Postcards from Ukraine

Until 22 May, Edinburgh Central Library will be displaying an exhibition of photographs called “Postcards from Ukraine”. This project aims to record and demonstrate the damage caused to the Ukrainian culture because of the bombings and shelling of buildings during the war that Russia initiated against Ukraine on 24 February 2022.

Palace of Culture ‘Youth’ in Mariupol

Russian troops have destroyed many of Ukraine’s historical, architectural and archaeological monuments. Museums, memorials, university buildings, cinemas, churches, temples, cathedrals, TV towers and monuments have all been destroyed. In the process, Ukraine’s cultural heritage, which dates back thousands of years, is being destroyed.

The 23 images on display show buildings before and after they were destroyed.

The project was developed by the Ukrainian Institute with the support of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and in cooperation with the creative agency Green Penguin Media. You can find out more about the project and also see the images online at the Ukraine Institute, Postcards from Ukraine.

History of Printing exhibition

In support of the upcoming Rare Books Festival running from 16 to 25 March, we have an exhibition at Central Library relating to the history of printing.  The history of print is a vast and wide-ranging topic and the titles on show represent only a tiny fraction of the volumes about printing held by Edinburgh Libraries.

The Gutenberg Bible is widely accepted as the starting off point of printing in Western Europe.  Printing in England started with Caxton as the first English printer setting up business in 1476.  Then Chepman and Myllar were Scotland’s first printers, licensed in 1507.  The timeline of these famous printers shows the expanse and progress of printing history. 

The C.L. Psalmes of the Princelie Prophet David, printed in Aberdeen by Edward Raban in 1629

Whilst Central Library cannot claim to have original examples of these printers, it does hold works by the famous, infamous and the obscure.  Highlights include Scotland’s first complete Bible, the Bassandyne Bible, printed by the Edinburgh printer Bassandyne and finished by Arbuthnet in 1579, early works by the Aberdeen based printer Edward Raban, and ‘The Nuremberg Chronicle’ (Latin edition, 1493) printed by Koberger.  These are all available to consult.  Currently some early works are on display in our Reference Library.

The trade of printing flourished in Edinburgh and other towns and cities in Scotland.  The Edinburgh and Scottish Collection holds an array of material including the cheap, jobbing printing of posters, chapbooks, broadsides from early examples to modern times.  Some of these are highly collectable due to their ephemeral nature and often few copies have survived. 

We have on view a broadside from the printing house of Agnes Campbell. Unlike many of her fellow printers, Agnes Campbell made a fortune out of the trade, but for many profits were far from significant.

Sermon preached before the King, 1697 printed by “the Heirs and Successors of Andrew Anderson”, aka his widow, Agnes Campbell.

The art of the printer was and is a highly skilled trade encompassing all aspects from the paper to the embellishment.  Industrial techniques, new inks, papers and binding methods have changed the skills to be more computer and design based.  However, small and specialist presses have always existed through the decades and examples such as the artist’s book on display demonstrate the art of printing is far from dead.

Whether you are a bibliophile, a collector, a reader, or someone interested in all aspects of culture, visit the Edinburgh Rare Books Festival which is supported by many Edinburgh institutions through talks and exhibitions. 

Our exhibition can be found on the main staircase and in the Reference Library until 27 March at Central Library.

CIRCLE – March exhibition in the Art and Design Library

The March exhibition in the Art and Design Library is “CIRCLE”, a thematic exploration using traditional photographic techniques by members of Edinburgh LoFi. The group were inspired by the recent Barbara Hepworth retrospective at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Some of Hepworth’s most recognisable works contain the circle motif – as a body, an eye, an aperture, and amongst the exhibits was an edition of the journal, CIRCLE, which touched the imagination of the members of Edinburgh LoFi.

Gregg McNeill “Tempus Fragmentum” (Wet Plate Collodion Tintype)

Edinburgh LoFi defines itself and functions as a social circle – with ideas, concepts and techniques circulating around the group, and the works displayed in the Art and Design Library this month are some of the visual reactions and expressions of members to the circular concept.

