John Muir in the French Pyrenees!

We are delighted to be showing a powerpoint exhibition about John Muir and the origin of the first American National Parks curated by senior pupils at Jean Dupuy High School in the French Pyrenees! On show until 31 March.

The panels of this exhibition were done last school year by nine sixteen-year-old pupils from Jean Dupuy High School in Tarbes with the help of a history and geography teacher and myself. Tarbes is situated in the south west of France, very near to the Pyrenees National Park.
I have been teaching English in this school for three years. Being a wild place lover, I have come regularly to Scotland since I was a French assistant near Stirling twenty-nine years ago. The idea of an exhibition in the French Pyrenees National Park premises came from my belief that my pupils could be interested in John Muir’s biography and contribute to make his life and the story of the first national parks in the world known in the Pyrenees. It was a great opportunity for me to teach important parts of American History such as Native American culture, colonization, the myth of the Frontier… We also talked about the emergence of the first ecological movement in 19th century USA with the influence of artists and scientists on public opinion and on politicians, which all led to the creation of the first national parks. John Muir Muir’s life and actions were thoroughly presented. I dealt with all these themes with some of my classes and nine pupils volunteered to do some panels. Adèle, Adèle-Nadja, Blandine, Camille, Corentin, Elodie, Estelle, Hamidou, Lila worked in their free time with our help. For John Muir’s biography, we made use of some books and documents I got at JMB when I first went there nearly ten years ago.
JMB website and Jo Moulin’s help were also very precious to achieve our work. We are also thankful to American National Parks staffs who sent to us very nice posters.
This exhibition was first displayed last May in Gavarnie Maison du Parc. Gavarnie is situated in the mountains near Tarbes and is also famous for its UNESCO site. Then, last September, we had the wonderful opportunity to have it displayed during the Europarc Conference in Aviemore.
At a time when environmental issues are in the frontlines again, I think it is very important that young people know about John Muir. The pupils perceived him as an example of perseverance, talent and resilience. Learning about his intense and fruitful life can encourage each of them to play their unique part and reminds us all that a single person can have a tremendous influence in the course of things. It is now a great honour for us to be given the opportunity to show you our work in his native home … Many thanks to JMB staff.
Dominique Marabèse

Flying visit from RSPB!

On Saturday 9th March John Muir’s Birthplace is welcoming the RSPB — the largest wildlife conservation charity in Europe. They have over a million members and together they help to give nature a home. Although they’re the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, they help lots of other wildlife too — making ideal habitats for birds also benefits other creatures. Come along from 10.30am until 4pm to do some wildlife activities and find out how you can give nature a home too!

Calypso Borealis

Our family activities for the next couple of weekends centre around Muir’s discovery of the Calypso Borealis while wandering through the swamps of Canada in 1864. The story of his joy at finding this rare orchid became his first published writing, having been sent on to a newspaper by his former College professor, J.D. Butler, to whom he had written of the discovery in a letter. The article was published in the Boston Recorder in 1865, and an extract is available here:

I never before saw a plant so full of life; so perfectly spiritual, it seemed pure enough for the throne of its Creator. I felt as if I were in the presence of superior beings who loved me and beckoned me to come. I sat down beside them and wept for joy. Could angels in their better land show us a more beautiful plant? How good is our Heavenly Father in granting us such friends as these plant-creatures, filling us wherever we go with pleasure so deep, so pure, so endless.

Next Exhibition – ‘Silva’ by Chris Thomas

We are delighted to announce the upcoming exhibition ‘Silva: a meditation on trees and woods in eleven photographs’ by photographer Chris Thomas. 20th February – 24th March.

Humankind has had an intimate relationship with trees and woodland since the days of our earliest ancestors – on the one hand, practical and prosaic, on another, a deeply-felt sense of their intrinsic value as living things, expressed spiritually by some. The importance of trees and woodland as part of a sustainable, richly-biodiverse and resilient future environments is well-recognised, but our attachment goes beyond this: trees and woodland are just as important to us psychologically and physically, simply by being.
Arising from his own fascination with trees and woodlands, Chris’s sequence of black and white film photographs seeks to invite visitors to the exhibition simply to reflect upon the ‘being’ of trees and woods: their ‘essence’ expressed in their architectures, textures and forms, the way they create light and shade and space, how these phenomena change daily, or through the seasons – and how we respond ourselves, consciously or subliminally, to our trees and woodlands.

Merry Christmas

We would like to take this opportunity to wish all our readers a very Merry Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year.

