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The Recognised Collections

Introduction

Everyday necessities and beautiful crafted objects are equally likely to feature in our Collections Recognised as Nationally Significant to Scotland. Both can tell us much about how our ancestors lived.

Scotland’s 49 Nationally Significant Collections can be found in towns and cities across the country. From Dundee to Dumfries and from Shetland to Ayr, visitors can be inspired by these collections of remarkable historic and cultural significance.

Paxton House's Chippendale and Trotter Furniture Collection and the Scottish Regimental Museums' Collection care for by the partnership of the Association of Scottish Military Museums (ASMM) are the most recent collections to have achieved the special status in November 2017.

Other Recognised Collections contain the chair in which Burns wrote his last poems and the world’s oldest national football trophy. Together the collections weave a rich tapestry of Scotland’s history, to be enjoyed across sites the length and breadth of the country.

Download a list of Scotland's Recognised Collections.

Learn about the Recognition Scheme.

Aberdeen City and Shire

The Entire Collection of Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums

Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums possess a rich diversity of collections in disciplines ranging from fine art and applied art to archaeology, maritime and industrial history.

The applied and decorative art collection covers all aspects of the discipline, with principal collecting areas of ceramic, glass, metal work, jewellery, costumes and textiles.  Strengths include an important group of historic Aberdeen silver, local costume, Chinese lacquer, the Cochrane Collection of ceramics and innovative contemporary crafts.

The fine art collections are wide-ranging with particularly rich holdings of 19th & 20th century Scottish art, early 20th century English art and a growing collection of challenging international art of the 21st century.

The archaeological collections span the period from Stone Age to 19th century and include material from the ancient world of the Middle East to the North-East of Scotland.  A particular strength is excavated material from the medieval burgh of Aberdeen and the numismatic collection which contains a number of spectacular coin hoards.

The collections of maritime history, science and industry relate to the trades and industries of North-East Scotland and beyond, a highlight being the offshore oil and gas industry collections.  The science and industry collection focuses upon working life in Aberdeen and its environs and key subject collection areas of medicine, granite, engineering and photography which are integral to understanding Scotland’s industrial history.

This collection is held in the following museums

The Entire Collection of the University of Aberdeen

The University of Aberdeen is over 500 years old, with the museum collections founded in 1751 comprise of over 300,000 objects.

The Marischal Museum and the Zoology Museum have major galleries with changing exhibitions open to the public, as well as talks, events and schools programmes. They comprise most types of material from throughout the world, rich in contextual information, strongly interwoven with each other and intimately linked with the University’s libraries and archives. The University of Aberdeen is over 500 years old, with the museum collections founded in 1751 comprise of over 300,000 objects.

This collection is held in the following museums:

The Aberdeenshire Farming Museum Collection of Aberdeenshire Council

The remarkable collection has been compiled over the last thirty years. It consists of over 2000 groups of objects representing all aspects of agricultural life and with particular strengths in mixed livestock and arable farming.  Amongst the collection are two complete buildings including the reconstructed Hareshowe Farm House and Steading.

The collection is drawn from the north-east and illustrates the development of farming on estates, the evolution of tenanted farms and small owner-occupied units.  This expands its significance beyond the area of its origin to represent the whole of Scotland.

As well as agricultural equipment, the collection is supported by substantial archive, photographic and oral history elements.

This collection is held in the following museum:

The Entire Collection of the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses

If any collection represents the endeavour of human nature against the forces of nature then that of the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses must rank highly. From the simple hand-made model ships crafted by individual light keepers, to the huge glass and brass lenses of the nineteenth century, the museum is the only institution in the UK that tells the story of technology and people that lived and worked in a hostile coastal environment.

This collection is held in the following museum:

Argyll and the Isles

Auchindrain Township

Located six miles outside of Inveraray, the Township of Auchindrain consists of 22 farm buildings that have remained in-situ for centuries and are surrounded by the remains of ancient field systems. The original village buildings include tenant farmers’ longhouses, domestic houses, barns, animal shelters, stables, a cart shed, a corn drying-kiln, remains of a mill, walled gardens and part of a drove road.  These provide a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the people who once lived and worked at Auchindrain.

During the period, known as the age of Agricultural Improvement, landowners improved their farm townships and turned them into more profitable single-tenant farms with enclosed fields. The Township of Auchindrain was never improved; it did change, at a workaday level, from a joint-tenancy farm township in the 1700s to a single-tenant farm in the 20th century. Thus it can show the built response to evolving needs over several centuries.