Alan Borthwick Untitled (Pinhole Camera)

While some of the works in this exhibition are inspired by the perfect form of the circle as described by geometry, others look to the myriad of meanings associated with the shape. Ending and beginning at the same place – the circular walking route followed in lockdown, a zen meditation around the centre. Enclosing and arranging – circles of friends and colleagues gathered for a purpose. Defensive, protective, time wasting, inescapable or complete – a circle can suggest all these concepts.

Elaine Robson “Coffee Rings” (Chemigram)

Edinburgh LoFi is a photography collective that has been running for 14 years. The group meets regularly to share their photography experiences across traditional, alternative and lomographic formats. They also run events, hold workshops and plan exhibitions. New members are always welcome. Visit Edinburgh Lofi online to find out more about the group.

Roddy Shippin “Microclimate” (Photomicrograph) 

CIRCLE runs throughout March in the Art and Design Library.

Did you know that the Art and Design Library hosts 12 exhibitions a year? We warmly encourage artists who are interested in exhibiting to contact us via for more information. 

War through children’s eyes – photo exhibition

Central Library is proud to be hosting a photo exhibition presenting children’s photos of the aftermath of the war in Ukraine. The images were taken with disposable film cameras and capture their everyday lives.

Image from the ‘War through children’s eyes’ photo exhibition

At the end of February 2022, two young Brand Managers from Kyiv – Dmytro Zubkov and Artem Skorokhodko – found themselves sheltering from Russian bombs in the basement of their newly opened pizzeria. Surrounded by strangers, also looking for refuge, two dogs and some friends, they decided to turn their restaurant into a charity kitchen for those in need. Their premises quickly turned into a full-blown volunteer centre and the reach of their help has spread to the nearby villages.

Having befriended local children from recently liberated villages, the idea for a photo project, later called Behind Blue Eyes, came naturally – alongside toys and colouring books, local kids were offered disposable cameras, which they were free to use, as they please, to capture their everyday lives and show the rest of the world what growing up during wartime is like. The portraits of friends and pictures of flowers and pets comfortably coexist with images of destroyed houses, burnt military equipment and rocket shells. Each of the shots, at times illuminated or defocused, tells a story. Artem explains:

“It seems that when you look at these photos, you understand that children perceive everything differently. There is no tragedy there, they cope with it. It forces me to rethink my vision and attitude toward some things. It is what I would exactly like to transmit.”

Image from the ‘War through children’s eyes’ photo exhibition

This exhibition includes the works by nine children from Lukashivka, a village near the city of Chernihiv, which survived World War II, but was all but destroyed in 2022 as a result of Russian occupation. The photos present children’s untouched candid accounts of life after liberation.

Councillor Amy McNeese-Mechan says,

“I am so thrilled that Edinburgh’s fantastic library service have been able to play host to the exhibition of photographs taken by Ukrainian children, entitled ‘War Through the Eyes of Children’. I would encourage everyone to come and see this free show.

Although it is a difficult subject and some of the children’s own comments and observations are truly heartbreaking, what emerges from it is a sense of the resilience of these young people and of the universal nature of childhood – with concerns, dreams and wishes revolving around favourite pets, their siblings, playing with friends, and the annoyance of having school homework and chores around the house!”

This must-see exhibition is available to view at Central Library until Friday 16 December.

New pop-up exhibition in Edinburgh Libraries explores British Chinese communities and culture alongside British Library exhibition

Opening on Friday 18 November, the display draws on personal stories and moments of national significance to ask what it means to be Chinese and British.

Inspired by the Chinese and British exhibition at the British Library (18 November 2022 to 23 April 2023), the display celebrates the lasting impact of Chinese communities in the UK, from wartime service and contributions to popular cuisine to achievements in literature, sport, music, fashion and film.

You can find the display in the following libraries:

Friday 18 November to Friday 16 December 2022 – Newington Library

Monday 19 December 2022 to Saturday 14 January 2023 – Leith Library

Monday 16 January to Saturday 18 February 2023 – Central Library

Monday 20 February to Saturday 18 March 2023 – Forrester High School*

Monday 20 March 2023 to Saturday 22 April 2023 – Blackhall Library

From the first recorded individuals arriving from China in the late 1600s to Liverpool becoming Europe’s first Chinatown in the 1850s, Chinese people, who trace their heritage to regions across east and southeast Asia, have played an active part in British society for over 300 years.

