Institutions & Resources

National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh (opened 1859) – Wikimedia Commons

Scotland hosts numerous archives, libraries, galleries and museums that are rich in Victoriana.  These range from the major national collections (including the National Library of Scotland, National Museums Scotland, the National Galleries of Scotland and the Scottish National Archives) to specialist collections with a Victorian emphasis.

Below you will find a PDF detailing the numerous Scottish institutions and resources that contain substantial collections of Victoriana. Some particularly rich Victorian Collections are also highlighted below, with named contacts who are happy to be approached if you have any research queries.

The Black Watch Museum 

Housed in the historic Balhousie Castle in Perth, the Black Watch Museum documents the artefacts and personal stories of the Regiment’s history.

Contact: Hope Busak, Museum Curator.

Britannia Panopticon, The World’s Oldest Surviving Music Hall

Britannia Panopticon, Glasgow, is a music hall which dates back to 1857; it is famed for the debut of Stan Laurel in 1906, and remembered for its carnivals, novelties and zoo.  The Britannia Panopticon offers a collection of artefacts and costumes, as well as images of performers and other Victorian palaces of entertainment. The museum also owns Pickard’s Papers (1905 – 1916), a collection of scrapbooks compiled by AE Pickard, which is stored at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Contact: Judith Bowers.

Gordon Highlanders Museum 

Raised by Alexander, 4th Duke of Gordon, in the spring of 1794 as a Regiment of Foot, the Gordon Highlanders served in almost every major campaign that the British Army took part in until their amalgamation with the Queen’s Own Highlanders in 1994. The Gordon Highlanders Museum is housed in the former home and studio of prominent 19th-century Scottish artist, Sir George Reid PRSA. Reid purchased the original cottage in 1867 and named it ‘St Luke’s’ after the Patron Saint of artists. The museum’s collection consists of items owned by, or used by, members of the Regiment or their immediate families and originating in the areas from which the Regiment has drawn recruits, in the areas in which at any time the Regiment has been stationed for training or peacetime operations, and in theatres of war in which the Regiment has been present.

Contact the museum.

Hebridean Trust

Housed in Morton Boyd Hall in Hynish, the lighthouse shore station village on the Isle of Tiree, the exhibition is open from May to September, with access available at other times by arrangement. The exhibition records the fascinating account of the hazardous Skerryvore reef, 10 nautical miles to the south west of the Isle of Tiree, and the design and construction of the tallest lighthouse in Scotland by Alan Stevenson, uncle of Robert Louis Stevenson. It features unique examples of industrial archaeology, a scale model of the lighthouse and interpretation material of general and educational interest.

Moat Brae: The Birthplace of Peter Pan

Moat Brae: The Birthplace of Peter Pan will be Scotland’s National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling – due to open in late 2018.  The Centre is housed in Moat Brae, Dumfries, a house and garden that J. M. Barrie played in as a child.  Barrie later noted that it was in this garden that he conceived Neverland.  Moat Brae will celebrate Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie’s life in Victorian Dumfries and children’s literature more widely, including other Victorian children’s writers.  The house will include restored Victorian interiors, some items of Barrie ephemera and cultural memorials, including a statue of Peter Pan.

Contact: Cathy Agnew, Project Director.

Museum of Childhood

The first museum in the world dedicated to the history of childhood, it displays toys and games from across the generations, and explores all aspects of  growing up, from schooldays and clubs to clothing, health and holidays. The museum boasts a large collection of Victorian clothes, furniture, books, arts and crafts and toys, as well as photographs, children’s diaries and letters, samplers and memorials. There is also an extensive book collection, including much published before 1850, plus illustrated fiction, moral and educational materials from the late Victorian period, available to view. The Museum also has a large stored collection, items from which can be seen by appointment.

For more infromation, contact the museum and visit their blog, Stories of Childhood.

National Mining Museum Scotland

The Lady Victoria Colliery commenced production in 1895 and the majority of its buildings were in place by 1901. It operated until 1981 and evolved over this period as technology advanced, but the majority of the original buildings remain. They were a showpiece of late Victorian engineering at the time, and are now recognised as the best and most complete example of a colliery of this period in Europe. The headframe was built by Sir William Arrol and Company, known for the design of the Forth Rail Bridge. The Grant Ritchie winding engine, which raised and lowered me and coal up and down the shaft, was the largest and most powerful in Scotland.