If you are still looking for those last minute Christmas presents, remember we have some beautiful sustainable goods, many of which made within 30 miles of Dunbar. Why not pop in for Lothian Lavender and Chain Bridge Honey Farm goodies or Seaglass Jewellery by Back from the Beach. We also have stationary and books on themes of John Muir and local history. We also have a few of the Dunbar, Scenes of Street, Sea and Shore Calendars featuring photographs by local young people.

We will be open Wednesday – Sunday this week before closing for our winter break from Mon 24 Dec – Wed 2 January inclusive.

Next Exhibition – ‘Flora’ by Cathy Bell

Look out for our exciting first exhibition of 2019.  From 5 January until 16 February, we are proud to host artist Cathy Bell’s solo show, ‘flora’.

In her exhibition of artwork and photography Cathy Bell is concerned with capturing a personal connection with the natural world of “flora”. For paintings she has chosen to depict plants, flowers and trees which mean something to her personally and also for their shape, line and colour. She is not interested in rendering a realistic likeness, however, she does endeavour to capture an image which is true to the essence and spirit of the subject. Her photographs are similar in that they are not created with technical merit in mind. Rather, they are derived from an instinctive connection with the subject, some of the photographs are enhanced to heighten the mood, thereby, altering the aesthetic. In all of the work on display she tries to follow John Muir’s advice to “keep close to nature’s heart”.

New Exhibition – Inspired by John Muir

This wonderful selection of photos are the winning entries of a joint competition run by John Muir’s Birthplace and the Facebook group Dunbar in Pictures. It will be on display in John Muir’s Birthplace from 24 November until 21 December 2018. The photography competition was open to all photographers, professional and amateur alike.

The brief encouraged photographers to take time to look at the landscapes around Dunbar and the fine detail in nature that inspired John Muir as a child growing up in Dunbar. Photos of anything from landscapes to macro shots of nature, or people enjoying outdoor Dunbar were all welcome so long as they were taken within the geographical zone of Dunbar (boundaries are: Seacliff / Tantallon Castle in the west, Pease Bay / Cove in the east, and the Lammermuirs out to Garvald to the south) or a picture of Dunbar taken from across the Firth in Fife or from the top of North Berwick Law.

Special thanks to Gaynor Smith who helped conceive and administrate the project and all the participating photographers.

Spend your new East Lothian Gift Card with us!

John Muir’s Birthplace is delighted to be part of the new East Lothian Gift Card Scheme.

Following on from the council’s popular Christmas Shop Local Scheme, the gift card retains the same aims of supporting our town centres and local businesses and boosting East Lothian’s economy.

It’s really convenient too, with businesses of all kinds from shops to beauty therapists to restaurants all being able to take part in the scheme at no cost, with the only requirement being their business is able to take Mastercard credit card payments.

And to buy a gift card is easy too as it’s all done online and you just load your card with your chosen amount and it can then be used in participating East Lothian businesses.

This makes is not just the perfect Christmas gift but great for birthdays, celebrations, wedding and corporate gifts.

Spokesperson for Economic Development and Tourism, Councillor John McMillan, said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be supporting this initiative which is a great way of giving our local businesses a boost and keeping spending here in East Lothian. The card looks great, is easy to buy and use, and would be a perfect addition to any Christmas stocking!”

There are more than 100 businesses taking part at the moment, including hotels and restaurants, shops and service providers and we expect more and more will come on board as there’s really no limit to how many people can get involved in the gift card scheme. All the participating businesses will be listed on the gift card website and will display in their premises that the East Lothian Gift Card is accepted there.

The East Lothian Gift Card is available from

So why not think about buying an East Lothian Gift Card for someone this Christmas and give them the chance to pick a beautiful locally made present and support local businesses at the same time?  Here at John Muir’s Birthplace they can choose from books, Back from the Beach Seaglass Jewellery, Chain Bridge Honey Farm toiletries, Lothian Lavender candles and soaps or Marina Outdoors stationery as well as local cards by local artists and photographers including Gordon Jenkinson and Sheila Sim.

Maintenance in John Muir’s Birthplace

*Update Sun 18 November – we are delighted to announce that the upper floor reopened on Sun 3 Nov and the lift is fully operational once again. We would like to thank all our visitors for their patience at this time.*


Following an incident on the afternoon on Thur 1 November, please note that our top floor outlining John Muir’s later life and legacy is currently closed and our lift is out of order.  We apologise for any inconvenience this causes and hope our visitors will understand as we endeavour to get everything back to normal as soon as possible.

We do still have 2 floors available for you to visit in the meantime, and our shop is stocked with lots of books and lovely gifts!