THOUSANDS of history enthusiasts from all over the globe are delving into the past at the McLean Museum thanks to the worldwide web.

The heritage centre, which boasts one of the best collections outside major cities in Scotland, is attracting 3,500 hits a month for its online catalogue.

America, Australia and Canada, popular destinations for ex-pats, are in the top 10 list of countries where people log onto the site, alongside Germany, Russia, India and South Africa.

Museum curator Val Boa said: “It’s put the museum on the map.

“We’re getting people from the diaspora visiting the site and family history is a big thing just now — if you’re living overseas it’s easier to access online.

“Almost 60 per cent of visitors are now using mobile devices to view the site, including collections and photography.

“The collections are the most popular attraction online — we put the work of popular local artist Patrick Downie up this year and it created a lot of interest.

“The current period 2015 to 2019 is also an important time for James Watt, as last year was the 250th anniversary of his invention of the separate condenser and 2019 is 250 years after it was patented and the 200th anniversary of his death. 

“So there will be a lot of Watt commemorations going on.”

The museum receives regular requests from TV companies compiling documentaries.

Some of its other fascinating online collections provide a snapshot of how local people lived in the past — including a slideshow of shopfronts in times gone by and photographs of old schools.

Val said: “It’s interesting that from the 1960s some of the shops seem to have been completely obliterated while others are exactly the same.

“There has been so much change in the schools over the years and I think people mostly look back at their old schools with fondness and as a place where you make friends for life.”

Another addition to the museum’s online offering is the inclusion of pictures of WW1 artefacts, an ongoing project.

Val said: “With WW1 commemorations and battle anniversaries coming up, a lot of people are keen to find more about their families and the fallen.

“It’s access for all, people can use a phone or tablet and go online to find out more about our collections.”

The museum certainly won over one visitor from overseas who says she will now check the website out.

Canadian Colleen Lang was visiting the museum during a holiday to Greenock to see her mother-in-law Margaret Lang, both pictured above with Val.

Colleen, 56, of Rothesay, New Brunswick, said: “I love Greenock, it reminds me of where I live in Canada.

“We have the same type of industry, such as shipbuilding.

“Now that I have been to the museum I will certainly check it out online.”
Her mum in law Margaret, 86, said: “The museum is a treasure. People don’t realise how wonderful it is.”