National Mining Museum Scotland’s collections aim to represent the nation’s coal mining history from the earliest times to the end of the industry in the 2000s.  The majority of the material we hold relates to the Nationalised period, from 1947 onwards, but we do have notable 19th century holdings, particularly in our library and archive. These include rare geological textbooks and early records of the Lothian Coal Company. We also hold some Victorian tools, miners’ lamps, maps and plans.

Contact: Ellie Swinbank.

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 in Irvine and the Denny Experimental Ship Model test tank in Dumbarton, both 19thcentury “A” listed structures. The museum is fully accredited by Museums Galleries Scotland and the collection holds Recognised Status. Held across the two sites, the collection is split between the 19th and 20th centuries with roughly half dating from the former. 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 a library, scientific and technical equipment and records, and buildings.

Contact: Matthew Moran.

Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life

CultureNL cares for the collections owned by North Lanarkshire Council and displayed in various community venues, including Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life, Coatbridge and North Lanarkshire Heritage Centre, Motherwell. The collections reflect the rapid industrial growth of the area from the 1830s as it became synonymous first with iron and then the steel industry. These include artefacts from the site of the Summerlee Iron Works, the only excavated first-generation hot-blast ironworks. The profound effects of the rise of heavy industry are also reflected by the social history collections, such as important banners relating to labour organisation, electoral reform, friendly societies and co-operative movements. Among the stored collection is a range of Victorian artefacts from the former Airdrie Public Museum, which opened c.1895.

The object collections are supported by ephemera and oral history, along with photographs and archival material held by North Lanarkshire Archives.

Contacts for the museums collections: Jenny Noble and Justin Parkes.

Surgeons’ Hall Museums 

The collection at Surgeons’ Hall Museums is one of the oldest and most historic pathology collections in the world. The Recognised Collection of National Significance contains medical specimens, instruments, works of art and other associated medical ephemera. The Museums are also home to many items associated with medical pioneers like Joseph Lister, James Young Simpson and James Syme,  as well as items connected to notorious murderers Burke and Hare, the anatomist Robert Knox and the author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Contact: David McLeod.

Tenement House 

The Tenement House is a middle-class Glasgow tenement house built in 1892. Located at 145 Buccleuch Street, the house was the home of shorthand typist Miss Agnes Toward from 1911 until 1965. Miss Toward changed very little about the house during her time there, and it retains many of its original fixtures and fittings. It is full of her possessions, including a rosewood and walnut piano, a writing bureau from 1750 and many ordinary household objects of the time such as a carpet sweeper, cleaning products and medicine bottles. Miss Toward also kept many things that most people would have thrown away, for example, recipes, postcards, letters, newspapers and even a pot of homemade plum jam from 1929! Today, the house is preserved for the public by the National Trust for Scotland.

Contact: Catherine Provan.

The Writers’ Museum

The Robert Louise Stevenson collection at the Writers’ Museum evokes the adventurous life of one of Scotland’s best-loved writers. It includes portraits and photographs, personal possessions and books, as well as treasures from Stevenson’s travels. On display is an original copy of The Pentland Rising, Stevenson’s earliest work, a first edition of the well-loved classic A Child’s Garden of Verses, and an original illustration for Kidnapped by the artist William Boucher. Other treasures include a segment of a journal written by Stevenson on a journey through Orkney and Shetland on board the lightship ‘Pharos’ in 1869.  Personal possessions include Stevenson’s fishing rod and basket. The writer’s Samoan adventure is explored through beautiful objects made by local people. A ring made from tortoiseshell and silver, inscribed ‘Tusitala’ (meaning teller of tales), was given to Stevenson by a Samoan chief; he was wearing this ring when he had his fatal collapse at the age of 44.

Contact: Gillian Findlay.

PDF: List of Victorian Collections in Scotland


C. R. Mackintosh exhibits, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow – Wikimedia Commons