Dundee’s Discovery Point, home to one of the world’s most famous scientific research ships – the RRS Discovery - is set to be completely transformed after securing substantial financial backing from the Scottish Government and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The news is the latest seismic shift in Dundee’s fortunes as it’s transformed from the industrial city of jute, jam and journalism into a global tourism destination. Scotland’s fourth largest city is the winner of multiple tourism and staycation awards, home to the remarkable V&A Dundee, soon to be the home of the Eden Project in Scotland and now set to be an important centre of climate change heritage, science and learning.

The £12m Discovery Point Transformed project has been awarded £900k of Scottish Government funding through the Tay Cities Culture and Tourism Investment Programme, with another £1.6m approved subject to a successful match-funding drive. A further £316k initial investment has been awarded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with another £2.55m expected if plans progress as anticipated. This £5 million of funding adds to over £1m already raised from a combination of Dundee Heritage Trust’s own funds, grants and donations from a range of trusts and foundations, high net worth individuals and corporate sponsors. This puts the project over the halfway mark to being fully funded, with two years to raise the balance.

The project, run by the Dundee Heritage Trust, will transform one of Dundee’s most popular and highly rated visitor attractions, Discovery Point, from a traditional heritage museum into a new multi-element visitor attraction with a strong emphasis on climate change and environmental sustainability.

Discovery Point will have five new or substantially revamped major attractions:

  • ‘Think Global, Act Local’ climate change gallery - a major, completely new, world-class visitor attraction, highlighting the international significance of the RRS Discovery and its expeditions, and their connections to the major global issues of climate change and the ocean environment.
  • The Dundee Dome Experience - a stunning, brand new visitor centre in this previously inaccessible roof space at the top of the Discovery Point Dome, offering 360°panoramic views of the city, waterfront and River Tay and featuring Gaia, the impressive artwork by world famous environmental artist, Luke Jerram. Now fully funded and due to open in 2022.
  • RRS Discovery - conservation and preservation of this world heritage asset, the ship that took Scott and Shackleton to the Antarctic in the days when that was as unthinkable as space travel. A recent specialist survey has identified several critical areas for conservation.
  • A new permanent gallery – using the site of the current café, the gallery will focus on polar exploration, including the infamous ‘Race to the Pole’ which dominated Captain Scott’s ill-fated second expedition to the Antarctic, and the amazing and inspiring life story of Sir Ernest Shackleton, who sailed first to the Antarctic on board Discovery in 1901.
  • A new gallery for temporary and special exhibitions - this will allow Discovery Point to host a greater range of temporary exhibitions - either developed in-house or touring exhibitions - and the potential to host larger scale ‘blockbusters’ exhibitions.

In addition, the transformation will include refurbishment of existing galleries; the development of a new river-facing café/restaurant and events space; expanded and enhanced conference and event facilities; a redesigned entrance and reception area; environmental improvements to meet low carbon targets; and a comprehensive programme of learning for schools and the wider community, with exciting new themes of Antarctic exploration, science and climate change.

The resulting world-class tourism centre will bring significant benefits to the local, regional and national economy, forge partnerships with other regional attractions and ensure the financial sustainability of an established museum with an international audience.

Economy Secretary Kate Forbes said: “I’m pleased to see the latest step in the delivery of the Regional Culture and Tourism Investment Programme, supported through the Tay Cities Region Deal. We are investing £37 million in projects across the region to ensure it continues to excel in its offer to residents and visitors alike.

“I’m delighted that our funding will help Discovery Point enhance their offering and, in particular, emphasise the importance of climate change as Scotland prepares to host COP26 in November.”

The news of the redevelopment comes as the world prepares for COP26, the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, hosted just 80 miles away in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November 2021. Discovery Point and its new ‘Think Global: Act Local’ Climate Change gallery will celebrate and explore Dundee’s authentic links to climate change - the RRS Discovery undertook the world’s first scientific research in the Antarctic, producing critical benchmark data and technological innovations which are still used to this day by climate scientists. It will also highlight how individuals can reduce their environmental impact.

Linking historic objects from the Discovery collection with cutting-edge research from world-leading partners in polar and environmental science, the gallery will use objects, audio-visual, interactive and immersive content to engage visitors with the theme of climate change. It will also explore the less comfortable elements of Dundee’s environmental impact, such as the pollution from factories during the industrial revolution and the city’s whaling heritage. This will link to the more inspiring story of Discovery’s second Antarctic mission in the 1920s, from which the whale conservation movement was born.

Jim Pettigrew, Chair of Dundee Heritage Trust, said: “The transformation of Discovery Point will have a huge impact on the city, bringing visitors, jobs and investment to Dundee and helping to put the city on the map as a global destination for green tourism. We are delighted to have secured this financial support – a huge vote of confidence in our plans. There now begins a major public funding drive to raise a further £6m, which is necessary to unlock a significant proportion of the money committed so far.”

Phase one of Discovery Point Transformed - the fully funded Dundee Dome Experience - will open for the 2022 tourist season. The remainder of the capital works - phase two - is expected to take place between 2023 and 2025, with both of Dundee Heritage Trust's five star rated venues, Discovery Point and Dundee's Social History Museum and Scotland's Jute Museum at Verdant Works staying open throughout.