Scars on the City

Scars on the City: Edinburgh in World War One was an exhibition that ran from February to June 2015 at the Museum of Edinburgh. The exhibition drew on Edinburgh Museums & Galleries’ extensive wartime collections to explore the everyday lives of Edinburgh people during the War. Objects like shrapnel from a zeppelin raid, soldiers’ knitted socks and a Red Cross nurse doll were displayed to help transport visitors to a time of terror, hardship and, sometimes, adventure.

Doll: Red Cross nurse of World War 1

Doll: Red Cross nurse of World War 1

The exhibition’s curator, Vicky Garrington, says that the wartime toys and games from the Museum of Childhood were a big hit with visitors:

“People were surprised to find out how clued up young people were about the details of the War. Cigarette cards taught them about ranks, army signals and artillery, while board games challenged them to evade mines and bombs en route to Berlin!”

Board game from World War 1: To Berlin

Board game from World War 1: To Berlin

Meanwhile, shrapnel from bombs dropped by German zeppelins bring home the reality of the first war to be fought not just overseas, but on the Home Front.

The quirky and poignant objects from the exhibition are now available to view on Capital Collections, together with the stories that bring them to life.

The Sitooterie Garden Journals

In early 2012, in the Sitooterie overlooking her Colony flat garden at Slateford, artist Mary Archibald started keeping a journal of the daily activity. Rising early each morning, she witnessed the garden come alive with birds, insects and animals.

Mary has continued her journal every day, observing the growing plants and wildlife that visit the space. The pages record Mary’s daily musings and sketches on life in her garden and through them we also get to know the regular visitors and their habits, favourite foods and places.

The first 5 journals on Capital Collections span February 2012 to October 2015 but Mary continues to date to document the natural world on her doorstep.

‘I wake to a splash of red in the garden and the poppies have started opening…
Lots of starlings again…
The babies are really funny, quite bemused looking as if they are wondering what it is all about… then remember it is about food and squawk at their parent…’

Sitooterie Garden Journal entry for 31st May - 2nd June 2012

Sitooterie Garden Journal entry for 31st May – 2nd June 2012

‘I hope the temperature goes up soon as the sunflowers are almost ready to be planted in the ground…
Great stooshie in the sky… Sparrowhawk, it floated around for ages being chased by a very brave blackbird…
Tiny tadpoles just beginning to wriggle in their spawn like little live commas…
Mouse breakfast: Focaccia
Close up the pigeons are very beautiful…’

Sitooterie Garden Journal entry for 26th - 29th April 2013

Sitooterie Garden Journal entry for 26th – 29th April 2013

‘There’s a frog croaking in the pond … a contented croak like a cat purring …
And Robbie is bathing in the birdbath.
The garden is full of sunflowers.’

Sitooterie Garden Journal entry for 30th September 2014

Sitooterie Garden Journal entry for 30th September 2014

‘5 frogs in the pond this morning and very happy they will be as it’s not too cold but very wet!
The temperature is up and down like a yo-yo these days.
The frogs are back under their duvet this morning…
Tulips from Lidl’s. More beautiful now almost gone.’

Sitooterie Garden Journal entry for 25th - 27th February 2015

Sitooterie Garden Journal entry for 25th – 27th February 2015

‘Bees buzz everywhere…
Lots of honey bees… They love the Tropeleum and the Foxgloves… disappearing completely inside each Foxglove flower… then backing out tail first…’

Sitooterie Garden Journal entry for 11th - 12th July 2015

Sitooterie Garden Journal entry for 11th – 12th July 2015

The diaries are a wonderful all-year round record of flora and fauna in an Edinburgh urban garden. Browse each Sitooterie Garden Journal on Capital Collections:

Sitooterie Garden Journal 1

Sitooterie Garden Journal 2

Sitooterie Garden Journal 3

Sitooterie Garden Journal 4

Sitooterie Garden Journal 5

With huge thanks to Mary Archibald for sharing her journals with us.

Queensferry Crossing

Transport Scotland have kindly shared their simply spectacular photographs of the Queensferry Crossing project with us.

These stunning pictures show the construction work and development of the Queensferry Crossing as it emerges out of the Forth. The pictures document the progress of the bridge building project and date from 2014 to present.

Enjoy the full online exhibition on Capital Collections.

You can also find out more about the Queensferry Crossing project and history from the Forth Bridges website.

With huge thanks to Transport Scotland for allowing us to put these fantastic images online.

Illustrated Song Sheets from the Music Library collections

In 2014, whilst staff at the Central Music Library were preparing for the move of the Library from no. 9 to no. 7 George IV Bridge, they uncovered a box of Victorian and Edwardian illustrated song sheets. This unexpected find had been carefully stored and tucked away on the Annexe shelves. Further investigation has found the collection to contain works by many of the major lithographic artists of the genre.

The Shop-Girl Valse, c1895

The Shop-Girl Valse, illustration by W. George c1895

The majority of the music scores date from the mid-Victorian era when both colour lithography and music sheets were at their peak in innovation and output.  The Victorian era had a burgeoning live entertainment industry, with packed music halls and populist performers such as George Leyborne and Arthur Lloyd. As the music hall scene became more accessible to the wider middle classes and with the emergence of the piano in the parlours of respectable Victorian homes the demand for music sheets increased.

Demand was coupled with advances in colour lithography which made it possible to create for the first time, elaborate and quite technically advanced illustrations.

