Alexander Laing was born in 1808 in Newburgh and was educated at the local school. He worked as a draper until 1850 when he joined his uncle Thomas Anderson in the Commercial Bank in Newburgh. In 1855, when Thomas Anderson died, Laing was made sole Agent, a post which he maintained until his own death.

Laing was also a scholar and student of local and Scottish history and was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 1856. In 1860 he began a movement for the foundation of a Public Library in Newburgh, and he eventually bequeathed his own extensive library and antiquarian collection of artefacts, to the town, along with the sum of £1,220 for the erection of a building to house them.

He published Lindores Abbey and the Burgh of Newburgh in 1876 and in 1878 St. Andrews University conferred upon him the honorary degree of LLD. He remained a well respected scholar until his death, aged 84, in 1892. The Laing musuem was opened in 1896, after his death, to house his collectio of local and foreign antiquities.

The future of the Laing Museum is currently under review by Fife Council.