The McLean is an Accredited Museum under the national Museums, Libraries and Archives Council Accreditation scheme and is a four-star attraction under the Visit Scotland scheme. It is administered by Inverclyde Council. The Museum is also part of an A-listed building complex which includes the Watt Library, created as a memorial to James Watt, the engineer, who was born in Greenock. During 2006/07 it received 42,589 on-site visits and it has an extensive website that attracts enquirers from all over the world.
The Museum was built in 1876 by the local timber merchant James McLean, who was a member of the Greenock Philosophical Society which still meets on the Museum premises to this day.
The McLean Museum grew out of the activities of the Society and the collections it had acquired. By 1816 a museum of natural and artificial curiosities already existed as a branch of the Society. When the Greenock Library moved to the Watt Library some members added autographs, maps, prints, coins, medals, and armour to the collection. This collection was later expanded by gifts from travellers and by donations from scientific societies and individuals.
The McLean houses over 25,000 items in collections ranging from fine art to local and social history, natural history and world cultures. The material is of local, national and international significance and the McLean has loaned art works from the important fine art collection to venues in Scotland, England, Ireland, Canada and Japan. The stature of the world culture collections is such that material has been loaned to special exhibitions in Paris and Berlin. Specialist curators from renowned institutions such as the British Museum have also conducted research into items from the Museumís notable Ancient Egyptian collection. The mix of local and exotic collections has been central to the Museumís existence from its inception to the present day.
The McLean Museum and Art Gallery has never previously had the opportunity of hosting an artist in residence although visiting artists have often been inspired by the Museum and its collections. The museum looks forward to this new interpretation of its collections and in particular welcomes the opportunity of presenting them in innovative digital formats in keeping with the 21st century.
Val Boa, Curator, McLean Museum & Art Gallery, October 2007