Only a small number of other deserted and ruinous townships can provide similar data to Auchindrain but they are often difficult to access and lack the historical documentation, which Auchindrain possesses. Historic Scotland and Argyll and Bute Council designate the Township of Auchindrain as an A-listed site and an Outstanding Conservation Area.

This collection is held in the following museum:

 

Ayrshire and Arran

The Historical Musical Instrument Collection of East Ayrshire Leisure

The collection of historic musical instruments cared for by East Ayrshire Leisure on behalf of East Ayrshire Council features lutes, guitars, harpsichords, recorders, pianos and harps and boasts one of the earliest violins in existence - an English Renaissance violin made by the Bassano family which dates from between 1550 and 1580.

The significance and quality of some of the musical instruments has been compared to those found in the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. However, to see the latest Recognised Collection of National Significance you only need to go as far as Dean Castle in Kilmarnock.

Other highlights include a rare Royal Irish Portable Harp made in 1821 by John Egan who was harp-maker to King George IV, an 18th century Apollo Lyre which is one of a few in existence and some highly decorated and intricately-constructed miniature fiddles.

One instrument - a Ganer square piano dating from 1786 - holds a connection with Robert Burns. Accounts by the Gregory Family of Kilmarnock, who bought the piano and in whose house Burns stayed, maintains that it was the only piano in the area at the time. Mrs. Gregory is known to have played for Burns and it is likely that he listened to the songs he composed on this piano.

This collection is held in the following museum:

The Entire Collection of the Scottish Maritime Museum

The Scottish Maritime Museum’s collection contains over 44,000 objects ranging from vessels to archival records and includes the Linthouse Engine Shed and the Denny Experimental Ship Model test tank which are both “A” listed structures.

The sub-divisions within the collections are shipbuilding equipment and machinery, boatbuilding equipment and machinery, marine engines and engineering, full sized vessels, general maritime collections including models, archives and library, scientific and technical equipment and records, and buildings.

This collection is held in the following museums:

The Entire Collection of the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum

The collection, formed by Burns Monument Trust, is the largest museum collection in the world of artefacts relating to the poet Robert Burns (1759-96). The collection comprises of some 4085 artefacts including manuscripts, rare books, artefacts relating to Burns and his family and pieces of art.

Burns Monument Trust hold the most complete set of the poet’s published work known to exist, iconic artefacts with direct links to the poet’s life from his birth in Alloway to his premature death in Dumfries 37 years later, a wide ranging reference collection of art, and an extraordinary collection of ‘Burnsiana’ which chronicles the world’s changing interests in the poet.

This collection is held in the following museum:

 

The Core Collection of Brodick Castle of the National Trust for Scotland


Tucked away on the island of Arran in Brodick Castle is a collection that gives a unique insight into the social and private lives of one of Scotland’s leading noble families. From the fifteenth century to the twentieth, the Hamilton family was central to the cultural and political life of Scotland. They were Scotland’s foremost noble family and claimants to the Scottish throne and amassed what has been described as the greatest collection of fine and decorative art in the history of Scotland.
Now owned and cared for by conservation charity, the National Trust for Scotland, Brodick Castle is home to part of their once vast holdings.

This collection is held in the following museums:

 

Dumfries and Galloway

The Archaeology and Kirkcudbright Artists Collections of Dumfries and Galloway Council

The Archeology Collection

The Dumfries and Galloway Museum Service’s archaeology collection is one of the largest collections in Scotland.  It is a comprehensive collection of Dumfries and Galloway’s material culture over an 8,000 year period and is the primary source of information for understanding the region’s prehistory and history.

This collection is held in the following museums:

The Kirkcudbright Artists Collection

Kirkcudbright’s association with the Glasgow art movement started when several artists, including Glasgow Boys and Scottish Colourists, such as Samuel Peploe and Francis Cadell, based themselves in the area. Between 1880 and 1980 over 100 artists painted there and the Kirkcudbright Artist’s Collection cared for by Dumfries and Galloway Council illustrates the lives and works of the collective and roots the town firmly in the history of Scottish Art.

This collection is held in the following museums:

The Miners' Library Collection of The Museum of Lead Mining

Founded in 1756 by a group of lead miners the Miner’s Library is the second oldest in Europe and is one of the few surviving examples of a community subscription Library.  Such libraries were vital in providing education and culture in the broadest sense to working people.