Edinburgh Libraries are one of over 30 library services across the UK highlighting the rich history of Chinese British communities as part of the Living Knowledge Network, a UK-wide partnership of national and public libraries. The Living Knowledge Network are hosting a series of events showcasing Chinese culture in the UK, including:

  • the launch of Chinese and British livestreamed from the British Library featuring Helena Lee, journalist and founder of East Side Voices, and Dr Wei Yang, internationally renowned town planner and urban designer, on 17 November 2022
  • an evening exploring the history of UK Chinatowns, on 28 November 2022
  • a celebration of the Lunar New Year with British Chinese authors and artists discussing literature and storytelling livestreamed from Liverpool, Europe’s first Chinatown, on 21 January 2023. 

Liz White, Head of Public Libraries and Community Engagement at the British Library, said: ‘People and their stories form the core of the Chinese and British exhibition in London and the displays in local libraries across the UK. The Living Knowledge Network partnership enables us to connect with people across the country so this is a great opportunity to celebrate the lasting impact of Chinese communities in the UK and uncover more stories along the way.’

Chinese and British has been curated by Dr Lucienne Loh at the University of Liverpool and Dr Alex Tickell at the Open University in collaboration with the British Library.

The Living Knowledge Network streams free events, exhibitions and workshops from libraries across the UK through

*The display boards will not be available to view by the public whilst at Forrester High School.

It’s tapestry month this November at Central Library

Golden Threads reawakened – weaving a legacy

Central Library are delighted to be displaying through November an amazing community woven tapestry, Golden Threads, created by a group of amateur weavers based in Edinburgh. Find this beautiful display in the main staircase cabinets at Central Library.

The tapestry has a very interesting story taking its name from the golden threads it uses that were collected by the German Jew Hedwig Philip and that have not seen the light of day for some thirty years. Hedwig and her husband left Berlin in 1941, narrowly missing the Holocaust, travelling to join family in Pennsylvania.

Photo of Hedwig and the contents of her needlework box not opened for 70 years

Hedwig was a skilled needlewoman: she collected golden threads and embroidered a Torah Mantle for the local synagogue. In 1951 Hedwig travelled with all her belongings to Britain to join her daughter in Newcastle, dying not long afterwards. Hedwig’s box of threads, unopened, was passed from her daughter to her granddaughter, Cathie Wright.

Photo of Golden Threads tapestry

Cathie wanted something purposeful and interesting to be done with the threads. This secular tapestry pays homage to Hedwig’s story using her historic golden threads woven together with contemporary red and gray yarns. The tapestry Golden Threads is divided into sixteen panels designed by the sixteen amateur weavers Judith Barton, Sandra Carter, Sarah Clark, Barbara Clarke, Sylvia Davidson, Jackie Grant, Elspeth Hosie, Joan Houston, Kirsteen Kershaw, Joan MacLellan, Irene McCombe, Francesca McGrath, Lindi McWilliam, Serena Naismith, Anita Nolan, Hilary Watkinson and Ann Smuga. Together the panels pay homage to Hedwig’s story but the quantity and beauty of the threads, the heritage and the journey travelled, called for something more. The result is a modern, secular tapestry incorporating these historic golden threads, drawing on themes of Jewish heritage, refugee travel and survival, conflict avoidance, building bridges and seeking a better world with hope for a brighter future.

To quote from Cathie,

“This is a community enterprise that takes the threads from one spiritual tradition to universal themes that celebrate life and survival”.

The tapestries are woven with contemporary materials (wools and cottons) supplementing the old golden threads. They are joined with an overlay of golden braid which also came from Hedwig’s box. The overall size of the composite tapestry is 30 inches square. Thanks also to professional tapestry artists Joanne Soroka and Jo McDonald.

Supporting the display of the Golden Threads tapestry are books on tapestry weaving from the Art and Design Library.

Art of Tapestry author talk with Helen Wyld

If you enjoy looking at the Golden Threads tapestry and want to learn more about the art of tapestry come and hear author and Senior Curator of Historic Textiles at National Museums Scotland, Helen Wyld, deliver a free illustrated talk about her new book The Art of Tapestry. The book explores the National Trust’s collection of historic tapestries and brings new perspectives to the history of tapestry across Europe.

