THE Advertiser reported this week on plans to reopen the former Helensburgh Heroes centre in Sinclair Street, which has been closed to the public since October 2018, in a new and modified form.

The idea, first revealed here, comes from Helensburgh resident Professor Michael Baker, who owns the Sinclair Street premises and says he believes that despite the centre's closure, there's still an opening for a visitor centre in the town.

Here, in the first of two articles on the subject, Professor Baker outlines his proposals for a Helensburgh and Lomond Cultural Centre (HLCC) under the 'Helensburgh Heritage' brand.

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Helensburgh Heritage is a social enterprise designed to create a self-funding community asset for persons living in the Helensburgh and Lomond district by means of a visitor centre celebrating the past and current achievements of persons associated with the area and its attractions as a place to live and visit.

Occupying premises designed and refurbished to meet the specification of a dormant charity with similar objectives, Helensburgh Heritage will create a Hall of Fame in a purpose-designed exhibition hall in which both residents and visitors will be able to access a wealth of detail about people and events connected with the district since the town’s foundation in 1776.

As the birthplace of John Logie Baird, the inventor of television, and the home of Henry Bell who developed the first steamship, Helensburgh enjoys international recognition and interest along with Hill House, the architectural masterpiece of Scots architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

But, like many other small communities around the world, Helensburgh and its hinterland has and continues to nurture people and ideas that inform and enlighten our mission of 'celebrating the past and inspiring the future'.

READ MORE: Praise for Helensburgh Heroes project as new centre is officially opened (from 2017)

In a digital age, with almost infinite access to anything and everything, belonging to and participating in a community is an important source of well-being and sense of security.

Further, with increased wealth and leisure time, the opportunity physically to experience ‘places’ underpins a rapidly growing service and tourist industry with associated investment and employment opportunities in place of the more traditional manufacturing economy they have replaced.

However, there are at least two widely held, mistaken assumptions that need to be addressed if Helensburgh is to increase its attractiveness as “a place to go”.

To begin with, the fact that almost limitless information can be acquired by surfing the internet does not mean that everybody takes advantage of this.

It is for this reason that many travellers make a beeline for the information/visitor centre (if one exists) on arrival in a new destination.

Not only do we need a map of the location, we would probably also like some advice from a person familiar with it about what there is to see and do in the time we have available.

Surprisingly, many of us trust the ‘locals’ more than the anonymous reviews on TripAdvisor.

READ MORE: New leaflet promoting Clyde sea lochs trail is launched in Helensburgh

The other fallacy, misattributed to a statement by American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson in the late 19th century, is that “if a man make a better mousetrap then the world will beat a path to his door”.

The first problem with this statement is that the definition of ‘better’ is a subjective opinion, particular to an individual, comparing different offerings in terms of their availability, functionality, price et cetera – and we need to satisfy ourselves on all the these, and probably other dimensions, before coming to a judgement.

Just claiming that Edinburgh is better than Glasgow is not enough.

But, even more important, is how do you come by the information concerning ‘better mousetraps’ or the relative merits of Edinburgh and Glasgow as places to visit?

And the simple answer is that you seek opinions and information that address directly the criteria most important to you.

READ MORE: New display on Loch Lomond's story opens to residents and visitors

To begin with you may ask friends and relatives but is also very likely that you will begin to notice advertisements about the subject you are interested in.

It really does “pay to advertise” and the efforts of VisitScotland may well result in many visitors finishing up in smaller local communities in Scotland.

But, with the closure of so many official visitor centres, where can you find that all important local knowledge?

The short answer is you need to open your own. Promotional materials are widely available and local businesses may be willing to contribute something towards operating costs.

But, the vital and most important factor is the availability of enthusiastic volunteers to handle enquiries face-to-face.

HLCC has the premises, but we need volunteers to staff them.