The collection of 2,572 volumes typifies material available to members of subscription libraries in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and as such tells an important part of the story of Scotland’s social history.

The library is part of the fascinating Museum of Leadmining which presents the industrial and social history of Scotland’s greatest lead mining enterprise. It is situated in the remote village of Wanlockhead in the hills of north Dumfriesshire where lead was first found by the Romans and industrial mining dates back to the beginning of the 18thc.

This collection is held in the following museum:

 

Dundee and Angus

The Whaling and Fine Art & Decorative Art Collections of The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum

The collections have their origins in Dundee’s Watt Institute, founded in 1824.

The Whaling Collection represents an industry that was once very important to Scotland and to Dundee in particular.

The richly varied art collection has over 4000 works and includes excellent coverage of 19th and 20th century Scottish Art – with notable Dundee artists, John Duncan and McIntosh Patrick.  Also included is an important collection of Scottish provincial silver with excellent coverage of all known Dundee makers; a ceramics range from ornamental Japanese Satsuma ware and English 18th century porcelain.

This collection is held in the following museum:

The RRS Discovery and her associated Polar Collection of Dundee Heritage Trust

The Royal Research Ship Discovery, launched on 21 March 1901, was one of the last great three-masted sailing ships to be built in Britain.  Built on the construction principles of a Scottish whaling ship, she is now the only surviving vessel of this kind.

She was designed for the exploration and scientific study of Antarctica and her first mission was the British National Antarctic Expedition, carrying Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton on their first journey to the Antarctic.

Along with the ship, Dundee Heritage Trust holds a collection of around 2400 polar artefacts which is unparalleled in Scotland. The associated collections relate to the history of the ship and the men who served on her.

Items within the collections vary from navigational instruments, scientific specimens collected on the ship's expeditions to personal objects which vividly represent daily life for polar explorers of the period.

From the fabulous archival collections of personal correspondence of Scott, Markham and Skelton to the vivid photographs of Herbert Ponting, the list of original owners of each of these items reads like a who’s who of polar exploration.

The ship has attracted over one million visitors since Discovery Point opened in 1993.

This collection is held in the following museum:

The Jute Collection of Dundee Heritage Trust

Verdant Works, is the only surviving operational jute mill and museum in Scotland. It is an 'A' listed building and is a rare surviving example of a courtyard-type mill with its original building layout and many original features remaining.

This museum holds over four thousand objects, representing almost all of the existing artefacts related to jute manufacture in the UK.  These explore all aspects of the industry ranging from manufacturing equipment, quality control and testing objects, photographs and social history items as well as a range of jute products.

As a museum Verdant Works tells the story of Dundee's textile industries, focusing primarily on the jute and linen industries. Dundee supplied the majority of the world's demand for jute products and this widens the story into one that has great importance for Scottish and indeed British history. These objects represent an industry and lifestyle that no longer exists in Scotland but which influenced countries around the world with its engineering know-how and management experience.

This collection is held in the following museum:

 

Edinburgh and The Lothians

The Museum of Childhood Collection of City of Edinburgh Museums and Galleries

The collection comprises nearly 50,000 items reflecting the history of childhood from the 18th century to the present day. 

The fascinating collection includes toys and games of all kinds from many parts of the world and whole rooms are devoted to dolls, teddy bears and train sets. 

Located on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile in the Museum of Childhood, the collection is a favourite with adults and children alike. The museum is a treasure house, crammed full of objects telling of childhood, past and present and when it opened in 1955 it was the first museum in the world to specialise in the history of childhood.

An afternoon spent in the Museum of Childhood helps people today to explore how children have been brought up, dressed and educated in decades gone by. 

This collection is held in the following museum:

The Scottish Art Collection of City of Edinburgh Museums and Galleries

The Scottish Art Collection is held mainly at the City Art Centre. Edinburgh’s fine art collection consists of around 3,500 works of Scottish art in the form of paintings, watercolours, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture and tapestries, including works by McTaggart, Fergusson, Peploe and Eardley.

The collection has been kept up-to-date with the acquisition of works by contemporary Scottish artists, including Davie, Blackadder, Paolozzi and Bellany.

Exhibitions drawn from the collection are a regular feature of the City Art Centre's programme.

This collection is held in the following museum:

The Museum of Edinburgh's Applied Art Collection

The extensive collection includes Applied Art, Scottish Ceramics, Edinburgh Glass and Edinburgh and Canongate Silver held at the Museum of Edinburgh, located on the Royal Mile. 

