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Auld Reekie Retold – New Stories of an Old City


Opening on Saturday (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, this ambitious project 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 will be a 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. 

Photograph of children paddling at the beach

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.

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.

Pic Greg Macvean 01/12/2022 Edinburgh Council City Art Centre – Auld Reekie Retold exhibition

Culture and Communities Convener, Cllr Val Walker, said:

This exhibition features a range of fascinating findings from ‘Auld Reekie Retold’. This fantastic project is allowing us to develop a fuller understanding and appreciation of what we have right here in our collections. The project has helped to uncover their stories, broaden participation with our Museums & Galleries and ensure their long-term relevance. This is the story of our great city that we all love. It needs to be told and I look forward to visitors discovering it for themselves.

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