George Washington Wilson 
A Group, St Kilda, 1870s
Albumen print
Collection: National Library of Scotland, MacKinnon Collection, acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland with assistance from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Scottish Government and Art Fund

Public to get first glimpse of magnificent photography collection

Just over a year since its acquisition, a taster of the vast MacKinnon Collection will be exhibited at the National Library of Scotland and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (SNPG) from next week.

The National Library and the National Galleries of Scotland joined forces to purchase the collection – made up of more than 14,000 photographs dating from the 1840s to the mid-20th century in Scotland – in May last year, with the help of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Scottish Government and Art Fund.

Now people will be able to view highlights from the collection at concurrent exhibitions opening on Saturday 16 November: At the Water’s Edge at the National Library, and Scotland’s Photograph Album at the Portrait Gallery.

National Librarian Dr John Scally said:

“Scotland has a unique relationship with photography which dates back to the work of the early pioneers such as Hill and Adamson. The exhibition is a glimpse into MacKinnon’s wider collection, which consists of more than 14,000 pictures, but I am excited to share a selection of them as we believe they are truly Scotland’s photograph album.

“I am confident that every Scot will feel a connection with these wonderful photographs and we look forward to sharing them with the public over the coming months.”

National Galleries of Scotland, Director General Sir John Leighton, said:

Scotland’s Photograph Album: The MacKinnon Collection allows audiences the chance to be transported back to a century of change and growth. It is not only a fascinating look at historical Scottish life that sits just on the edge of living memory, but also an important showcase of the innovative progression of photography in Scotland.”

The MacKinnon Collection was put together by collector Murray MacKinnon, who established a successful chain of film-processing stores in the 1980s, starting from his pharmacy in Dyce, near Aberdeen.

The collection covers an expansive range of subjects – including family portraits, working life, street scenes, sporting pursuits, working life, transport, landscapes and cityscapes. Until last year, it was estimated to be one of the last great collections of Scottish photography still in private hands.

Taking inspiration from Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters for 2020, the National Library’s At the Water’s Edge reflects on this theme, with a strong emphasis on social history and the changing nature of Scotland’s coastal communities.

Highlights include:

  • Photographs by George Washington Wilson, capturing working life and remote landscapes in Orkney and St Kilda in the 1870s
  • Some of the earliest known images of fishing communities in Aberdeen and Edinburgh dating from the 1870s onwards

At the Water’s Edge at the National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, and Scotland’s Photograph Album at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 1 Queen Street, Edinburgh run from Saturday 16 November until Sunday 16 February 2020. Admission is free.

Contact Information

Barbara Burke

National Library of Scotland

+44131 623 3738

+447904 791002

Notes to editors

Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland with assistance from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Scottish Government and Art Fund.

Press view: Wednesday 13 November 2019, 11:30–13:00
Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 1 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1JD

The National Library of Scotland

The National Library of Scotland is a major European research library and one of the world’s leading centres for the study of Scotland and the Scots – an information treasure trove for Scotland’s knowledge, history and culture.

The Library’s collections are of world-class importance. Key areas include rare books, manuscripts, maps, photographs, music, moving images, official publications, science and technology, and modern and foreign collections.

The Library holds more than 30 million physical items dating back over 1000 years in addition to a growing library of digital material. Every week the Library collects around 5,000 new items. Most of these are received free of charge in terms of Legal Deposit legislation. / @natlibscot / facebook

National Galleries of Scotland

The National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) looks after one of the world's finest collections of Western art, ranging from the Middle Ages to the present day, including masterpieces by Titian, Rembrandt, Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso and Magritte. These holdings include the national collection of Scottish art, which is displayed in an international context.

Every year, the NGS welcomes over 2.7 million visitors from Scotland and the rest of the world to our three Galleries in Edinburgh: the Scottish National Gallery, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

The latter first opened to the public in 1889 as the world’s first purpose-built portrait gallery. Aside from its outstanding collection of paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings, this distinctive red sandstone building also houses the national collection of photography, with some 38,000 historic and modern photographs and film.

National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF)

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLottery and #HLFsupported. For further information, please contact Katie Owen, HLF Press Office, on tel: 020 7591 6036/07973 613820 

Art Fund

Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art. In the past five years alone Art Fund has given £34 million to help museums and galleries acquire works of art for their collections. It also helps museums share their collections with wider audiences by supporting a range of tours and exhibitions, and makes additional grants to support the training and professional development of curators.

Art Fund is independently funded, with the core of its income provided by 139,000 members who receive the National Art Pass and enjoy free entry to over 320 museums, galleries and historic places across the UK, as well as 50% off entry to major exhibitions and subscription to Art Quarterly magazine. In addition to grant-giving, Art Fund’s support for museums includes Art Fund Museum of the Year (won by The Hepworth Wakefield in 2017) and a range of digital platforms. Find out more about Art Fund and the National Art Pass at