These collections have been assembled over the last sixty years as part of a focussed curatorial collection policy.  The collection of Scottish Ceramics was begun at a time when no other public collection in Scotland recognised Scottish Pottery as a subject of interest within the history of British Ceramics. 

The glass collection is founded on material obtained directly from individuals with a direct and important connection with the glassworks, helping to guarantee provenance of material otherwise notoriously difficult to relate to individual factories. 

The silver, one of the finest holdings of Edinburgh and Canongate silver in public collections, is of outstanding quality and almost entirely on gallery display. 

This collection is held in the following museum:

The Permanent Collection of the Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture

The Scottish art and art-related material in the permanent collections of the Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture comprises of some 5,000 paintings, drawings, sculptures, prints, architectural drawings and models, art photographs, and studio equipment. This is cared for by the academy’s Collections Department at The Dean Gallery and is exhibited in the Royal Scottish Academy on The Mound.

This collection is held in the following museum:

The Entire Collection of Surgeons’ Hall Museums

Scotland is world renowned for its contribution to the development of modern medicine.  For most of the 19th century Edinburgh was one of, if not the, most important centres for medical teaching in the world. Surgeons’ Hall Museum is the most significant single repository of medical collections in Scotland and the collections comprehensively cover surgical, anatomical and pathological developments throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

The collection is unique in still being held in the building designed specifically to house it – Surgeons’ Hall (1832) designed by William Playfair and the oldest surviving museum in Scotland to still hold its original collections - together with associated and complete documentation of the collections and associated archival material relating to its management and development from 1696 to the present day.

This collection is held in the following museum:

The Historical Musical Instruments Collection of the University of Edinburgh

Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments (EUCHMI) ranks among the world's most important collections of musical heritage. All the main types of musical sound‑making device are represented.

The c. 3000 objects in the permanent collection constitute a rich research resource of both breadth and depth, and include many historically typical models of musical instrument spanning over 500 years together with prized rare and unique items.

This collection is held in the following museums:

The Entire collection of the National Mining Museum Scotland

The collections are an outstanding resource for the appreciation, study and understanding of coal mining and its importance to the life and culture of Scotland.

The collections record the social life of mining communities, the economic impact of the industry, and the contribution of miners and their communities to the political development and cultural life of Scotland. It is a material record of the development of the coal mining industry that illustrates the advances in the engineering, science and technology of the mining industry that, in turn, fuelled the industrial revolution in Scotland and sent its echoes around the world. The collections are also a vivid record of the life and work of the coal miners of Scotland.

It is an account of Scottish coal mining that extends to more than 100,000 items, including mining tools, pictures, trophies, banners, costumes, geology samples, domestic items, archives, a library, photographs, maps and plans gathered from across all the Scottish coal fields. The largest item in the collections is the A-Listed Lady Victoria Colliery itself, the last remaining colliery in Scotland, which sets the collections in context.

The collections are a principal source for the study of Scottish coal mining and form the basis for an active museum with a Five Star visitor attraction that uses ex-miners as guides.

This collection is held in the following museum:

The Core Collection of the Scottish Railway Preservation Society

The Scottish Railway Preservation Society operates the Bo'ness & Kinneil Railway, which has been developed since 1979 on a green-field site by the south shore of the Firth of Forth.

The collections are seen by visitors to the SRPS either in the context of the operating Bo’ness & Kinneil Railway or in the Museum of Scottish Railways. They span the period from the dawn of the railway age to the present day.

The collections are unique, there are approx 250 rail vehicles (steam and diesel locomotives, carriages and wagons) at Bo’ness, of which 150 are accessioned to the historic Core Collection which has received Recognition.  These are supported by a growing collection of 6,300 smaller artefacts.

This collection is held in the following museum:

The Scottish Shale Oil Collection of Almond Valley Heritage Trust

Ever wondered what those bright red hills are that you see when travelling through West Lothian?  These ‘shale bings’ are souvenirs of a period when Scotland was one of the first major oil-producing nations of the world.  The shale oil industry marked a significant period of innovation in Scotland’s history.  The industry also had a profound impact on people’s lives at the time as it helped to bring affordable lighting to all of Scotland’s households. 

