers to celebrate the Declaration’s 700th anniversary and designed by East Lothian artist Andrew Crummy, the man behind the Great Tapestry of Scotland.

Other key highlights from the new exhibition include:

  • A new facsimile of the surviving Declaration of Arbroath created by the internationally renowned craftsman, David Frank. This was commissioned by National Records of Scotland (NRS) and donated to the people of Arbroath
  • A marble tomb effigy of King William I, commissioned by King Robert I (the Bruce), which provides a material link between two of the central characters in the Abbey’s story: William, who founded the Abbey and Robert, on whose behalf the Declaration of Arbroath was sent
  • Medieval items found during excavations at the site and displayed for the first time, including arrowheads from the Wars of Independence and items used daily by the monks who lived there

Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of Historic Environment Scotland (HES), said:

“We are delighted to see this new exhibition open and retell the key role Arbroath played in the story of Scotland’s rich history.

“The investment HES has made in the visitor centre refurbishment has transformed it into a state-of-the-art space where visitors can immerse themselves in this new interpretation offer and enjoy these artefacts and their connection to the Abbey, the town, and the part it played in Scotland’s history.

“One of the key aspects of this exhibition is the people and the partners that have made it possible, from the embroiderers who have created this wonderful tapestry to partners such as NRS who donated the facsimile, to our staff who have worked hard to create an immersive experience.

“We very much hope that visitors enjoy this new visitor experience and the retelling of one of the most iconic moments in Scotland’s history.”

The opening of the new exhibition forms part of the wider Arbroath 2020+1 festival activities, which run until September and were delayed due to COVID lockdown measures last year.

The site is managed by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) and will initially open at a reduced admission rate to the exhibition centre while essential maintenance work takes place at the wider site.

Visits to the new exhibition need to be pre-booked via the HES website

About Arbroath 2020+1

Arbroath 2020+1 is the exciting new reshaped festival programme and reflects Arbroath moving forward embracing culture to connect communities and shine a bright light on the town. Co-created and inspired by residents, local partners, and grassroots organisations, the 2021 programme includes major artistic events, premieres and commissions across heritage, music, literature, and visual arts. New commissions in performance, art & design and music by internationally renowned Scottish artists will feature alongside a series of collaborative community projects set to transform the streets of Arbroath.

The festival programme can be found at arbroathfestival.com.

About Historic Environment Scotland (HES) 

  • We are the lead public body charged with caring for, protecting and promoting the historic environment. We will lead on delivering Scotland’s first strategy for the historic environment, Our Place in Time.
  • Historic Scotland, Scran, Canmore, The National Collection of Aerial Photography (NCAP), The Engine Shed, Stirling Castle and Edinburgh Castle are sub-brands of HES.
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For further information, please contact:

Barry McPherson
Historic Environment Scotland Media Office
Mobile: 07880 134 601