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Exclusive: Photos reveal state of UoA's shuttered Mitchell Hall

The historic venue has been closed to the public since 2008, along with the adjoining Marischal Museum

By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

Fifteen years after the final graduate crossed the stage, the University of Aberdeen’s Mitchell Hall is feeling the effects of its long hibernation.

Exclusive photos taken by a Gaudie contributor show the effects of time on the impressive venue, which has been shuttered since the late 2000s.

Once home to the Schools of Medicine and Law, much of Marischal College fell into disrepair as students and lecturers relocated to Foresterhill and King's College campuses.

The University agreed to let the majority of the space to Aberdeen City Council in 2006 - receiving £4.7 million in exchange for a 175 year lease.

However, it retained control over Mitchell Hall and the Marischal Museum.

Stained glass window behind the stage at the front of Mitchell Hall

Hall orginally closed due to Council renovations

In 2008, the University announced that graduations would be held at Elphinstone Hall- citing the city council’s renovation of the surrounding complex, which cost an approximate £65 million.

At the time, a press release noted: “It is believed to be the first time in over a hundred years that graduation ceremonies have not been held in the College's Mitchell Hall.”

Despite renovations

concluding in 2011, graduations have never returned to the site. They were held on the King's College campus for the next decade- before moving to TECA in 2022.

View towards the rear of Mitchell Hall

Tables, chairs, and... a hoover?

A decade and a half after it hosted its last ceremony, the venerable hall now houses a range of items, including chairs, scrap materials, and cleaning equipment.

An assortment of tables and chairs are stored in the hall

Nearby, the University's Marischal Museum, which now serves as a storage centre for UoA’s special collections, is also closed to the general public.

A display in the Marischal Museum dating from the early 1990s

No plans to re-open museum, says Special Collections tsar:

The University's Head of Museums and Special Collections, Neil Curtis, recently explained why the museum did not reopen after renovations to Marischal College were completed.

He said: "Marischal Museum closed to the public in 2008 due to building works in the building as it was converted into the corporate headquarters of Aberdeen City Council.

"The building is not now suitable as the venue for a modern museum, with no level access, and requiring major improvements to make it appropriate as a public venue. The displays, created in the early 1990s would also require replacement.

"It has, however, continued to act as a collections centre, including collections storage and a conservation laboratory, supporting research, teaching and public engagement activities.

"There are no plans to re-open the museum, with new displays instead in University buildings in Old Aberdeen (e.g. Zoology Museum, Science Teaching Hub, Confucius Institute, Fraser Noble Building)."

This display features a variety of antique weapons, including a pair of pistols which can be seen on the left.

The collections centre also houses UoA's collection of over 300 human skulls, many of which were taken from African, Asian, and Native American

communities during the 19th and 20th centuries.

As The Gaudie reported last February, the remains were acquired "for a comparative anatomy collection once used to teach racist pseudoscience."

Efforts to repatriate specific sets of remains have been ongoing for the last several years.

Hall likely to remain closed

There appears to be little political will to reopen Mitchell Hall, despite suggestions by disgruntled students that it should be used for graduations instead of TECA.

While a consultation launched by the University in 2021 aimed to gather perspectives on opening up the space, two years later it has been confirmed that the museum will remain closed.

As such, it seems that this part of Aberdeen's illustrious history will remain under lock and key for the forseeable future, gathering dust and falling into dereliction.

Mitchell Hall set up for graduation ceremonies (c. 1915)

READ MORE: Gaudie staff explored the abandoned Student Union on Gallowgate in 2019:


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