History Collections

The Edinburgh Museums and Galleries’ history collections trace the life of the City from 13th century pot fragments, through James Craig’s 1766 plans for the New Town and Robert Burns’ writing desk, to items from the 21st century campaign for a Scottish Parliament.

The collections feature well-known objects like the National Covenant and Greyfriars Bobby’s collar, as well as thousands of objects from ordinary people’s daily lives. These range from tram tokens to teddy bears.

Growing up through the ages is explored through our Museum of Childhood collections, which include toys and games as well as school, health and hobby objects. Objects relating to some of Scotland’s greatest writers – Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson – are included in the Writers’ Museum collection.

Queensferry, Leith and Newhaven are just three of the historic locations important to Edinburgh for which we hold collections. From photographs of the Forth Rail Bridge to maritime items and colourful costume, our objects capture the past of these places.

Children's china at the Museum of Childhood
Votes for Women sash
Domestic objects at the Museum Collections Centre

Childhood Collections

The Childhood  collections cover childhood in Britain from the 18th to 21st centuries, as well as objects from other countries.

  • School Days
  • Games
  • Childrens' Clothes
  • Books
  • Home Life


Edinburgh Life

These collections show the people of Edinburgh coming together to campaign, protest, celebrate and change their city.

  • The Demon Drink
  • Rainbow City
  • For King and Country
  • Turbulent Times: Politics and Religion
  • Receiving Royalty
  • The Athens of the North

At Home in Edinburgh

Our ‘at home’ collections contain objects that you, your parents, grandparents and older generations may have used in the home.

Collar presented to Greyfriars Bobby by the Lord Provost.
Imported file
Imported file

Private Lives and Personalities

These quirky collections give us a glimpse behind closed doors to see Edinburgh characters making history through good works and devilish deeds.

  • Greyfriars Bobby
  • Rakes and Rogues

Working Life In Edinburgh

The making of beer, biscuits and books is only part of the story of working life in Edinburgh.

  • The City of Print
  • Raise the Banners High
  • Spit and Polish
  • The Prosperous City 


Leith Collections

Collections relating to the once busy seaport of Leith.

  • The Burgh of Leith
  • From Sea to Shore
Newhaven fishing boat
Medals on display at Queensferry Museum
A view of the ground floor of the Writers' Museum

Newhaven Collections

This collection tells of the working and social life of the close-knit former fishing community of Newhaven.

  • Fishing
  • Fishwives
  • Fishwife Choirs



Queensferry Collections

The Queensferry collections relate to daily life in the former Royal Burgh of Queensferry and neighbouring Dalmeny.

  • The Queens' Ferry
  • The Forth Bridge
  • The Forth Road Bridge
  • The Ferry Fair and Burry Man
  • A History of the Collections



Writers' Collections

The Writers’ rich collections include books, manuscripts, portraits and fascinating personal items relating to Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

  • Robert Burns
  • Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Sir Walter Scott
A view towards the dome of the Old City Observatory on Calton Hill
Roman samian ware

Old City Observatory Collections

Calton Hill boasts an outstanding collection of monuments and buildings, telling the story of space, time and the enlightenment.

  • Charles Piazzi Smythe
  • Clocks
  • Cooke Telescope
  • Thomas Henderson
  • Time Ball
  • Transit Telescope
  • Parliament Cairn


Archaeology Collections

These collections span the prehistoric to post-medieval periods. They are rich in Roman material from the fort at Cramond and medieval remains from Edinburgh and its port of Leith.