Robert Burns Collection Among Scottish Museums Achieving Recognised Status

By Marian Cleary | 25 September 2008
A photograph of some old books

Rare editions of Burns' poetry

The National Burns Collection has achieved Museum Galleries of Scotland Recognised Status. This makes it the first distributed collection to come into the scheme which aims to identify and support Scottish museum collections of national significance.

The bulk of the collection relating to Scotland’s national poet, who will be particularly celebrated next year during the 250th anniversary of his birth in 1759, is held by eight different organisations. Much of the collection is housed and displayed in venues that were home to Burns or in locations that played a significant part in his life.

The collection includes 478 manuscripts in Burns’ handwriting, an extensive library of books owned by Burns, early editions of his work and autographed presentation copies of volumes of his poetry.

Seven of the eight authenticated portraits of the poet are also in the collection alongside decorative and fine art inspired by the poet, his life and his work. Additionally, many of the artefacts and paraphernalia associated with Burns and his family, objects that give a vivid impression of his personal life and literary career, are held by the organisations involved.

A photograph of an old cottage with a turf roof

A cotter's cottage, Auchindrain Township

Chair of the Distributed National Burns Collection, Caroline Glenn said: “To achieve Recognition Status for this partnership organisation and to be the first to do so is a huge achievement. It is deserved recognition of the significance and relevance of the Distributed Burns Collection in Scotland.”

This announcement comes in the third round of awards in the Recognised Status scheme which is managed by the Museums Galleries Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Government.

As well as the Burns collection, a further five museum and gallery collections also gained Recognised Status in this round of applications bringing the total number in the scheme to 33.

Joanne Orr, Chief Executive of Museums Galleries Scotland said: “This latest announcement really demonstrates how the Recognition Scheme is continuing to highlight the outstanding quality of the collections held by our museums and galleries across the country.”

A photograph of two silver goblets

Examples of silver goblets from the Museum of Edinburgh's applied art collection

To gain Recognition Status, applicants are asked to demonstrate that their collection is unique and of national value.

Scotland’s Minister for Culture, Linda Fabiani added her congratulations to all those who achieved recognition but highlighted the importance of the Burns collection being among those identified as meriting inclusion in the scheme: “I am particularly pleased as we approach the Year of Homecoming 2009 and the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, to see the National Burns collection granted Recognised status.”

The venues holding recognised collections are presented with plaques and certificates acknowledging their collections’ significance. They also go on to have the opportunity to bid for up to £40,000 in funding to undertake a project to increase accessibility to their collections and to improve care and conservation.

A photograph of an ancient whale bone object

Scar Whale from the collection of the Orkney Islands Council Archaeology collection.
© Rik Hammonds

The other five collections announced as having achieved Recognised Status are:

Auchindrain Township, Inverness
The Museum of Edinburgh’s Applied Art Collection
Elgin Museum’s Fossil Collection
Orkney Islands Council’s Archaeology Collection
Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture’s Scottish Art Collection

The Distributed National Burns Collection is held by:

The Burns Cottage Museum
Dumfries and Galloway Museums Service
South Ayrshire Council Galleries and Museums
East Ayrshire Council Museums
North Ayrshire Council Museums
City of Edinburgh Museum and Galleries
Glasgow Museums
National Galleries of Scotland

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