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Environment correspondent Louise Bachelor
"The John Muir Birthplace Trust wants to create a modern visitor attraction"
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Wednesday, 4 July, 2001, 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK
Fury at Muir birthplace plans
John Muir House
Trustees want to change the interior
A plan to change the interior of the birthplace of conservationist John Muir has sparked a row.

Objectors said people have come from all over the world to view the house in East Lothian where the father of the conservation movement was born.

The trustees who own the three-storey John Muir House in Dunbar want to gut the building and replace the interior with a modern exhibition space.

The message the Americans are going to get is that we don't care about culture

Graeme White
The top floor of the house has a museum with furniture from the mid-19th century when Muir was born.

He left Dunbar when he was 10 and his family emigrated to the United States.

His writings on conservation led to the establishment of the Yosemite National Park.

The John Muir Birthplace Trust wants to create a modern visitor attraction.

It has commissioned one of Scotland's leading architects who plans to install a free-standing tower, with a three-tier exhibition telling John Muir's story.

Architect Richard Murphy intends to build a modern visitor attraction.

John Muir
John Muir: Family moved to the US
He said: "It's a kind of timber tower inside the shell of the original building, so from there you will be able to look out and still see things like fireplaces and windows, which are original and are historic."

Chairman of the trustees, Councillor Norman Hampshire believes this is what visitors want.

He said: "The important thing we are trying to get over here is about John Muir's life and his work. That's the important thing that people need to find out about Muir. Not where he lived in the town.

Objectors said this will "desecrate" the birthplace and destroy the experience people come for.

John Muir expert Graeme White said: "The message the Americans are going to get is that we don't care about culture, we don't care about our architectural heritage and we certainly don't care about John Muir."

They are furious that they have just found out about the plan.

Supporters of the plan said the museum has only been there about 20 years and offers a fake experience becaused the furniture did not belong to the Muir family.

Such is Muir's standing among Californian conservationists, that his house there has been preserved for the public, buildings there carry his name and annual festivals pay homage to his work.

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