The world’s first oil tycoon James ‘Paraffin’ Young pioneered the exploitation of West Lothian's oil shale deposits. In 1862 the distillation plants began production and by the 1900s nearly 2 million tons of shale was being extracted annually, employing 4,000 men.  The final Scottish shale oil works closed in 1962, just a few years before the dawn of a new age of Scottish oil from the North Sea.

The 37th Recognised Collection can be seen at Almond Valley Heritage Centre in Livingston.  It is unique with 2,500 objects that allow visitors to explore the Scottish shale oil industry.  The wonderfully varied items in the collection can range in size from tiny microscope slides to large items of industrial machinery.  The charming display of ornate vintage oil lamps and bottles of intriguingly assorted shades of shale oil offer unexpected flashes of colour throughout the museum.

This collection is held in the following museum:

Greater Glasgow and the Clyde Valley

The Entire Collection of Glasgow Museums

The art and design collection consists of some 60,000 objects covering a wide range of media including paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, metalwork, ceramics, glass, jewellery, furniture and textiles. It provides a comprehensive overview of the history of European art and design and includes masterpieces by major artists such as Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Whistler and Dali. The Scottish painting and decorative art collection is one of the finest in the country. Art from non-European cultures includes an internationally renowned collection of Chinese art.

The natural history collection is the most outstanding of any civic museum in Scotland and is one of the largest natural history collections owned by a local authority anywhere in the UK. Specimens range across a broad spectrum of zoology, botany and geology. Some specimens date from the late 18th and early 19th centuries and are of historical interest.

The human history collection encompasses a range of disciplines including ancient civilizations, anthropology, archaeology, religious studies, Scottish history and social history. It includes an internationally renowned collection of arms and armour, an extensive collection of world cultures material and a representative collection from the Ancient World.

The transport and technology collections reflect the leading role played by Glasgow and the West of Scotland in scientific enquiry and industrial production. It includes the most comprehensive collection of Scottish built steam locomotives in the world, an unrivalled collection of Scottish cars and a superb collection of ship models.  There are also important objects representing key moments in the development of transport and technology such as the oldest known bicycle and some very early marine engines.

Many of the collections were acquired in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They represent Glasgow’s massive civic pride and its prominence in supplying the British Empire with goods and expertise. Many industrialists, such as Sir William Burrell, acquired important collections of art which they subsequently donated to the city. Engineers and missionaries also donated collections of ethnography and natural history which they collected on their travels around the Empire.

This collection is held in the following museums:

The Paisley Shawl Collection of Renfrewshire Leisure

Since it was established in 1871, Paisley Museum has been collecting material relating to the shawl-making industry.  The collection comprises of over 1,000 shawls including those produced in Paisley and by other major competitors in Scotland, England, France and India.  A number of the shawls are considered very rare because of their design or construction, or because they have internal provenance in the form of woven names or initials.

The shawl collection underpins the study and understanding of the local, national and international development of the shawl weaving industry, ancillary industries and trade.  The paisley pattern is recognised worldwide and is synonymous with the town’s importance in the industrial life of Scotland and in the worldwide textile industry.

The collection reflects the development of Paisley as one of Scotland’s largest towns with an economy built on the trade in textiles from the time of the Reformation to the end of the 19th century. 

During the 18th and 19th centuries Paisley stood at the forefront of weaving technology with its perfection of the ten-box lay that allowed more flexible use of colour, along with the early introduction of the Jacquard loom leading to mass production.  The town was also in the forefront of technical education with the establishment of a School of Design to assist with training for the weaving trade and later a college of technology that taught, amongst other subjects, dye chemistry.

The collection also contains pattern and sample books, shawl making equipment and an archive of photographs, weaver union minutes and manufacture’s correspondence.

This collection is held in the following museum:

The Entire Collection of The Hunterian

Opened to the public in 1807 – the Hunterian is currently celebrating their bi-centenary. 

The collections, which comprise of William Hunters founding bequest of 1783, are of intrinsic significance through their age, origin and completeness. They represent a tangible and internationally important legacy of the Scottish Enlightenment.

This collection is held in the following museums:

The Charles Rennie Mackintosh Collection of Glasgow School of Art

The Glasgow School of Art Mackintosh Collection is a distinct collection that forms part of a larger Glasgow School of Art museum collection, housed within the internationally celebrated Mackintosh Building.

The Mackintosh Collection comprises work by the School’s most celebrated alumnus, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and includes 200 items of furniture and a little over 100 watercolours, drawings and other decorative art objects. Together these provide outstanding and often unique examples of Mackintosh’s achievements as an architect, designer and artist.