Girofle Girofla, illustration by Alfred Concanen, 1874

Girofle Girofla, illustration by Alfred Concanen, 1874

The Music Library collection contains illustrations by such well-known lithographic artists as Alfred Conanen, John Brandard, HG Banks, HC Maguire and Thomas Packer amongst others, displaying a variety of styles and subjects. The song sheet illustrations also chart developments within colour lithography with the move towards the use of machines at the end of the nineteenth century, and the advent of the use of photography and typography within song sheet cover production.

Me-ow One Step, illustration by T. Ray, c1919

Me-ow One Step, illustration by T. Ray, c1919

The song sheet collection provides a visual history of Victorian and Edwardian life and a fascinating insight into the world of music hall entertainment.

Come and see a selection of the song sheets on display in the Mezzanine, Central Library (2- 29 September 2016) and or browse them online in a special Capital Collections exhibition.

If you’d like to find out more about the Illustrated Song Sheet Collection contact 0131 242 8050 or email

Welcome World and goodbye Festival 2016

As the Festival draws to a close for another year, here’s a chance to relive the Deep Time spectacular that kicked off the Edinburgh International Festival programme in dazzling style just 3 weeks ago.


View all the amazing pictures on Capital Collections.

Going to the pictures

Nowadays, we can stream a film directly to our mobile devices or TVs to watch at our own convenience. Gone are the days when hundreds of children would spend a morning or afternoon queuing up noisily to see the latest adventures of Hopalong Cassidy, Abbot and Costello, The Lone Ranger and Laurel and Hardy, to name a few. These were times when films were shown continuously, which meant you could spend hours at the cinema, if you managed to keep out of sight of an usherette!

The first purpose built cinema to open in Edinburgh was The Haymarket Cinema opening in 1912. In 1914, The Cameo (then called The Kings Cinema) opened, and is one of the oldest cinemas still open in Scotland. It was estimated that by 1917 there were 24 cinemas in Edinburgh. When the Edinburgh Playhouse Theatre opened in 1929, it was the city’s first super cinema, able to seat up to 3000 people.

Cameo Cinema, Tollcross, Edinburgh

The Cameo Cinema, opened in 1914

Talkies arrived in the late 1920s, but before then cinema operators would enhance the viewing experience by using music and orchestras or adding their own home-made sounds for effects such as horses’ hooves, pistol shots and explosives.

Children’s Saturday film clubs with songs, quizzes and safety-first films were extremely popular, the first one started in the New Tivoli in 1934. There was even a song for the ABC Cinema club, which would be sung enthusiastically at the beginning of the proceedings.

We are the boys and girls well known as

Minors of the ABC,

And every Saturday all line up

To see the films we like and shout with glee

We like to laugh and have our sing-song

Just a happy crowd are we-e

We’re all pals together

We’re Minors of the ABC

Tivoli Cinema, Gorgie Road, Edinburgh

The Tivoli, Gorgie.

Alas, most of the cinemas built in the 20s and 30s no longer exist. These were built in the heyday of Art Deco and were magnificent to look at, both inside and out. Many were turned into Bingo Halls or demolished.

George (formerly County) Cinema, Portobello

The George (formerly County) cinema, Portobello

Edinburgh has one of Britain’s last remaining independently-run cinemas. The Dominion Cinema in Morningside opened in 1938 and is still owned and run by the Cameron family. Erected in only 3 months, The Dominion was one of the last and most characteristic Art Deco buildings in Edinburgh.

Dominion Cinema, Newbattle Terrace

The Doninion Cinema, Morningside

Edinburgh is also host to the longest continually running film festival in the world, The Edinburgh International Film Festival. Established in 1947, it originally viewed documentary films and as its reputation grew expanded to incorporate international films. EIFF’s success has continued and notable films premiered include Brave, the Hurt Locker, Billy Elliot, Little Miss Sunshine, and this year, a remake of the 1949 film Whisky Galore!


The Filmhouse, Edinburgh, host of the EIFF

Edinburgh has also featured in many films. One of the earliest, The Body Snatcher (1945) featuring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, was based on the short story of the same name by Robert Louis Stevenson. With many references to Burke, Hare and Dr Knox, it was marketed as “The screen’s last word in shock sensation”!

Another film adaption from a book by Edinburgh author Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was released in 1969 and featured Edinburgh heavily.  Donaldson’s School (now Edinburgh Academy) on Henderson Row stood in for Marcia Blaine School for Girls, and when Jean leads her charges on a tour of the city, the Grassmarket, the Vennel, Edinburgh Castle and Greyfriars Churchyard all feature.

The Vennel

The Vennel

Probably the most well known film featuring Edinburgh is Trainspotting, and yes by yet another Edinburgh author, Irvine Welsh. Although the book is based in Edinburgh, Leith in particular, very little of it was actually filmed here. One very famous scene was though, Renton and Spud being chased by security staff along Princes Street.

Princes Street, looking west, Edinburgh

Princes Street

To see more photos of Edinburgh Cinemas, some now long gone, visit Capital Collections.


All that jazz and blues!

With the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival running 15-24 July 2016 the Music Library is enjoying all things jazz.

Display of Library material
Whether your tastes are 1920s traditional jazz or the cutting edge of contemporary musicians, the Music Library can satisfy your interests with CDs, DVDs, sheets music, biographies of your favourite musicians, and books on the history of jazz and blues. View just some of our material to get your interests going.  We’re showcasing some of our stock on offer in a special display alongside archive material from the Edinburgh Jazz Archive located in the Music Library.

Andrew Lauder playing trumpet

Andrew Lauder on trumpet

This year’s festival is committed to showcasing new talent and will be introducing audiences to some of the rising stars alongside established names. Listen to many of these names – new and old – on the go, at home, or in the Music Library with Naxos Music Library Jazz music streaming service – all you need is a library card.