Auld Reekie Retold: new exhibition uncovers new stories of Edinburgh and its residents over the years

02 December 2022
Auld Reekie Retold team members at the Museum Collections Centre
Opening on 3 December, the City Art Centre's latest exhibition marks the culmination of Auld Reekie Retold, the largest collections inventory project ever undertaken in the Council’s history.

Over the past three years, theproject has recorded, catalogued and revealed thousands of items housed in stores and venues across the city. Auld Reekie Retold connects objects in the collection, which has been growing steadily since the 1870s, with people and places in the city, uncovering new stories from Edinburgh and its residents.

This exhibition offers visitors the chance to see some of the objects uncovered by the team, and also to find out about the behind the scenes work involved in maintaining the collection.

Visitors will see objects they may recognise from their own lives. Other objects are much older, showing the long span of Edinburgh's story. 

Some of the highlights include: 

  • A large poster of the London and Edinburgh Shipping company. This looks like a billboard intended for advertising display. It was never used, but has remained folded since it was made. The colours are remarkable, and the image evokes the romance of the golden age of sea travel.
  • A bible bound in an elaborate wooden, leather and animal skin cover. It once belonged to Hugh McKail, one of the leading figures of the Covenanter movement during the Civil Wars of the 1700s. McKail was one of the many so-called traitors executed at Edinburgh’s Mercat Cross in 1666.
  • A glass jar containing coins encased in glass, buried at the laying of the foundation stone of the Bridewell Prison in 1790, and uncovered in 1883 when the Bridewell was demolished to make way for the newer Calton Gaol.
  • A soft toy dog given to Edinburgh born Jean Petrie from the Museum of Childhood collection. Accompanying the dog are two photograph albums compiled by Jean’s mother. 

Visitors are also invited to bring their smartphones to scan QR codes around the exhibition. The codes will let visitors dive deeper into the stories, with films, podcasts, more information and images.

Content continues after advertisements

Auld Reekie Retold Project Manager Nico Tyack, says:

The Auld Reekie Retold team has been working so hard over the last three years uncovering so many stories, much of the time during lockdowns when we couldn’t access the stores. It’s truly wonderful to see these objects we’ve grown to love over the years brought together with their stories, for the first time ever. The collections belong to the people of Edinburgh, so this exhibition is a great way to celebrate our city’s rich history.

Find out more here.

Report and images courtesy City of Edinburgh Council.

For more on the project, read Nico Tyack’s special report in the Jan/Feb 2023 issue of History Scotland magazine. Get your copy here.