The Assembly Rooms

Today, we hand over our blog to Russell Clegg, Heritage and Outreach Assistant with Edinburgh Museums and Galleries. We’ve just had a ball working with Russell on a story about the Assembly Rooms for Our Town Stories

‘I love it when a plan comes together!’ – heard that one before?

Well, I am most grateful to have had my own A-Team to work with in the shape of the Libraries’ Digital Team when creating an Assembly Rooms story for

As Heritage Assistant for such a prestigious building I have the privilege of tracing the footsteps of many illustrious visitors from the past as well as guiding tour groups and the general public around what they see as a familiar and, for many, an evocative space.

Assembly Rooms, George StreetAs you will read, this iconic Georgian venue has graced the built landscape of the city since 1787 and trying to capture the architectural, social and civic history of the place through stories and pictures has been a fascinating experience.

Whilst working on the heritage project, following the refurbishment of the venue, I have been collecting the many memories and stories that people have donated and this was an aspect of the building’s history which I wanted to include in the story.

I sometimes wonder what the Assembly Rooms itself would say if it could speak and by including these voices, readers get to hear about some of the weird and wonderful events that the Assembly Rooms has witnessed over the years.  The personal testimonies I have received and the interviews I have conducted have revealed that this venue has a very special place in the hearts and minds of those I have spoken to.

My collaboration with Libraries is set to continue over the next few months as I continue to prepare a touring exhibition, charting the social history of the Assembly Rooms, which will be visiting selected Edinburgh Libraries in the autumn.

Please do contact me if you have a story to tell or maybe if you have an object which relates to an event you once attended at ‘The Grande Dame’ of George Street.
Russell Clegg is the Heritage and Outreach Assistant with Edinburgh Museums and Galleries.

You can read more from Russell and keep up with news and events from Museums at the Edinburgh Museums and Galleries Outreach blog.

Where to find the best collection of Festival memorabilia

Festival time is once again upon us and the streets of Edinburgh are awash with flyers, posters and other promotional material.

Instead of throwing away those leaflets and programmes we’re asking you to hand them into the Central Library so they can be added to the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection‘s outstanding collection of theatre and Festival memorabilia.

The Edinburgh and Scottish Collection is the place to find out more about the history of Edinburgh and its festivals.

It’s also the perfect location to come in to for some peaceful contemplation before heading back out into the chaos!

Edinburgh during World War One

Our latest story on Our Town Stories describes the impact of World War One on the people at home.

Find out about the zeppelin raid, the Gretna Rail Disaster, the city’s footballing heroes, recuperating war poets and pioneering female doctor, Elsie Inglis.

The war that was meant to be over by Christmas lasted over four years and touched the lives of all communities across Britain.

Camerons leaving for the Front, 1914

If you’re interested in discovering more about World War One, Edinburgh Libraries has many more resources for research and reflection. We’ve created a new page on our Your Library website where you can explore a growing collection of material related to the conflict.

Meadowbank and the Commonwealth Games

Edinburgh has hosted the Commonwealth games twice, an honour awarded to no other city. This unique relationship with the competition has left its mark on the Capital both architecturally and in the choice of leisure facilities available to the people of Edinburgh.

Meadowbank Stadium was built to accommodate the 1970 Games. It has a 400m running track, 100m sprint track, pitches for football and hockey, a velodrome, numerous sports halls and gym facilities available for use to the general public. The games for which the stadium was produced are to this day considered the most successful in the history of the competition. The stadium once again held the games in 1986 and although these were less successful due to political and financial issues at the time, the stadium was still a worthy centre-piece for such a prestigious international spectacle.

Meadowbank Stadium

As the Commonwealth Games return to Scotland for Glasgow 2014, and with some events taking place in Edinburgh, our latest Capital Collections exhibition on Meadowbank Stadium looks to paint a picture of the beloved stadium from its brush with Commonwealth glory to the present day.

Track cycling at Meadowbank Velodrome

On a beautiful balmy evening late last summer, we were privileged to attend one of the regular track cycling training sessions at Meadowbank to enhance our library archive’s collection of sport images. The images and film clips show cyclists taking to the boards to train and race on the steep wooden slopes of the Velodrome.

Track cyclists, Meadowbank Veldrome

Meadowbank Stadium and Velodrome were built for the 1970 Commonwealth Games and both hosted the Games again in 1986 when they returned to the city. The training venue has been home to a number of Olympians, world and European champions over the years, including notably Olympian Sir Chris Hoy, former world gold medallist Craig MacLean and former world champion Graeme Obree.

See Edinburgh’s current track cyclists in action in our latest Capital Collections exhibition!

A pictorial history of cycling in Edinburgh

With Edinburgh’s Festival of Cycling almost upon us we thought it might be a good idea to plunder Capital Collections for bike-themed photographs – and we’ve found some real beauties.

For starters, here are the members of the Edinburgh University Cycling club making their way down George Street on their ‘penny farthings’ on the morning of Saturday 18th June 1884.

No helmets or lycra for the ladies and gentleman of the Leith Licensed Victuallers Cycling Club, pictured below. This is Edinburgh Cycle Chic, 1895 style.


On the other side of town, almost a century later, this BMXer gets rad.


See more, including a tricyle cum fire engine and the fist-pumping socialist cycling club of Musselburgh on our special online exhibition.

Ten years that changed Edinburgh

An event at Blackhall Library shines light on a decade of change.

The birth of rock ‘n’ roll, the growth of consumerism, and the coronation of a young Queen…

Great change was taking place in 1950’s Britain, and Edinburgh was right at the heart of it. After the ravages of war it was time for the city to start again.

Proposed Dumbiedykes development, 1952 (

Grandiose recommendations were made in the Civic Survey and Plan, the International Festival and Military Tattoo were introduced as an antidote to post-war austerity and trams were usurped by buses and cars.

In “Edinburgh in the 1950’s: ten years that changed a city” Jack Gillon, David McLean and Fraser Parkinson show how Scotland’s capital embraced massive social change while maintaining its traditions.

And we’re delighted to say that the authors will be at Blackhall Library on Monday 30th June at 6.30pm to talk about the book and the issues surrounding it.

To book your place at this free event email or call 0131 529 5587.