Other important objects represent Mackintosh’s breadth of work as an interior and furniture designer including original designs for a number of his most important private buildings as well as an extensive range of items for the celebrated Glasgow tea rooms designed between 1897 and 1917.

A series of architectural drawings of the School document how the building was conceived and evolved. Symbolist watercolours, architectural sketches, still-life compositions and late French landscapes document the full range of Mackintosh’s output as an artist.

This collection is held in the following museum:

The Industrial and associated Social History Collections of CultureNL

North Lanarkshire Council’s collection covers the main industries of Scotland with an emphasis on iron, steel, coal and engineering.

The social history collections provide an important record of the impact of industrialisation on Scottish society. Key categories of material include objects relating to the Co-operative movement, friendly societies, political reform, education, leisure, culture and identity. While archival, photographic and oral history collections provide strong associated and contextual information.

The steel industry collection is the finest in Scotland, especially the items relating to Colvilles, Dalzell and Ravenscraig. The collection covers the entire history and production process of steel manufacture in Scotland, along with fine examples of specialised products. 

Scotland’s engineering heritage is well represented with a unique collection of spade forging equipment and boiler making equipment.

This collection is held in the following museums:

The Entire Collection of the Scottish Football Museum

The collections held by the Scottish Football Museum represent the national football collection of Scotland. They reflect the significance of Scottish football nationally, as an integral part of Scottish popular culture, and internationally, as a pioneer within the development of the global game.

They are representative of all of the governing bodies of football in Scotland, most notably, the Scottish FA, Scottish Premier League, Scottish Football League, Scottish Women’s Football, Scottish Junior FA, Scottish Youth FA, Scottish Amateur FA, Scottish School’s FA and Scottish Welfare FA. They also include the Queen’s Park FC Collection, charting the history of Scotland’s oldest and historically most important football club, and the Hampden Park Collection, which chronicles the development of Scotland’s national football stadium.

The collections are comprised of associated material relating to Scottish football at all levels, covering all regions, and reflect the wider influence of Scottish football within the UK and overseas.

The museum’s collections are diverse, spanning a large range of material types, most notably textiles, photographs, slides, prints, paper and manuscript, metalwork, audio and video, wood, glassware, leather, plastics and ceramics.

The collections are certainly comprehensive, covering tens of thousands of items of material culture relating to the national game.

This collection is held in the following museum:

The Sewing Machine Collection & Singer Archive of West Dunbartonshire Council

This collection offers a fascinating insight into the manufacture and development of one of the most important inventions in history – the sewing machine.

It is the largest publicly accessible collection of its kind in Europe with machines from 130 different manufacturers from Europe, America and Asia that document the development of this technology over nearly 100 years. It also documents the workings of the Singer factory at Clydebank providing a unique picture of the area’s industrial links and the social history of the people who worked at Singer’s. The US-owned plant, topped by the iconic Singer clock tower, was of huge importance to the town employing 15,866 people at its peak.

Collection highlights include several ‘first’ sewing machines that date from the 1850’s. The museum has an example of Singers first model, the Singer Number 1 and two examples of their first domestic model, the Turtleback. The museum also holds the only known examples of the first sewing machines to have been manufactured in the UK. They also have the very last sewing machine to be manufactured at Singer’s Clydebank factory before it closed in 1980 - a poignant reminder of the significance of the industry, not just to the local area, but Scotland as a whole.

This collection is held in the following museum:

The Entire Museum Collection of Glasgow Women’s Library

Glasgow Women’s Library is the only museum dedicated to women’s history in the UK.  Their collection contains rare and unique items that explore every aspect of women’s lives from the early 19th Century to today from recipe books and knitting patterns to Suffragette memorabilia and Women’s Liberation objects.

Set up in 1991, Glasgow Women’s Library started with no funding and totally reliant on volunteers until being able to employ its first paid worker in 2000. Since then, demand of its services, collections and projects has grown and they are a multi-award winning museum respected both a cultural asset to Glasgow’s East End and an important centre for women’s history, empowerment and learning in Scotland. Glasgow Women’s Library works all over Scotland and is renowned for its innovative approaches to learning.

This collection is held in the following museum:

Orkney

The Archaeology Collection of Orkney Museum

The Orkney Museum’s collection includes artefacts and environmental material from all periods of the island’s prehistoric and early medieval past.  The collection is comprehensive across that time but the collections of Neolithic, Late Iron Age and Norse material are particularly strong.  There are also collections of environmental material, including human and animal bone that are important for bio-molecular studies such as DNA analysis. 

