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Celebrating the Start of 2023 at Edinburgh’s City Art Centre

Happy New Year everyone! It’s always exciting to kick off a new year, and what better way to do it than a visit to Edinburgh’s City Art Centre. Currently, there are four fantastic exhibitions on display. So, join us for this virtual visit that brings Edinburgh and Scotland to life via photographs and historic artefacts.

Paul Duke- No Ruined Stone

If you are looking to see a bit of the ‘social climate in modern-day Scotland’, be sure to visit the poignant photographic exhibition, ‘No Ruined Stone’ by Scottish photographer, Paul Duke. Duke’s photographs were taken around Muirhouse- a council housing state located in the north of Edinburgh. His stark but poignant photos highlight issues around “social inequality and poverty” but is “underpinned by a message of human resilience, strength of character, and ultimately, hope”.

Ron O’Donnell- Edinburgh: A Lost World

We continue our virtual journey of Edinburgh’s past with a walk through ‘Edinburgh: A Lost World’. The exhibition consists of an incredible collection of photographs done by Scottish photographer, Ron O’Donnell. His work features ‘unseen and forgotten Edinburgh interiors’ taken during the 1970s and 1980’s.

For me, O’Donnell’s photos are surprisingly fascinating with interiors including everything from a tobacconist shop to public toilets. The composition in his photos is quite appealing and draws the viewer in- making you stop and examine each one carefully. While not his original intention, his photos help document the historical record of Edinburgh and are crucial to our understanding of the city during that specific time period. It was particularly interesting to examine how places have transformed over the years- some interiors shifting from one trade to another. I highly recommend a visit to this engrossing exhibition.

Glean: Early 20th Century Women Filmmakers and Photographers in Scotland

Continuing our inspection of the photographic record, we step back a bit further in time with a visit to the ‘Glean’ exhibition. ‘Glean’ does an excellent job at highlighting some incredibly talented Scottish women- photographers who captured poignant and important ethnographic accounts around Scotland in the early 20th century. While there are several women featured, I was particularly excited to see that the exhibition displayed the work of Isobel Wylie Hutchinson. Isobel was a past guest on this blog when we discussed her in our ‘Petticoats and Pinnacles’ article (part of a past exhibition at the National Library of Scotland).

Take your time and study beautiful photographs with subjects ranging from well-known Edinburgh landmarks such as Edinburgh Castle to rural women on the Scottish isles.

For me, what stood out the most were the stark hardships that women in the rural areas of Scotland had to face in the early 20th century. However, it is clear that they were part of communities that helped each other.

Auld Reekie Retold: New Stories of an Old City

We shift gears a bit now with an exhibition that features photographs and much more. From the beginning of this blog, we have been strong supporters of Museums and Galleries Edinburgh. We believe in the mission of preserving and sharing our city’s history and culture, and the ‘Auld Reekie Retold’ exhibition at the City Art Centre highlights the importance of conserving the incredible collection of which they are in charge. Over the past few years, staff have had the opportunity to rediscover objects that have been ‘lost’ over the years and share the stories connected to these fascinating artefacts.

I envy those who were able to do their own ‘explore and discover’ missions through the city’s vast archives and artefact storage. I also love a good story (after all, we are in the business of storytelling through this blog and our tours), and thoroughly enjoyed walking around the exhibition to see what we could learn about our beloved capital city. Some highlights include examples of Buchan Pottery that was once made in Portobello, Edinburgh. Unfortunately, they stopped making the pottery there in 1972. However, that illustrates exactly why the work of Edinburgh Museums and Galleries staff is so important; they are helping to preserve the artefacts and stories that go along with them.

There is also a rather plain-looking 16th century chair. Yet, the chair has important historical significance as it belonged to Cardinal David Beaton and once furnished his Edinburgh city centre palace (you can read more about him and his tragic demise in our article on St Andrews Castle).

With a little detective work by skilled museum staff, sometimes artefacts can help provide glimpses into history spanning centuries. The family bible pictured below dates to the 1600s and is known as the ‘Breeches Bible’. According to the exhibition, “the Bible’s last owner, Beatrix McKail, could be traced back to a man called Hugh McKail”. Hugh was a minister for the Scottish Kirk and was one of the infamous Covenanters; he is buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard here in Edinburgh.

Fortunately, when you visit Edinburgh, you can ‘get lost’ in more stories of Edinburgh by visiting one of the many venues that make up the Museums and Galleries Edinburgh family. We highly recommend you visit such attractions as the City Art Centre, the Scott Monument, Lauriston Castle, the Museum of Childhood, The Writers’ Museum, The People’s Story Museum, and the Museum of Edinburgh.

After those explorations, continue your journey with Sami who helps bring Edinburgh’s past to life with tales of history, myths, and legends. For example, you can learn more about the Convenanters (like Hugh mentioned above) on our tours which make a visit to Greyfriars Kirkyard. Sami is often accompanied by our Golden Retriever tour guide, Sawyer, who shares his own love of Edinburgh with visitors and residents alike as he enjoys his walks along the ancient cobblestones.

Well, that is going to do it for our whirlwind tour of the City Art Centre’s current exhibitions. Please head over to their website for more information on the dates the exhibitions are showing as well as how to best plan your visit.

Before you leave the City Art Centre, be sure to visit the adjoining café- Mimi’s Bakehouse. It is a favourite of ours (as well as many other residents and visitors alike) for a reason- they have a delicious array of freshly baked desserts. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a hot beverage and wee treat after a delightful visit to the City Art Centre.

Until next time- Explore & Discover!


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