The Art of Tapestry with Helen Wyld will take place on Tuesday 22 November from 6:30 to 7:30pm in the George Washington Browne Room at Central Library.
Book your free ticket via Eventbrite.

“I didn’t know Robert Motherwell made prints” – July 2022 exhibition in the Art and Design Library

The July exhibition in the Art and Design library is in full swing.  “I didn’t know Robert Motherwell made prints” is an exhibition of unique prints by Dilal Singh, an Edinburgh-born art student.

Untitled by by Dilal Singh

Dilal is in his 3rd year studying Fine Art at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee. He has been exploring a variety of traditional printmaking techniques in recent months and the exhibition is the culmination of this work.  Featuring prints made using Chine Collé, screen printing, waterless lithography and woodcut printing, the exhibition explores ideas and metaphors that mark Dilal’s evolution as an artist. He originally trained and worked as a gas fitter for 10 years, and in his own words, he states:

“This series of images evoke a very personal journey of self-realisation after the Covid-19 pandemic and a reflection of my journey to art and the freedom it has given me. The more abstract prints are inspired by the metaphor of a smashed mirror and my journey of becoming the person I want to be rather than what I thought society wanted. My evolution as an artist began with three years of life drawing evening classes taught by Paul Muzni and Claudia Petretti and some of the prints on display include human features and figures layered over abstract prints. As I progress through my degree, I plan to continue working with printing techniques alongside my painting practice, which is influenced by Kandinsky, Matisse, Joan Miro, Banksy and more. The title of the exhibition is a reminder of how much I still have to learn in the world of art.”

The exhibition is on display for the whole month of July and is well worth a visit to the Art and Design Library to see. 

Untitled by Dilal Singh

The Art and Design Library hosts 12 exhibitions a year within its beautiful space.  If you would like to learn more, please get in touch:

Breaking the News at Central Library

Read all about it! Currently underway at the British Library is the Breaking the News exhibition.

Photo of new exhibition welcome panel in the Mezzanine area of Central Library

Alongside the British Library’s Breaking the News exhibition, pop-up displays are on view at 30 public libraries across the UK including Edinburgh Central Library. The displays draw upon each library’s individual collection and regional connections to celebrate the value of regional news in communities across the UK. 

Photo of glass display case containing newspaper exhibition material

We have delved into Central Library’s newspaper and periodical collections, with the aim to celebrate the value of regional news and champion the personalities, journalism and stories that have made a mark through the years in our local area.  

It is often the case that national news carries many negative stories, but this can sometimes be quite different when looking locally. Local and grassroots news publications have a wonderful variety of stories, they can speak truth to power and are often free from the restraints and impartiality that is evident in the large mainstream tabloids and daily publications. 

Our exhibition space will be dedicated to Breaking the News through the following themes: 

4 July  – 4 August 2022, Edinburgh: a city of firsts 

We are looking at the local achievements that have put Edinburgh on the map. From the pioneering women known as the Edinburgh Seven, who would not rest until they became the first females accepted into a UK university to study medicine, to modern scientific marvels such as God particles and cloned sheep. Edinburgh has been at the forefront of many significant achievements and breakthroughs, this is your chance to explore and see how these were reported at the time. 

During this month we also have a showcase of the many and varied local news publications that have been produced over the years.

Examples of local news publications included in the display

5 August to 29 August 2022 – Edinburgh: Festival City 

During the exhibition’s second phase, we are ready to celebrate. It is the 75th anniversary of the world-famous International and Fringe festivals in Edinburgh, we are using this period to review our collection of material to discover some key moments and breakthroughs from the festivals’ history.

Display of festival material in Central Lending Library cabinets, until 29 August 2022.

Due to the closure of the Mezzanine area in Central Library for essential building works, we are relocating the British Library’s Breaking the News pop up display to the library’s front hall. This is where the festival material is featured also. (The display in the Mezzanine cabinets will be available to view until Saturday 13 August.)

Pop into Central Library during August to have a look!

Breaking the News festival display in the front hall, until 29 August 2022.

