A grand occasion: The Assembly Rooms comes to Central Library

Russell Clegg, Heritage and Outreach Assistant with Edinburgh Museums and Galleries, updates us on his Assembly Rooms project, which culminates this month in a fantastic exhibition at Central Library. 

Back in August of last year I contributed a post on this blog about my collaboration with the Libraries’ Digital Team for an Assembly Rooms story on Our Town Stories, and since then I have had greater opportunities to work in partnership with Edinburgh Libraries.

The main thrust has been by touring a small exhibition of Assembly Rooms related artefacts, telling the social and civic stories associated with the building, to selected libraries across the city.

Following the launch at the end of October last year, the exhibits travelled to the East Neighbourhood Centre and Craigmillar Library in November and went on to be hosted by Kirkliston Library in December.

Assembly Rooms exhibition at Kirkliston Library

Visiting these libraries as part of my outreach work also uncovered more stories about the venue and our collections. A visitor in Kirkliston told me of how he worked for Crawford’s, the Assembly Rooms’ catering provider in the 1970s, and when chatting to another gentleman at Craigmillar about Edinburgh’s glassmaking industry, I discovered that he had worked as an apprentice ‘thrower’ for Buchan’s Potteries in Portobello.

By working in partnership with Libraries, the Museums’ collections can be shared in a different way and memories of the city’s heritage venues can be revealed and documented.

This leads me on nicely to the Assembly Rooms exhibition on display throughout January on the Mezzanine level at Central Library.

This display reveals more stories and has new content. You cannot fail to miss the flame red ball dress, made out of a former wedding gown, and worn at a ‘Fireman’s Ball’ in the late 1950s. Also look out for a framed Burgess’ ticket to a ceremony conferring the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh on one Charles Dickens in 1841.

The Special Collections team at Central Library have delved into their own archives to uncover some gems of literature and which tie in with the literary connections of the Assembly Rooms.

My collaboration with Libraries now comes full circle, as I work again with the Digital Team to archive some of the exhibition images for Capital Collections so that future audiences may engage with the present cultural activities about the past!


Russell Clegg is the Heritage and Outreach Assistant with Edinburgh Museums and Galleries. Contact Russell via Russell.Clegg@edinburgh.gov.uk

The Assembly Rooms exhibition runs at Central Library until 2nd February 2015.

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