Scotland’s Recognised Art Collections


There is a host of historical treasures of huge cultural importance to be discovered in museums and galleries right across Scotland, Scottish Government Minister Humza Yousaf has said.

The Minister was urging people to spend time in 2013 visiting some of Scotland’s 38 Recognised Collections of National Significance.

Managed by Museums Galleries Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Government, the Recognition Scheme identifies and supports the most important, best-quality, collections of historic artefacts and artworks in Scotland’s local and regional museums and galleries.

Mr Yousaf, said:

“Our Recognised Collections contain some of Scotland’s most important, best quality historic artefacts and artworks held in museums and galleries right across the country, from Kirkwall to Annan and Dundee to Inveraray. Many Scots have a Recognised Collection practically on their doorstep.

“The Year of Creative Scotland has been an unparalleled celebration of our nation’s rich creativity. Now it has drawn to a close I urge all Scots to help build its legacy by searching out and visiting the many treasures in our brilliant Recognised Collections.”

Museums Galleries Scotland manages the Recognition Scheme on behalf of the Scottish Government.  Joanne Orr, Chief Executive of Museums Galleries Scotland, said:

“In Scotland we enjoy some of the finest museum collections in the world. The Recognised Collections represent the absolute best of what some of our museums and galleries have to offer. From Orkney to Dumfries and Galloway visitors are inspired by collections of remarkable historic and social significance – whether they contain great wonders of past ages to everyday objects that were the essence of life for our ancestors.”

Ten treasured collections

  • The Charles Rennie Mackintosh Collection of Glasgow School of Art
    The third largest collection in existence relating to the late 19th and early 20th century Glasgow architect and designer. The collection features furniture, drawings, watercolours and decorative art objects by Mackintosh and his close associates, housed within the world-famous Mackintosh building, which he designed.
  • The entire collection of the Hunterian. University of Glasgow
    By far the largest University collection in Scotland, this collection is based around the original collection of the 18th century physician and obstetrician, William Hunter, and is testimony to the thirst for knowledge generated by the Scottish Enlightenment. The collection includes fine arts, scientific instruments, rare coins and dinosaurs, and offers insights into the lives of great figures including explorer Captain James Cook and the Glasgow scientist Lord Kelvin.
  • The industrial and associated social history of North Lanarkshire Council
    This collection embraces many aspects of work, home, political and social life through two centuries of heavy industrial growth and decline in west and central Scotland. Much of the collection is at Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life in Coatbridge, but important elements are held in other North Lanarkshire museums. The collection reflects the immense economic importance of the area as a source of raw materials which supplied and powered industry throughout the UK and the world.
  • The entire collection cared for by Pier Arts Centre, Stromness
    A remarkable collection of around  180 items of 20th century British art including key works by Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson and contemporary works by artists including Sean Scully, Camilla Low and Anish Kapoor.
  • The Palaeontology and fossil collection at Elgin Museum
    Comprising some 900 specimens, this collection contains items of special value to science. The Grade A listed Elgin Museum is probably Scotland’s oldest independent museum. Most of its founders had a particular interest in the fossils of the region, and their collection was one of the stimuli for the building of the present Elgin museum in 1843. These local amateurs then engaged with leading geologists and palaeontologists, to place Elgin museum at the forefront of the understanding of the sequence of rocks and evolution. The collection has been an important focus of international research from then until the present day.
  • The RRS Discovery and Polar Collection cared for by Dundee Heritage Trust, Discovery Point, Dundee.
    The Discovery was the first scientific research vessel purpose-built for the Antarctic. She and the associated Polar Collection are both unique and fascinating. They provide a chance to appreciate the realities and dangers of early polar exploration and all that they contributed to scientific knowledge. The ship, built in Dundee, is an impressive three-masted vessel, also equipped with steam engines. Its first voyage took Robert Falcon Scott and his crew to the Antarctic and the ship was subsequently used in other major expeditions. The collection includes the personal items of famous explorers and their crew, plus archives, photos, costumes and scientific specimens.
  • The Jute Collections cared for by Dundee Heritage Trust, Scotland’s Jute Museum @ Verdant Works, Dundee
    Dundee dominated the international jute trade for 50 years from 1850, and for half a century after that it was second only to Calcutta – now it’s virtually gone, except for this collection. The collection covers every aspect of production, from raw material to finished cloth, and shows how jute turned Dundee into a great city, linked to every part of the world. It includes many photographs and examples of the equipment, some home-made, which mill workers used.
  • The entire collection held by the British Golf Museum, St Andrews
    This collection houses more than 16,000 items relating to the entire history of golf as it developed and spread in Scotland from the 15th Century, throughout Britain and around the world, right up until the present day. It includes trophies, clubs, balls, clothing and decorative art, through to film, photography, artworks, archives and equipment patents.
  • The entire collection cared for by the National Mining Museum, Newtongrange
    National Mining Museum Scotland is the custodian of the Lady Victoria Colliery, one of the finest surviving examples of a Victorian colliery in Europe, and home to a vast collection of mining artefacts, archives and publications. Visitor highlights include the pithead, a recreated underground roadway and coalface, and the most powerful winding engine in Scotland – still in working order after 90 years.
  • The core collection cared for by the Scottish Railway Preservation Society, Bo’Ness
    The core collection includes some of the most important surviving locomotives in Scotland and other rolling stock, plus thousands of smaller items. Highlights include Scotland’s oldest surviving wagon, a Caledonian Railways tank engine 419 that first operated over a century ago, and Scotland’s only royal saloon coach, built in 1897 by the Great North of Scotland Railway. The core collection reflects the development of our railways from the days of steam through to the rise of diesel.