St Cecilia's Hall Museum of Instruments at the University of Edinburgh

St Cecilia's Hall Museum of Instruments at the University of Edinburgh
St Cecilia's Hall
Niddry Street



0131 650 2805


0131 650 2812

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The Raymond Russell Collection of Early Keyboard Instruments was assembled by Raymond Russell (1922-1964) and given to the University by his mother, Mrs Gilbert Russell, in 1964 after his death. The University has added further instruments, and the Rodger Mirrey Collection of Early Keyboard Instruments was donated in 2005.

On display are some 50 of the world's most important and best-preserved early keyboard instruments: harpsichords, virginals, spinets, organs and fortepianos from the period of their first construction to around 1840, many in playing order, and a new display of harps, lutes, citterns and guitars. The auditorium at St Cecilia's Hall which dates from 1763 is the oldest concert hall in Scotland, and the second oldest in Britain.

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Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.

Jewellery of the 1940s

  • 16 May 2014 6-7pm

Don't miss this one-off opportunity to learn about the originality and style of jewellery-making in the 1940s. You'll be amazed to hear how often everyday objects such as washers and other household bits and pieces, were used to make the most striking and exceptional pieces of jewellery. Discover how the shortage of materials during the 40s simplified the methods used in jewellery design, and how new techniques were developed. There will also be an opportunity to try out some of these techniques out yourself and to create your own little 'something fabulous'!


Free (there will be a charge for any materials used)


One Last Dance at the Excelsior Ballroom

  • 17 May 2014 7-11pm

St Cecilia’s Hall is well known for its early musical concerts, but never before has it hosted this kind of shindig! This glittering evening will be a chance to see the venue in an entirely new context by bringing the spirit of the 1940s alive. Get in the swing with a dance class hosted by the Edinburgh University Swing Dance Society, then watch as St Cecilia’s Hall transforms into the Excelsior Ballroom with a live jazz band completing the toe-tapping make-over. There's a drink to welcome you in (included in the entry fee) and there'll also be a fascinating display of items to bring the history of the Excelsior Ballroom alive.


£3.00 dance class (free if attending evening event)
£6.50, or £5.00 with student concession (whole event)


Make do and mend: Dressmaking and style in the 1940s

  • 17 May 2014 11am-12:30pm

The 'make-do and mend' mantra of the 40s is relived at this event giving all you budding seamstresses and tailors the opportunity to get creative. Like Glenn Miller before us, we'll get you 'In the Mood' with an inspiring talk about the popular styles of the time and the challenge of looking good with limited materials and resources. You'll then be invited to grab needle and thread, and design your own improvised fashion items worthy of iconic 1940s style. And if you'd rather leave the creation to someone else, why not visit our pop-up vintage stall and snap up one of our classic, period garments.


Free (there will be a charge for any materials used)


Victory Kitchen Tea Party

  • 18 May 2014 3-5pm

Join us for this fun, family event where parents and children alike can learn about life in 1940s Edinburgh. Roll out the bunting, pull up a chair and tuck into the fantastic fare in this tea party full of kitchen creativity inspired by the strictures of rationed food! And while you chat with the neighbours over a 'nice slice', the kids can run riot in a period playground of games, or make their own toys and even join in with a few ditties from the time. This will be the last event of the Festival of Museums at St Cecilia’s Hall – come and join in our Victory Celebration!


Electrifying the Guitar – Musical instruments in the 1940s

  • 18 May 2014 2-3pm

Park your plectrum at St Cecilia's for this fascinating glimpse into the birth of Rock 'n' Roll. This riveting talk will hit exactly the right note with its look at one of the world’s most iconic musical instruments, the electric guitar, and the technology that led to a rhythmic revolution. You will discover how the WWII affected the manufacture of musical instruments, and ultimately the type of music people played. And bringing us bang up to date, you'll see how the advancement in the modern technology shaped today’s popular music.


Curing What Ails You: Medicine in the 1940s

  • 18 May 2014 11am-12pm

The knee bone's connected to the thigh bone...' If your knowledge of medicine is limited to this piece of wisdom, perhaps you need a trip to St Cecilia's. Take a seat at the metaphorical examination table, and listen to the experts dissect the subject of medicine in the 1940s and hear about some of the incredible advancements achieved during this period. You'll be able to get a glimpse of some of the unusual medical specimens (what IS in that jar?!) and rarely-seen models that were used to develop our working knowledge of the human body. Find out what was being taught to medical students during that time, plus you'll discover how that pillar of health and welfare, the NHS, came to be. Sit up straight, there may be questions later!