Aleksandra Zawada – Ceramics display

A new exhibition of ceramics by Edinburgh artist Aleksandra Zawada opens on the main staircase at Central Library running from 5 April to 28 May.

Aleksandra Zawada studied Painting at Edinburgh College of Art. She lives and works in Edinburgh. Aleksandra creates hand-built, creature-looking sculptures. Her work is focused on simplicity of forms and yet is playful. Borrowing from an artist’s imagination as well as surveying ancient and oriental ceramics, she creates deliberately irregular, at times rough, works with a distinctive sense of style (and often humour!)

Aleksandra’s pieces are hand-built from mainly raku clay and bisque fired. They are hand-painted using oxides and glazes and then fired again. The artist’s love of colour makes her work not shy away from using strong tones. However, she often uses ones that reference historical glazes. Her sculptures are unique, escaping straightforward categorisation.

Aleksandra writes, “My work is inspired by Ancient; Oriental, Japanese and Outsider ceramics, and colour comes from my training as a painter. I respond to clay in the process of making. I have always had an affinity for simple materials and for works that are tactile. 

I do not make many pieces. 

My work is immersed in a dialogue with all the sculpture that has inspired me regardless of their origins and times they were made. Subconsciously, I am making my own museum collection.”

A selection of books on ceramics complementing Aleksandra’s work from the Art and Design Library at Central Library are included in the exhibition.

For more information on the artist go to, or follow on instagram at

Pathogenesis – artworks by Cordula Marks Venters in the Art and Design Library

A new exhibition opens in the Art and Design Library, Central Library, running from 19 March to 26 May featuring artworks by Cordula Marks Venters.

Cordula Marks Venters is a German-born, Edinburgh-based artist and illustrator. In her work, she explores a broad range of themes and subjects, including the microscopic world, dinosaurs, mythology and nature. She finds inspiration on the forest floor, in the night sky, in the rocks below her feet and the prehistoric life-forms that fill her imagination.

St Corona by Cordula Marks Venters

The exhibition of artwork is entitled Pathogenesis. Viruses, bacteria and a motley crew of other characters inhabit the world of Pathogenesis.

This exhibition came out of the Covid pandemic. Viruses were the unseen threat, occupying our everyday lives and terrifying us – as diseases have done throughout human history. Yet, when these viruses and other pathogens are viewed under the microscope there is undeniable beauty. On examining their shape, form and functionality, we can also appreciate their enormous adaptability and resilience. They are survivors, just as we try to be.

Playing with the concept of pathogens in human or animal form offers wide scope for the artistic interrogation of a key question: who are the real dangers in our world?

All works by Cordula Marks Venters.

To find out more about Cordula’s work, upcoming events and to sign up to her mailing list, please visit or find her on Instagram @cordulamarks.

The Art & Design Library encourages applications for exhibitions from local artists and community groups. To find out more and apply email or drop in and see us in the Central Library. 

Printed people, plants and places – February 2022 exhibition in the Art and Design Library

The February exhibition in the Art and Design Library is a riot of colour from the self-taught Edinburgh artist, Keith Murray Allan. “Printed People, Plants and Places” features bright and expressive line and wash watercolours ranging from flower studies to lively portraits.  

“Porty Buskers” by Keith Murray Allan

Allan’s influences range from Van Gogh to comic book favourite Dudley D Watkins, mixed with what he describes as “the explosion of Punk’s anarchic colours” which marked his coming of age in the early ’80s.  Allan finds inspiration everywhere and loves to delve into collage and photography. The results of this heady aesthetic mix are spirited and vibrant and the Art and Design Library is looking fabulous thanks to his paintings.

“Pink flowers and jugs” by Keith Murray Allan

The exhibition runs throughout February – don’t miss it!

Did you know we host 12 exhibitions a year in the Art and Design Library? Feel feel to drop us an email if you would like to exhibit your art and photography with us – we would love to hear from you. Contact the Art and Design team via email:

Metamorphic – January 2022 exhibition in the Art and Design Library

The January exhibition in the Art and Design Library is ‘Metamorphic’, a visual meditation using traditional photographic techniques by members of Edinburgh LoFi.

Metamorphism is a process of transformation through which temperature and pressure cause profound physical or chemical changes.