Orkney Museum cares for all prehistoric and medieval material excavated or found in Orkney since 1978, save those from sites from which National Museums Scotland hold material from earlier fieldwork.  The Orkney Museum collection amounts to a total of some 100,000 artefacts and ecofacts.  The collection is unique in its time depth and in its comprehensiveness for the area.  Individual highlights among the artefacts include the magnificent spiral-carved stone from Pierowall in Westray and the goods from the Viking boat grave at Scar in Sanday.

This collection is held in the following museum:

The Entire Collection of the Pier Arts Centre

The Pier Arts Centre was established in 1979 to provide a home for an important collection of British fine art donated to ‘be held in trust for Orkney’ by the author, peace activist and philanthropist Margaret Gardiner (1904 – 2005). 

The collection has grown steadily since 1979 and now contains 116 works grouped around the central genre of Modernism, spanning the period from 1929 to the present day.

This collection is held in the following museum:

Perthshire

The Entire Collection of Perth and Kinross Council Museums and Art Galleries

The collection enjoys a lengthy history having been steadily built over more than three centuries, starting with material collected by the Literary and Antiquarian Society of Perth founded in December 1784 and the second oldest learned society in Scotland. 

There are over 372,000 objects or groups of objects and specimens in the collection covering the themes of human, art and natural history.

The collection includes:

  • Archaeology including major holdings relating to medieval Perth as well as Bronze Age and prehistoric finds.
  • Unparalleled collections of Perth made glass and silver.
  • Extensive herbaria, vertebrates and invertebrates, botany and geology.
  • The largest single holding of work by artist J D Fergusson in existence.
  • Paintings, prints and sculpture, ceramics, unique textiles.
  • Ethnographic material including an exceptionally rare Tahitian mourner’s costume, numismatics and archives.
  • An extensive photographic archive.
  • The collection is mainly housed in the Perth Museum and Art Gallery, purpose-built in 1824 and later extended as the collection grew.

Perth and Kinross Heritage Service recently won a national Conservation Award for the conservation and display of a rare silk doublet dating from the 1620’s.

This collection is held in the following museums:

 

Scottish Borders

The Chippendale and Trotter Furniture Collection of Paxton House

The grade A listed Paxton House was designed by John Adams in 1758 and extended in 1814, is home to a comprehensive furniture collection designed and manufactured by Chippendale the Elder and the Younger, and Trotter. The furniture was commissioned for Paxton House, and charts a stylistic evolution from late Rococo to the Greek Revival. The Chippendale furniture commissioned for Paxton House gave rise to 'The Paxton Style' a fashionable mode which spread far beyond Berwickshire to become especially popular on the eastern seaboard of the USA.

This collection is held in the following museum:

Shetland

The Textile and Archeology Collections of Shetland Amenity Trust

The Shetland Museum and Archives Textiles Collection comprises approximately 1300 items representing knitted fabrics and garments, hand-woven tweed and rugs, processed and spun wool, textile tools and implements, documents and ephemera, and archaeological textiles, dating from c.1870.

In the 19th century textiles became a commercial force in Shetland and the industry enabled women to support family incomes. Fine lace was a prestigious product that made Shetland’s knitters renowned and it was worn by aristocracy and royalty including Queen Victoria.  Because of the popularity of their textiles industry the islanders developed new products and adopted imported tools and techniques and the collection cared for by Shetland Museum and Archives helps to document the advances made over the decades.

This collection is held in the following museum:

The Highlands

The Fossil Collection of Elgin Museum

Elgin Museum’s geology displays are a big favourite with visitors to the museum.  Much of the fossil collection came to the museum in the Victorian era, when quarrying activity was at its height to keep pace with the need for building stone. This was also a period which saw huge advances in the fields of geological study and indeed controversy, with the Elgin fossil fish and reptiles often at the forefront.

Today, research palaeontologists continue to study the fossils, such as the unique specimen of the fish, Rhynchodipterus elginensis, applying modern scanning techniques.

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The George Bain Collection of Groam House Museum

Described as the “father of modern Celtic design”, George Bain (1881- 1968) was an artist and teacher who devoted his life to the painstaking study of Celtic Art and the techniques used by artists to construct these intricate pictures. The purpose of his work was not to simply recreate Celtic designs but to use this understanding of how the ancient work was created to inspire new designs and new methods of working.