Blue Seam – Stitched cyanotype on fabric by Ali Millar

This process usually refers to geological changes, but Edinburgh LoFi have chosen this theme for their 2022 exhibition as it seems apt both for the profound changes which have overtaken society in the past couple of years and also to refer to the physical and chemical reactions in traditional and alternative process photography.

The Edinburgh LoFi group was started in 2009 at the Beyond Words photography bookshop to promote and explore film photography. The group is now run collectively.

The Devonian North – detail from a Polaroid 600 installation by Elaine Robson

The group meets regularly to share their photography experiences across traditional, alternative and lomographic formats. They also run events, hold workshops and plan exhibitions. New members are always welcome and regular meetings are free to attend. You can find out more on the Edinburgh Lofi website.

Metamorphic runs until 29 January in the Art and Design Library at Central Library.

The Art and Design Library hosts 12 exhibitions a year and we warmly encourage artists who are interested in exhibiting to contact us via for more information. 

A Place to Grow – Art and Design Library exhibition, December 2021

Through December (3rd to 24th), the Art and Design Library, Central Library, presents the exhibition of artwork ‘A Place to Grow’ by local artist C.E. Saunders.

C.E. Saunders, Behind my House

C.E. Saunders writes of her artwork and influences:

“My name is Clare Saunders, I was born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland and have been creating and promoting my artwork for the past decade. My influences come from the Surrealists, Pop-Art, the Pre-Raphaelites and Post-Impressionism. The work I create is traditional, drawing, painting and collage and I tend to use water colour-based materials as well as fine liners and acrylic paints. I’m drawn to narrative and stories, film and theatre; this is often presented in the illustrative and bold appearance to my work.

In this exhibition ‘A Place to Grow’, some of the work is nostalgic and aspects of the city I grew up in are present. Lots of the pictures are from just before 2010 when I had left college and was attempting to ‘grow’ in a different direction or a different way. Nature plays a very solid role in this display, being one of my main inspirations, but is often interlaced with fantasy and dreams a homage to stories and stage sets.”  

The Art and Design Library welcomes applications to exhibit from local artists, schools and community groups. Email for an application form and to find out more.

ReDrawing Edinburgh: Edinburgh in 1920

Our latest exhibition on Capital Collections, ReDrawing Edinburgh: Edinburgh in 1920 is part of a wider and ongoing project to commemorate the anniversary of the Boundaries Extension & Tramways Act of 1920. The Redrawing Edinburgh project is a collaboration between Edinburgh City Archives, Libraries, Museums and Galleries and representative groups from the local communities of Bridgend, Colinton, Corstorphine, Cramond, Gilmerton and Inch, Leith, Liberton and Longstone.

Since the creation of the New Town in 1767, the City of Edinburgh has steadily grown in response to housing, utilities and transport demands. However, the changes brought about by the Edinburgh Boundaries Extension & Tramways Act were different. The city became the largest municipal area in Scotland, expanding in size from 17 to 53 square miles and increasing its population from 320,000 to 425,000. The boundary extension took in the Burgh of Leith in the north and the Midlothian parishes of Cramond, Corstorphine, Colinton and Liberton to the west and south of the city.

Edinburgh Castle from the Cowgate, 1926 by George Malcolm

Widely known as the ‘amalgamation’, the Act was, and even now remains, a contentious issue. The opposition to the amalgamation from Leith Town Council is widely known, but there were 39 separate petitions lodged in Parliament against the proposal from public authorities, companies and organisations and individuals. Objections ranged from the Duke of Buccleuch’s concerns for his rights over Granton Harbour to the Midlothian Pig Trade Association’s concerns about stricter animal welfare standards. Yet all but the Leith petitioners had dropped their opposition by the summer of 1920 through negotiations with the Edinburgh Town Clerk. A key moment came in May when the proposal was revised to exclude the Burgh of Musselburgh, where the anti-amalgamation faction had finally won the argument within the local council.

The Leith Town Council argued passionately in the local press, and eloquently in Parliament through Captain William Wedgewood Benn, Liberal MP for Leith, against the amalgamation on the grounds of historical precedent, democracy, and local services. The Leith ‘Lightning Plebiscite’ where the vast majority of ratepayers voted against the Act has entered the collective memory of Leith as a seminal moment of its history.