Groam House Museum, situated in the Black Isle village of Rosemarkie, is home to a wide range of Bain’s work and is the only collection of its kind. The collection includes his designs and examples of paintings, embroidery, knitting patterns, embossed leatherwork, sculpture, carpets and jewellery.

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The Entire Collection of the Highland Folk Museum

The Highland Folk Museum was the first open air museum in the UK and 2015 marks their 80th anniversary. Cared for by High Life Highland their collection is a record from the 17th century onwards about the way of life in the Highlands. The everyday nature of items in the collection strikes a chord with visitors to the hugely popular attraction.

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The Kingdom of Fife

The Entire Collection of the Scottish Fisheries Museum

The collections provide a fully comprehensive record of the technological development, equipment, related industries and community and domestic life associated with the fishing industry.

The collection, which comprises of 65,000 items from around the nation’s coastline, has been accessible to the public since the museum opened in 1969.  These range from early methods of trapping, through to modern fishing vessels and methods. 

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The Entire Collection of the British Golf Museum

The British Golf Museum, located beside The Royal and Ancient Clubhouse in St Andrews, documents the history of golf from medieval times to the present, including the men's and women's games, British and international, both professional and amateur. 

Exhibits include historic equipment, memorabilia and art work, and archive documentation relating to the history of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club and the Rules of the game. Collection highlights include the oldest known set of golf clubs in the world, the first Open Championship Gold Medal and visitors can watch the oldest known footage of a golf match dating from 1894.

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The Chemistry, Historic Scientific Instruments and Heritage Collections of the University of St Andrews

Founded in 1413, St Andrews is Scotland's oldest university. The history of the University, its personalities and its teaching practices can be traced through the collections of documents, art works, photographs, laboratory equipment and specimens that have been accumulated since shortly after the University was founded. 

The University’s museum collections altogether contain approximately 112,300 objects covering a wide range of subject areas from art to zoology.

The collections that have been awarded Recognised status contain material recording key developments in science and technology and in the history of art and design. They illuminate and provide tangible links to the lives of a variety of figures, from artists and instrument makers to scientists, academics and key figures in Scottish history.

They also constitute material evidence of the history and development of Scotland’s first university, and of the history and development of museums and collections from the medieval period onwards. 

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Nationwide Dispersed Collections

National Burns Collection of National Burns Collection Partnership

The National Burns Collection (NBC) is a distributed collection of artefacts relating to Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns (1759-96). Together it represents the whole of the poet’s life, the richness and power of his work, and the international importance of his legacy and comprises of some 10765 objects. The collection is held in 13 different museums across Scotland. 

At the heart of the collection are 478 manuscripts in the hand of Burns, an extensive library on the subject of Burns including a comprehensive range of early editions of his work, presentation copies signed by Burns, and a full range of books from the poet’s personal library. The NBC holds the definitive collection of art relating to Robert Burns, including seven out of eight ‘authentic’ portraits of the poet, as well as fine and decorative art inspired by Burns’ life and work.  The distributed collection also contains a large collection of personalia, artefacts with intrinsic connections to the poet and his family, which help to paint a picture of the life of the poet. The NBC is supported and enriched by a vast archive of associated information which, taken together, integrates collections built separately and now managed jointly, and chronicles the long and wide ranging research interest in Burns.

The NBC is made still more unique by being displayed and stored in venues which were home to Burns. The cottage in which Burns was born; the heckling shed and lodging house where he learnt flax dressing; the room where he took dancing lessons, became a freemason and established a debating society; his first marital home, and his last home in Dumfries, are all owned by the Partnership which cares for the NBC. Whilst this built heritage is not part of the museum collection, it shares with the collection a unique and intrinsic relationship to the person of Burns, provides a relevant and fitting context for the interpretation of the collection and the story of Burns and, with the collection itself, is central to the visitor experience.

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Scottish Regimental Museums' Collection cared for by the Association of Scottish Military Museums

The Collection of the Scottish Regimental Museums is the combined holdings of the 10 Scottish regimental museums. As well as military material such as uniforms, insignia and weapons, the museums also hold fine and decorative art, rare manuscripts and original photographs. Their combined Collection comprises over 160,000 objects which together tell a part of Scotland’s story, crucial to our nation's identity, which spans from before the Act of Union up until the present day.  The recent centenary commemorations associated with WWI have underpinned the importance of the collective memories preserved within this collection.

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