There was resistance from voices across the areas of proposed extension. People in the outlying areas asked how could one town council equally serve, or even understand, the very different issues and priorities across the varying areas? There was a mismatch between residential Edinburgh, rural Midlothian and industrial Leith they argued.

There were equally those in all the areas who argued in favour the amalgamation. The proponents argued for it primarily on grounds of progress – both in terms of what amenities, infrastructure, and services a larger authority could support but also in terms of efficiency of governance. The amalgamation proposal would reduce the existing 17 separate public bodies to just 3 – the Education Authority (schools), the Parish Council (health and social work) and the Town Council (everything else).

A large crowd gathers around a tram on Leith Walk at junction with Pilrig Street (1922), probably to witness the first through electric tram travelling from Leith into Edinburgh and replacing the so-called ‘Pilrig Muddle’ where commuters had to shift between Leith’s electric system to Edinburgh’s cable tramcars.

Edinburgh Town Council committed in their proposal to investing in the amalgamated areas to bring them up to a common standard across the city. These totalled £122,880 (approx. £5.53 million in today’s money) and included standardised lighting, a new public hall for Leith, bowling greens for Corstorphine and Liberton, park improvements for Leith and Colinton and new gymnasia spread across all amalgamated areas.

There was another argument that was in Edinburgh’s favour – that of geography. Leith had nowhere to expand in 1920. To meet growing Leither demands around health and sport, the town council was required to rent land off Edinburgh to build both a new hospital at Seafield in 1906 and a golf course in Craigentinny in 1908. Leith already had a population density twice as high as Edinburgh’s and struggled to find suitable land in its boundaries to build any substantial further accommodation.

While the Midlothian parishes were not surrounded by Edinburgh, their designation as the ‘suburban district’ implied recognition of their ties to the city. The growth of public transport and the spread of utilities during the 19th and early 20th centuries had brought more middle-class residents. They worked in the city and used its services but returned home to the rural periphery.

Colinton Station, c1920

During the 19th century, Edinburgh Town Council had sought minor extensions to its boundaries in a piecemeal fashion. The 1920 amalgamation proposal would provide the city with space to keep on top of the continued population drift and enable it to undertake future ambitious housing schemes, which came about in the 1930s (e.g. Craigmillar and Stenhouse), 50s (e.g. Inch, Oxgangs and Silverknowes) and 70s (e.g. Wester Hailes). The proposed new expanded city would be able to undertake town planning in a more strategic way and also bring its more rigorous standards in housing and industry to the outlying areas.

With the arguments laid before it, Parliament considered the matter and approved the proposal, turning the bill into the Edinburgh Boundaries Extension & Tramways Act of 1920.

The ReDrawing Edinburgh: Edinburgh in 1920 exhibition attempts to give a glimpse into what 1920 Edinburgh looked like, to show the differences and similarities in character of the various areas affected and to see how much city life has changed in the past 100 years.

You can find out much more about the 1920 Boundaries Extension & Tramways Act and the history of the affected areas by watching videos in the ReDrawing Edinburgh playlist on Edinburgh Libraries YouTube page.

Visit the City of Edinburgh website to keep up with the ReDrawing Edinburgh project activities and to find out how to get involved in your area.

Quines Exhibition

Launching next Saturday 7 March on the eve of International Women’s Day is the exciting new exhibition `Quines: poems and textiles in tribute to women of Scotland’ on display across Central Library.

Taking inspiration from Gerda Stevenson’s poetry collection Quines: poems in tribute to women of Scotland celebrating and exploring the richly diverse contribution women have made to Scottish history and society, edge textile artists Scotland members have each selected varied poems from the collection, interpreting them in diverse and inspiring personal ways.

Come to the launch afternoon running 2-4pm Saturday 7 March. Book on Edinburgh Reads to hear Gerda Stevenson reading poems from her collection Quines and take a guided tour led by edge members around the exhibition. Enjoy a cuppa and chat to edge members.

The exhibition is on display on the Mezzanine, on the Staircase and in the Art & Design Library running until Monday 30 March.




The Nine exhibition

A new photography exhibition illustrating the rich diversity of Scotland’s population is now showing in Stockbridge Library until 13 January 2020. The portrait exhibition will feature images of twenty people that were captured for the opening titles of the BBC Scotland channel’s flagship news programme, The Nine.

The library exhibition has been developed as part of a partnership agreement between the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) and BBC Scotland.

Public libraries are at the heart of our communities and are accessible to everyone, making them the perfect place to host this wonderful exhibition. It’s further demonstration of the range of activities on offer in modern libraries.

The Nine exhibition at Stockbridge Library

Next time, it could be you… here’s how to get involved.

December’s art exhibition: Noni Choi

The December exhibition in the Art and Design Library showcases artist, Noni Choi, whose work is a gorgeous celebration of nature, colour and energy.

Noni Choi is a botanical artist and illustrator based in Edinburgh. She is from South Korea and trained in ceramic arts in Seoul. Noni worked as an art teacher in Korea until 2009.

“As a painter and an illustrator, flowers and stars are a rich source of inspiration in my art. My work captures the precision of nature creating meditative studies of the beauty of the natural world I see around me.  To me painting is a return to nature. I hope that my paintings which are created with bright colours, full of happiness and vibrant energy help people to return to innocence.

I love nature and I hope to protect nature with my works someday.”

You can learn more about Noni on her website: and follow her on Instagram: @artistnoni

The exhibition runs from 3rd December until 31st December.

Art and Design Library exhibition – November 2019

Edinburgh Photographic Society returns to the Art and Design Library in November with a group exhibition by their members. The exhibition showcases a wide variety of work across a range of photographic genres – including portraiture, nature, still life and landscape. Members of the society work with traditional techniques as well as creative digital photography, so the exhibition will have something for everyone.

A Walk Through Time by Alistair Cowan

The Society are based in the New Town and welcome new members who can participate in courses and attend lectures.  Please visit to find out more.

Gone Fishing by Edinburgh Photographic Society

The exhibition runs from 4 November to 29 November in the Art and Design Library.

‘Here and Now’ in the Art and Design Library, September 2019

The September exhibition in the Art and Design Library is called Here and Now and is a solo show of works by Edinburgh artist Brian Samwell. Here is how he describes the exhibition and his artistic practice:

“Here and Now showcases sculptures and images developed over the past five years. My art is driven by social concern and a need to explore human experience – birth, love, aging, conflict. The sculptures and images are off-kilter and playful yet aim to challenge and reach for an emotional reaction. Whether figurative or abstract, structure and form are important to me: the curves of a baby’s body, a spiral of teacups, the pattern of waltz steps across a floor.  I particularly enjoy discovering the sculptural potential in everyday objects. Recycling and re-use helps me step a little more lightly on the planet.

I came late to making art, leaving a 30-year nursing career in 2016 to study Foundation Art and Design then Contemporary Art Practice at Edinburgh College (no, not Edinburgh College of Art!).  I make figurative and abstract sculpture from stone, metal, wood and rubbish, and create 2D images in a wide range of media. I continue to experiment, learn, and work with a diverse assortment of materials and approaches. One day I might settle down.”

Here and Now runs from 3 September to 28 September in the Art and Design Library within Central Library.

July’s art exhibition

WENCH, an exhibition of paintings by Mira Knoche opens on 2nd July in the Art and Design Library. It focuses on sisterhood and the paintings on display consider female friendships, rivalries, solidarity, as well as heroes worth remembering.

Mira describes her exhibition as “a visual manifesto and love letter to all libraries that evolved from a display of three paintings as part of International Women’s Day at Leith Library. WENCH is a warm invitation for women to see, curate, and celebrate each other’s stories.  Here’s to championing the female gaze on women and women becoming loud and visible.”

An Edinburgh based artist who loves painting people Mira is intrigued by the human mind, bodies, stories, and the interplay between art and community, she enjoys hosting creative platforms where different art forms meet.  She has co-curated several groups exhibitions and life drawing events.

In addition to her exhibition in the Art and Design Library, Mira is co-programming the event ‘Sonic Leith: WENCH’, a female-led feast of punk, poetry, art and electronica at the Old Dr Bell’s bath in Leith on 25th August. You can learn more about her work at

The exhibition runs until the 30th July.